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GP Week : Issue 200
17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: If you had to choose between F1 cars that sound like lawn-mowers and racing like the thriller which we saw two weeks ago in Bahrain, which would you choose? Bit of a no-brainer, that, even for someone like me who was ready after the first race to write disobliging stuff about the (lack of) sound of the new cars. Watching re-runs of the Hamilton/Rosberg duel in the desert, the presenters on the TV channel which I was watching for Sunday's Chinese GP coverage were saying it was the best racing seen in F1 "for many years" (classic word-fudge utilised by TV 'experts' who've only seen 10 GPs). Well, for me it was an all-time classic, the closest and certainly the most prolonged on-track battle that I have ever seen, better even than Stewart/Rindt at Silverstone in 1969. It was so enthralling that I completely forgot about the sounds dribbling out of the cars' pea-shooter exhausts. Nevertheless, the FIA has announced that a meeting will take place in Paris next month with the three engine manufacturers to sort out the fine details of a scheme to make the power units sound more like, well, like engines. A preliminary discussion involving engineers from Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari took place in Shanghai after Friday practice. We must not expect any huge changes, though. "I think the scope to fundamentally and profoundly alter the noise of the engines is extremely limited by the type of technology we have deployed," Renault engine boss (and shameless infinitive-splitter) Rob White told Reuters. "Therefore I think we need to be realistic about the scope of any action we might take." Although thousands of devoted fans went home grumbling about the feeble burbling from the new cars after the first GP of the year in Melbourne, the consensus in the paddock is now swinging towards acceptance, albeit reluctant, of the new technology. Wiser heads than mine have pointed to the fact that in a world of diminishing resources F1 racing needed to repair the image that it had generated over 60 years for the excessive consumption of money, fossil fuels and even human lives. Senior executives at Mercedes recently made it clear that they would have pulled out of F1 if the technology had not moved in an eco-friendly direction. I reckon it wasn't a bad deal: the sport kept a valuable brand on-side, together with an excellent power unit to keep four teams rolling, while Mercedes shareholders could be placated by being informed that if the Silver Arrows could race for 90 minutes on only two-thirds of the fuel that they used last year, then the same technology could be profitably applied to the cars rolling off the production lines in Stuttgart. Speaking at the FIA's Friday press conference in Shanghai, Honda's motorsport chief Yasuhisa Arai was singing from the same green hymn-sheet: "One of the major reasons for our decision [to return with McLaren to F1 [after six seasons away] was the new regulation introduced this year," he said. "The green technologies in the new Formula 1 power unit, as well as the total energy management, are very challenging and significant. The new regulation encourages each power unit supplier to pursue ultimate combustion efficiency. Thus the challenge is to convert each unit of gasoline into energy and this is expected to be reflected in production models. That's the reason why [Honda has returned]." Commendable though it may be, this requirement to use the fuel allocation most efficiently is at the root of the noise problem. You don't need me to tell you that you'll use a lot more fuel if you drive your hatchback down the motor way at 100mph instead of a steady 50, and it is the same law of physics which applies to the F1 V6s and the need to run them at a puny 10,000rpm when the rules permit 16,000. Oh, and if you need to know whoever it was who dreamed up the new F1 regulations, look no further than Max Mosley, ex-President of the FIA, who first mooted green technology for F1 in 2008, one year before he handed over the presidential reins to Jean Todt. "If anybody should be 'blamed' it's me," Mosley has confessed to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper. "We were the ones who looked at bringing in the new technology. It was 10 years in the making, and I actually like the noise. "I wear [hearing aids] in both my ears because the noise of the engines went right through me for 40 years or more. It's too late to save my hearing, but not for the next generation. The quieter engines are better for families. You can take children to races without fear of their being deafened. "If there is one thing I feel could have been done better it is how the new regulations, and the reasons behind them, have been explained to the public. An opportunity has been missed." Not least with thousands of you screaming- engine fans out there. If you're still angry enough to want to throw stones through the windows of Mr Mosley's house, don't ask me where it is. Rather appropriately, it is said, he enjoys spending his spare time in a dungeon. IS FORMULA FLATULENcE SO BAD? OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON