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Drivers dismissive of fan concerns


In a surprisingly lacklustre press conference, the assembled drivers were largely dismissive of fans concerns regarding the new formula.

Other than the sound - or lack of it - fans have expressed unhappiness over a number of issues including the fact that, in terms of the racing, Melbourne wasn't as radically different as hoped for, the complexity of the new rules and the ongoing saga of the fuel flow meter, an issue which could dominate this weekend and Bahrain also.

Following the example of their employers, the drivers were giving nothing away today, towing the party line and generally insisting that - with the 'there is nothing wrong here, move along' attitude we have grown used to - the fans will get used to it.

"It's quite popular to criticise Formula One nowadays, I think," argued Daniil Kvyat, clearly already a master of F1 spin after just one race, "and there is always some new technology coming and it has happened for me to debut in a new Formula One, let's say. It's quite interesting, I would say.

"The standard, with the new technology, has to change at some point and I think it's quite interesting," he added. "It's still fast, it's going to be faster all the time and we will see at the end of the year how much better it is or not, so it's early days."

"I think it's been all good for F1," added Melbourne winner Nico Rosberg, who, in a pre-season promotional video for Mercedes, mocked many of the new regulations. "It's changed around the pecking order which is definitely good for everybody because the same guy winning last year... we needed a bit of a change to that, so that's been good. The cars are great to drive, that's fine, so I think it's all good."

"I think I definitely enjoy driving them because of course it's definitely not easy at the beginning," said Kamui Kobayashi in a masterpiece of understatement considering a brake issue - synonymous with the new formula - saw him crash out at the very first corner in Melbourne, taking a hapless Felipe Massa with him, "but I remember there were quite similar headlines before, but after a few years or a few months everybody forgot, so I don't think it's a big problem. But for us we're still enjoying driving. It's more challenging to drive in dry races, so I'm pretty happy."

"To be honest, I don't have much to say, because I've not spent a lot of time in the car at the moment," sighed Pastor Maldonado. "It's quite early, but it doesn't feel a lot different to what we had in the past. For sure, it's a more complicated car, especially for the technicians, for the engineers in the paddock. For us, it's a bit easier on the steering wheel. It's a bit more complicated but it's what we have at the moment. It's the same for everyone."

"I don't think it's awfully different as a driver, to compare last year's cars to this year's," said Kimi Raikkonen. "Obviously there are some small detailed issues but it's the bigger issues that make a difference for me, just to be in a different team. Every team feels a bit different, different cars. It doesn't really change an awful lot as a driver."

Meanwhile, one driver who wasn't afraid to give his thoughts on the one topic that has pretty dominated since Melbourne - other than 'Flowgate' (sorry, but it had to be done) - was Sebastian Vettel.

"It's s***!" he told reporters when asked about the new sound of F1. "I was on the pit wall during the race... it's better than in the bar! That's my opinion and I think for the fans as well.

"Formula One has to be spectacular and the sound is one of the most important things," he continued. "When I was a small child, I don't remember much, but I remember when I was six-years-old and we went to see the cars during free practice. The one thing I remember was the sound, how loud they were, to feel the cars through the ground and the whole ground was vibrating. It's a shame you don't have that."

However, his view isn't shared by Jenson Button who is clearly sick to death of the moaners, including those within the paddock.

"Go and race something else if you're not happy," declared the McLaren driver. "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."

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Chris Balfe


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1. Posted by dhoskin3, 30/03/2014 7:43

"I am a dedicated fan of F1, saw my first F1 race live at Silverstone won by Jim Clark, with Graham Hill, Lorenzo Bandini, etc. I have a few points to add to the disappointment felt by most of your readers about the new sound and techno-era.

I watched the Friday practice sessions at Melbourne, standing on Brock's Hill with the other real fans. As the time of the first practice approached, there was usually a sense of anticipation and, as the crowd used to hear the cars start up, way across the circuit, everyone stood up, checked their programmes, and craned their necks to get the first glimpse of the cars.

This year, there was suddenly a sort of burping sound and the first car arrived, with no audible notice of its approach. The crowd on the Hill were all bemused, looking at each other and wondering what ... ....! The FIA may treat their fans at their peril, WE are the ones who ultimately fund the sport and if the fans do not like the new formula, then F1 will die. Good on Sebastian for calling the sound as he sees it. Too many of the F1 Establishment have been mild in their criticism as they do not want to appear unduly critical of the sport which provides their careers but some have stood up to be counted. Come on Bernie, save us!

Another point which annoys me is this perception that F1 technology spins off into production cars. Even basic small cars sold in Australia have to have Dynamic Stability Control (including traction control and anti-lock brake capability) which is banned from F1 by the rules. Toyota have sold around 1 1/2 million hybrid cars so they, and the other major manufacturers probably know a bit about hybrid technology, there are many small turbo petrol and diesel cars on the market, and high economy compression ignition engines are waiting in the wings. I fail to see why the exotic hybrid systems in F1 cars represent a relevant advance, face it, no-one is going to buy a small economy hatchback costing $100,000 and tyres which last for 20 laps are not really acceptable to the every day driver!

