There's nothing like a good conspiracy theory to get the F1 paddock going. And in the current war between those who accept the need for the new engine formula, and those who continue to wail and keen over the sound of the 2014 power units, an interesting rumour started doing the rounds on Thursday.

It has been well reported since the Australian Grand Prix that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is less than enthusiastic about the sound of the new engines - which, it should be noted, the 83-year-old has yet to hear running in real life. Known Ecclestone associates (*cough* Ron Walker *cough*) have used their preferred outlets to complain vociferously about the sound of the future, even going so far as to threaten legal action for breach of contract.

There is no denying that there is pressure on the FIA to do the impossible - return to the V8s that would have heralded the end of Formula One had we persisted in using them. But are the fans being manipulated by the world television feed supplied by FOM? According to one theory doing the rounds in Sepang, yes.

While conspiracy theories have more value as punchlines to jokes than they do any basis in reality, and should be taken with a pillar of salt in consequence, it has been suggested that the FOM TV crews doing pre-race set-up in Albert Park were instructed to place the microphones around the circuit in such a way that they would be guaranteed to pick up considerably less of the noise from the turbo-powered V6s than would have been the case had they been sensibly located.

Or, as the conspiracy theorists would have it, the sound of the new formula was deliberately sabotaged at the first race of the season with a view to generating bad publicity and ire from the fans watching at home.

Of course, there's no denying that the new generation of Formula One car sounds quieter than its predecessors. Just by looking at the numbers it was clear that would be the case as long ago as 2008, when the new engine regulations were first mooted by then-FIA president (and Ecclestone ally) Max Mosley. The regulations were adopted before Jean Todt won his first FIA election, yet are being used as a weapon against the Frenchman, who simply inherited them.

But different does not equal worse. When heard trackside, the quieter engines have a richer depth of sound, with a variety of noises coming from the different power unit components that lead to a complex aural tapestry. It's unfortunate that the V6s must be heard live in order to be truly appreciated, but much the same could be said of the V8s, of any sound. Rock concerts always sound better than the mp3s, and screaming V8s were always more powerful trackside than they were through even the most expensive home stereo set-ups.

Which leads to my personal conspiracy theory: Bernie Ecclestone is relying on hacks like me to bang the drum about just how much better the new engines sound in real life, thereby drumming up ticket sales and giving the circuits the money they need to keep paying his race hosting fees. It's no more ridiculous than any of the other theories doing the rounds...



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