Bernie Ecclestone rocked up in Sepang this morning and threw himself almost immediately in to the noise debate. “It’s a little louder than we thought,” he told Sky, “If we could just get it up a little more then it will be alright.” Yesterday however Sebastian Vettel didn’t hold back in making his position clear; “It’s s**t”.
The consensus seems to be that the TV doesn’t do the sound justice, although that fact isn’t stopping the organiser of the Australian Grand Prix reportedly threatening Bernie with breach of contract. Aussie fans expect to come away from the circuit with tinnitus, apparently. Reading this is Australia? Were you in Melbourne? How bad/good was it? Do tell; we’ve only got the telly to go on.
And speaking of which you might want to be in front of your telly this weekend – on the basis of practice today we could be in for a very good race. Nico Rosberg ended the day fastest ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel.
But… the Merc, Ferrari and Red Bull were just 0.061 seconds apart. This is good news. Brouhaha about the noise and Daniel Ricciardo’s fuel flow meter aside, the story in Oz appeared to be we’d swapped absolute domination by one team, for a season of absolute domination by another.
Nobody doubted Nico had a lot left in reserve in Australia, his fastest lap — nearly a second and a half faster than anybody at the time — was set on lap 19 with a lot of gas still in the tank. At this point of the weekend — after FP2 — Mercedes were over half a second ahead of Ferrari. Ferrari said at the time it knew why Alonso and especially Raikkkonen were slow in Melbourne and Alonso, fifth today behind Hamilton looked especially strong today and was only just over another tenth behind.
The full top ten in FP2 was Rosberg, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Ricciardo, Button, Bottas and Hulkenberg. Two tenths cover the top six which tells us we are in for a good weekend.
This all matters because while there is a serious sense of loss in this office for screaming V8s barrelling along at 19,000rpm, there’s nobody here who didn’t think the cars drove spectacularly. If the price of seeing F1 cars slide and twitch and generally make life impossible for their drivers is a soundtrack that, while a lot quieter, isn’t exactly unappealing, then we’re not so certain we’re not already paid up. Martin Brundle, who spends days like today standing immediately adjacent to the track says he’s already used to it and, frankly, says it’s okay.
There’s another school of thought that says there was nothing so wonderful about the noise of the 2.4-litre V8s anyhow. Anyone who heard a Matra V12 in the 1970s would agree with that. Anyone out there got any other nominations for best sounding F1 engine?
Qualifying is at 8.00am and the race at 9.00 (and don’t forget to out your watch forward, Summertime starts on Sunday) and the good news is they are both live on the BBC as well as Sky.