The new era of Formula One has widely divided opinion, with the revolutionary 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines causing a stir in the paddock. It has been argued that the new powertrains do not provide enough noise to keep the fans entertained and maintain the DNA of Formula One and with Bernie Ecclestone and Graeme Lowdon expressing concerns, the argument against the low volume is becoming stronger. Today, another influential figure has expressed his disgust at the noise level produced in the new era; The Australian Grand Prix promoter has declared that the new engine are a “disgrace” and has predicted a dire forecast should a resolution not be found.
Walker: “I didn’t buy a wimp”
While polls have suggested that the fans are undecided upon the issue, (with Sky Sports F1’s F1 Show revealing that 49% of fans do not want a change of engine sound,) the most influential people within the sport have expressed serious concerns. The most poignant declaration of distaste so far has come from Ron Walker today. While he may not be one of the most well known F1 personalities, the Australian Grand Prix’s promoter did not mince his words when expressing his bleak opinion of the situation. When speaking to The Independent, the Aussie stated; “The sound is a disgrace… We can’t just sit back and wait. There’s a strong wind blowing here. Legal action would not be very difficult. Bernie Ecclestone is clearly in breach of his contract because this is not what we bought. I didn’t buy a wimp.”
His suggestions that promoters could turn away from the sport in “in favour of IndyCar” is a frightening possibility. Promoters are evidently concerned that the spectacle has been so badly effected by the quiet era that fans will not pay their hard earned pennies to visit the races. An executive disaster for the companies investing in the sport across a race weekend, which will drive them away. Disaster for Bernie Ecclestone. Consequently, action needs to be taken, which Walker feels would be easy to conduct.
However, the low volume has seemingly not been perceived quite as badly by the majority of armchair viewers, myself included. Personally, I relished the opportunity to hear the fans in the thrilling Qualifying session, and to hear the tyres squeal as the drivers lock a wheel or accelerate from the pit box. For me, it makes for more compelling viewing, yet trackside, this does not seem to be the case.
Vijay Mallya made an interesting statement during FP2 in Australia. The Force India boss was caught on FOM cameras stating, “this is not Formula One. We need that Formula One sound.” This is a notion reflected by many other paddock personalities, including Walker. It is perceived that the new sound is not a Formula One sound and with Formula E promoters stating that their formula will be louder than the pinnacle form of motorsport, tells the story. Its up to people such as Vijay Mallya, (who currently sits on the WMSC,) to provide a solution.
It is a debate which will rumble on, yet Walker’s bleak forecasts have prompted some re-evaluation for some people. Whether you like the sound or not, the commercial implications to the sport are the fundamental concern. If the redundancy of ear defenders proves to be an issue for the commercial side of the sport, change has to be implemented and fast.