One last point, any overtaking in this new era is going to confusing for the fans. It is not exciting to see someone on max power, max braking, overtaking anothe car whose driver is coasting into a corner pumping up his battery! What fans want to see are overtakes like Webber round the outside of Alonso at La Source - awesome performance by both of them.

Enough! Disappointed from Oz.Go Dan!"

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2. Posted by Aussie F1, 29/03/2014 2:46

"Dear Editor,

I was just reading your article about the drivers reaction to the feedback about the noise, or lack thereof, since the regulation change.

As a fan myself I am appalled at the contempt in which the F1 fraternity is treating the fan base. Do they not understand that without the fans, they'll have no future?

I was at the Australian GP and it's worth noting I make the annual pilgrimage each year with a dozen friends. That's 12 airfares, bed stays, too many beers to count and god only knows collectively how much we spend on merchandise before and during our junket. Collectively we, as a group pump about $60,000 into the economy of Melbourne, Victoria that helps justify the Government support the race needs to survive. Now I'm sure that is similar to how it works for a lot of the host countries. Next year we've decided we're not going back and in fact had decided that by the end of FP1.

The most disconcerting point of awareness for me though was more about this weekends Malaysian GP. I've always been proud of the fact that since live coverage of races started here in Australia back in the day, sometime in the early nineties I think, I've never missed a race live on TV. Now, with the time difference here that is no mean feat. Especially the North American run as that is set your alarm for 3:00am territory and in any man's language that is dedication of the highest order. So this weekend the race clashes with our local V8 Supercars category. A great series and going from strength to strength every year but it's not F1. Well despite this weekends F1 race being on Sunday afternoon, I've actually set the race to record so I can watch the V8 Supercars live. The same V8 Supercars that weekend before last outmuscled the F1 farce, I mean race, on so many levels. How could it be that liveried taxi cabs could outshine the pinnacle of world Motorsport.

Hats off to Vettel for saying it sounds sh!t because it does and he is the arch nemesis here down under so it really pains me greatly to compliment the chap. On the flip side shame on JB for saying what he said and I'm probably the worlds biggest McLaren fan having idolised them since I started following the sport 30 years ago when Lauda won on his comeback. I was 12 years old.

The whole sport/business should be alarmed at the current situation and ignore the fans at their peril. Rugby League is going through the same thing here in Oz for the same reason, they've lost touch with the people who allow them to exist. The result is it's sadly going to be overtaken by two, possibly three other codes of football. (We call your football soccer by the way)

Ignoring the people who pay for them to exist is a much more dangerous game the drivers are playing then the actual driving of the car and I'm not so confident that even Bernard Charles Ecclestone can sort this one out in a hurry. Ron Dennis summed it up when he said they would not be able to come up with an overnight fix as it requires a rethink of the cars architecture. But at least have the courage and conviction as a community to stand up for the people who allow the drivers the Monaco and Switzerland lifestyle they so much earn and deserve. It certainly isn't the teams or sponsors. The food chain is much longer than that and starts much lower.

Hats off to Mike Lawrence on his article about the matter too. He hit the nail on the head about boffins crossing over where they're not needed or more importantly wanted.

In closing, we the fans don't give a sh!t about relevant technology transfer into road cars. We care about being entertained with a feast of noise and all the mystique that we mere mortals can't get except from the side of the track. When I get in my BMW every day I don't think it does what it does because of the failed foray they had into F1, nor do I thank them for it. But I do thank Mitsubishi when I get in my Evolution IX on Sundays and plant the right foot on the noise pedal and launch off in a scream of high revs and window shattering noise and pretend I'm Tommi Makkinens long lost love child.

Team bosses and drivers please take note because if my experience in life has taught me but one thing, if it smells like sh!t and looks like sh!t, it is sh!t and someone needs to clean it up. Preferably those who are responsible for it.

Yours truly,

A VERY disgruntled fan.

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3. Posted by raven49, 28/03/2014 17:21

"Dismissive seems to be an understatement. After watching FP 2 and listening to some of the blather it's difficult to overlook the arrogance. Clearly the fans are too stupid to understand what they're watching. Look at all the new hybrid technology. Duh! Toyota sold its first Prius in 1997. V-6 engines with turbo chargers have been built for years. Ford will have an inline turbo 4 with over 300 hp for the upcoming Mustang along with a 300+ hp V-6 currently. Forget about Europe and the diesel technology, turbos, and other advances made by the manufacturers. No doubt F1 has contributed some things but a driver is not a rocket scientist - in flying you call them stick and rudder men. Some are bright, very bright, but they drive cars. Their privileged attitudes (not all) really show through now.
There's a lot more going on than just the noise. How dare the fans to want a little insight into things like what did Red Bull due according to the inaccurate fuel flow sensors? How is this information guarded more heavily than national security secrets for some nations?
Even better is the claim of wanting to be eco friendly. How much fuel is burner moving the circus, their equipment and their motor homes to South America, North America, Asia, Middle East, etc. But, we're sure saving a lot of racing fuel. As one commenter did point out, ".it's racing."
Can't wait for Formula E when the FIA incorporates technology that auto manufacturers have been selling for several years.
I must say Bernie Ecclestone said it pretty well ; "if the fans don't turn out and pay the promoter, the promoter doesn't pay FOM and FOM doesn't pay the teams." Perhaps some of the mouthpieces like Jenson Button might give that some thought. "

