Sebastian Vettel has waded into the row over Formula One’s quiet engines, saying the new 1.6-litre V6s were in danger of making the sport unspectacular.
“It’s s***,” the four-time world champion declared roundly, having arrived here in Sepang for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. “I was on the pit wall during the race, and it is quieter than in a bar! I think for the fans it is not good. I think F1 has to be spectacular – and the sound is one of the most important things. I remember how loud the cars were, and to feel the cars through the ground as it was vibrating. It is a shame we don’t have that any more.”
It is a view shared by many within the sport, including the promoter of the Australian Grand Prix, Ron Walker, who, The Independent revealed on Tuesday, believes that races will leave Formula One over the issue.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, however, sees a distinct advantage for drivers in the quieter engines. “With the old engines, even with earplugs, there was never a race I finished when I didn’t feel really tired mentally and didn’t have a massive headache,” the Briton said. “But after Melbourne, for the first time I didn’t have that headache. So that’s a positive!”
The 2009 world champion added that noise should be of no concern to drivers and anyone who was critical of the new engines should not be involved in the sport.
“Go and race something else if you’re not happy,” Button said. “As drivers we don’t have an opinion where the cars are in terms of sound and feel. But when you cross the finish line first you’ve won a grand prix, so you don’t care what the car sounds like or what it looks like. You’ve beaten the best in the world, and that’s all you care about.”
Button’s former team-mate Lewis Hamilton arrived in Sepang “relaxed, recovered and trained”, and ready to correct the lack of a Malaysian Grand Prix victory on his CV.
On the face of it, the 2008 champion might reasonably have felt a little irked by his team-mate Nico Rosberg scoring another victory (to add to Silverstone last year) after his own Mercedes hit trouble early in the race at the season opener in Melbourne a fortnight ago, but he insists he is well over that.
“Mentally that was very easy,” Hamilton said breezily yesterday in the humid paddock. “Why? It just was. I was chilled after the race, I’ve slept well and had a good week. And it’s easier because I think that I’m better.” Than Rosberg? “No, because in myself I’m better all round. I’ve learnt a lot over the years and been through a lot of shit, and I’m in a better position.”
With Rosberg winning by 25 seconds at Albert Park it is hard to envisage Mercedes not being in a tremendous position this weekend after a winter of incredible effort. Both drivers know that they have the best car, as Red Bull struggle to hone their troubled Renault-powered RB10 and Williams and McLaren vie to keep ahead of Ferrari.
And Hamilton fully appreciates that he needs to make a strike this weekend to avoid falling more than 25 points behind his team-mate.
“But it’s not like I need to come here and make a statement,” he countered. “It’s not a matter of that. But I do want some points. It’s a very long, long year ahead, but naturally I don’t want to get too far behind.”