Australian Grand Prix organisers considering possible claim for breach of contract
When I first heard an audio clip of the new Mercedes F1 powertrain running last summer, I knew trouble was coming. This year’s pre-season testing only reinforced that for me.
Now that the first race of the season in Australia is behind us, there can be no doubt.
F1, as we knew it, is dead.
For me, F1 is synonymous with the scream of a V10 engine which the sport adopted between the years of 1995 - 2005. As a result, I wasn't particularly pleased when the regulations were changed for the 2006 season which saw a switch to V8 powerplants. But this year’s move to V6s has changed the sound beyond all recognition.
The visceral scream of an F1 engine in full anger is such a fundamental part of the atmosphere and identity of F1, taking it away is unthinkable.
But that's exactly what happened. The new engines have reduced the sound of the sport to something resembling an electric go kart formula. It's beyond disappointing; it's heart-breaking.
In the wake of the first farcical Grand Prix of the season, the media is now awash with news that organisers of the Australian Grand Prix are considering the possibility of bringing a claim for breach of contract against the commercial rights holder of F1 which arranges Grands Prix with the different race venues around the world.
Here’s what ESPN have to say:
Australian Grand Prix organisers claim their contract may have been breached because the Formula One cars were not loud enough.
Andrew Westacott, Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) chief executive, said after the race that the rule changes had impacted on the "sexiness" of the event and as a result fans did not get what they paid for.
I'll second that.
AGPC chairman Ron Walker has contacted Bernie Ecclestone and made it clear organisers are unhappy.
"One aspect of it was just a little bit duller than it's ever been before and that's part of the mix and the chemistry that they're going to have to get right," Westacott said. "Ron spoke to [Ecclestone] after the race and said the fans don't like it in the venue.
That's putting it mildly.
"We pay for a product, we've got contracts in place, we are looking at those very, very seriously because we reckon there has probably been some breaches."
Without knowing the content of the contract, it's impossible to say whether the Auz Grand Prix organisers may have a claim. Even if they do, it's far more likely to be settled quickly, with the assurance of some measures being taken to beef up the sound and the high-octane atmosphere for future years.
A thought struck me earlier. Why can't the FIA liaise with the 3 engine manufacturers currently in F1 (Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault) to essentially licence the powertrain technology to other motorsport series throughout the world? Heck, maybe there's even a place for a dumbed-down version of it in road cars - even at this stage. That way, F1 could rid itself of this millstone, allow the manufacturers to recoup some of the massive investment they've had to plough in to develop this technology and, crucially, allow the FIA to save face.
Westacott, who listed among his gripes the fact he did not need earplugs even in the pit lane, warned that European spectators were even more likely to be unhappy with the much quieter spectacle.
"Previously, it shakes the bones," he said. "I'd be confident we'll have a different sound next year."
I hope he's right.
I really don't think the passage of time is going to help F1 fans adjust to the new noise. Something’s got to give.