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4. Posted by testa rossa, 27/03/2014 22:08

"I have no problem with the sound , only i hate to see the rich teams buying away the clever guys from the small teams.

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5. Posted by ape, 27/03/2014 17:55

"I can't remember any complains about the sound of the turbo engines in the eighties , what i remember is that i was very very exited about the cars when i was standing at the trackside and even Bernies cars with the BMW 4 !! cylinder engine had a great sound , different but great.
I don't understand why Bernie is making such problems and the funny thing is that al lot of journos and fans are like parrots. Fans get used to this type of sound don't worry."

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6. Posted by Mick, 27/03/2014 14:57

"Til this year, the sound of F1 has always been a constant. It has changed its note through the years, but not its volume. I have weathered all the other changes through the years, like we all have.

I love this sport. I have listened to F1 cars scream past me in person and watch every other race live, no matter the time.

But I am so disappointed that such a basic, but wonderful part of the sport has been taken away. Ok Jenson, you don't care, but for the 300 million fans that watch, what you said - just hurt my ears."

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7. Posted by GrahamG, 27/03/2014 14:17

"It's not just the noise issue which is exercising fans. The whole concept of F1 has been prostituted to the micro opinions of a small number of people. F1 is supposed to be about innovation, excitement, the winner being the best driver in the best car. What do we have - stupid tyre rules, artificial overtaking, absolute block on any kind of engineering innovation (but you can spend millions on a new front wing), shrieks of horror when the best driver/car combination does actually win. To talk about cost control and then impose a hugely expensive new engine formula is a farce. If you want to have an efficient and easy to police restriction, control the maximum airflow into the engine, that in itself controls the amount of fuel which can be burnt (not original, Keith Duckworth of Cosworth suggested this many years ago). It's relatively easy to control (many other formulas use air restrictors)"

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8. Posted by MES, 27/03/2014 14:11

"Drivers (apparently all but VET) have nearly become louder than their cars, with their spin. Perhaps they've all become technocrats. Maybe, scaringly, they've been turned into the "Stepford Drivers". Just where were they all during off-season? I haven't even mustered the energy to lift the remote and watch the recording of Melbourne, and it's been a long while since I even thought of waking at predawn hours to watch a live broadcast. "Go and race something else" says Button? Well, how about if the "fans" should go watch something else? (log-splitting perhaps) After over 50 years of F1 for me, I'm close to calling it a day, what with all the techno b---s---."

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9. Posted by raven49, 27/03/2014 13:10

"There is more to the issue than just the noise and the dismissive attitudes are ignoring the fans who support
F1's existence. Yes, the noise is different and not too exciting but what about the total lack of information the fans get to see. Red Bull is penalized for exceeding the fuel flow limits but we're told nothing about the circumstance. Red Bull states, and other teams confirm, there are problems with the sensors. A small variance can make a big difference in performance. So what's going on.
The manufacturers are having trouble with the short development time frame, coupled with a lack of testing (to save money) even though the new rules have increased costs considerably. This doesn't pass the common sense test.
During the race, information reported by commentary on tv is very non-specific and, as others have said, it must be more difficult at the track with pit stops and different compounds. Tire restrictions clearly keep cars off the track. With little testing, waiving tire limits would at least be incentive to get on the track so fans that watch practice might see a few. Providing one set for Q3 is not such a big deal. Q3 is short and involves less than half the field.
It isn't the noise. The lack of information for the "fans" is to protect someone's ego, nothing more."

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10. Posted by F One, 27/03/2014 12:16

"Mountains out of molehills.
Anyone who gets in that much of a fit just over the noise is no fan at all and frankly needs to grow up."

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11. Posted by emcomments, 27/03/2014 11:52

"As an "old fart" in my sixties, some hearing loss and who has followed F1 for almost as long as I can remember (hearing about the Stirling Moss crash on the news) this is a fuss about nothing. The F1 press, blogs and websites seem determined to make a real meal out of this small cheese sandwich.

Give it a bloody rest!

Things will settle down, the racing will be good, bad great, whatever - as it always is. But life goes on and things change, so deal with it."

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12. Posted by worthingwizard, 27/03/2014 11:49

"jenson winning a grand prix must be great a feeling especially when standing on the podium in front off all the thousands of fans but how would it feel standing on the podium with no fans?"

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