Quiet appreciation for new F1 engines

Sepang: Sebastian Vettel bluntly swore when asked about the new sound of Formula One but a more measured response elsewhere at the Malaysian Grand Prix suggests it is not all bleak for the sport`s quiet, hybrid engines.

The engineering marvels that are propelling F1 cars faster than before, but at a fraction of the noise and with less fuel, have not been widely welcomed in a world that revels in the roar of machinery.

But even F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, initially a critic, toned it down after hearing the cars trackside for the first time this weekend at Sepang.

"It`s a little better than we thought," said Ecclestone, who watched this year`s first race, in Australia, on TV.

While F1`s ear-splitting V8 engines are gone, the turbocharged 1.6-litre V6s bring out different sounds: squealing tyres, the roar of the crowd and the previously inaudible race updates over the tannoy.

Spectators and officials can watch without earplugs, and the fear of hearing damage, and parents can bring young children to the track without wondering if the noise will reduce them to tears.

In Malaysia, the response among visiting fans was mixed but rarely as damning as world champion Vettel`s four-letter reaction, indicating quiet engines may not be quite the disaster that some in the sport had feared.

Ross Hainan, an IT analyst who flew out for the race from Glasgow, had low expectations after watching the Australian race on TV.

"When we came out the initial expectation was that it was going to be really poor. However, actually being here and hearing it live with your own ears, it`s far, far better than we expected," said Hainan, 35.

His wife Julie added: "It`s not quiet when they`re all out running and they`re on full throttle, it`s definitely not.

"Plus Formula One should be the pinnacle of technology in motorsport, and they are the most amazing hybrids you`ve ever seen. And five years down the line we`ll all be driving them in our cars back home." Denmark`s Steffen Moller, a former racing driver who now manages new talent, said Formula One simply had to embrace a future of more fuel-efficient motoring.

"I know there`s a lot of criticism about the sound but we see a lot of electrical cars on the road now and Formula One must be the point where all the manufacturers look to find new ideas," he said.

"So for me it`s not about the sound, it`s more about the top of the performance for what you can do engineering-wise."

Australian sales manager Tim Anscombe, from Perth, said he missed the old sound but was resigned to the fact that Formula One had to move on.

"You miss that thunder of the old V8s but I suppose the times are changing and that`s the way it`s going to be. Certainly you miss the atmosphere of that roar going through you," said the 47-year-old.

Others were less philosophical. Pete Visagie of South Africa, who heads an engineering company and races production cars in his spare time, said: "It`s not the spectacle it used to be. The sound was much nicer.

"Even the safety car and the medical car sound better than the F1 cars going past, honestly."

By the end of this year, Formula One will sound noisy compared to the futuristic whine of Formula E, a worldwide series for electric cars which debuts in Beijing in December.

And Claire Williams, the deputy team principal of Williams who has grown up around Formula One, predicted people would soon get used to a sound that has been disparagingly compared to vacuum cleaners and golf carts.

"Personally I like the sound of the engines, but then I love Formula One and I love watching cars go round a racetrack," she said.

"We`ve had so many changes over so many decades of motor racing and you very quickly forget what a previous engine sounds like."

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