MARCH 30, 2014
Ecclestone on a mission to make more noise
Bernie Ecclestone has been on a mission in Malaysia this weekend to turn up the volume in formula one.
Apparently alarmed that the sport's new, quieter tones will drive away promoters, sponsors and fans, the F1 chief executive has been hard at work trying to come up with a way to make the turbo V6s louder.
"We think there's a way," Ecclestone told the BBC late on Saturday.
"They're working on it and I think we're going to get it done."
However, not everyone likes the sound of all the bleating about F1's new 'power units'.
After Sebastian Vettel denounced the sound as "shit", McLaren's Jenson Button was quoted as telling the reigning world champion to "go and race somewhere else".
"My criticism was not directed at Sebastian, but more generally," the 2009 world champion is quoted by Germany's Auto Bild.
"I think that if we (formula one) are criticising ourselves, that cannot be good for the sport and the sponsors," Button added.
"Of course we have to listen to the opinion of the fans, but at the moment we can't change the sound anyway. So there's no point for us to be saying bad things about F1," he said.
Similarly, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was quoted by Italy's La Repubblica as likening those who are complaining to "children".
"Do they not understand that formula one has to be contemporary?" the German added.
"We're going into emerging markets and new economies and it's right that we are raising awareness about the issue of clean energy. As drivers we're responsible for that too," said Rosberg.
Actually, the debate about the sound of the engines is drowning out some of the sport's deeper issues.
Lauda told the Independent on Saturday that the teams are "fighting like you wouldn't believe", involving not only spats between the big players but also at the rear of the grid.
For the small teams, the big issue is the stonewalling over the issue of cost-cutting, with Force India's Bob Fernley warning that "all the smaller teams could fall by the wayside" if nothing is done.
But Ecclestone is warning that even billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz could quit, so frustrated is he with the 'new' and quiet F1.
"I wouldn't bet my money he won't leave the sport," the 83-year-old Briton warned, amid wild rumours he and Mateschitz could actually be preparing an audacious bid to take over control of the sport.
As ever in F1, deep and mysterious political machinations are buried underneath all the noise.
Ecclestone was spotted in an hour-long meeting on Saturday not only with Donald Mackenzie, the CVC chief who is rarely seen at grands prix, but none other than Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
None of the parties would comment on the topic of their conversation, but Horner has often been mentioned as the ideal successor should CVC be forced to oust Ecclestone over the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption affair.
Not only that, a week after the Bahrain grand prix, the governing FIA will hear Red Bull's appeal against the Daniel Ricciardo disqualification, with the outcome tipped to have dramatic consequences.
"It's always a big few weeks for formula one," 1996 world champion turned television pundit Damon Hill wryly told the Daily Mail newspaper at Sepang.
"It creates its own dramas around the relatively simple task of making cars go round the race track.
"But what makes this more important than normal is that the sport is in transition but nobody is sure where it is transitioning to," he added.