“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not”
~Shakespeare – The Tempest~
Noise would prove to be the main point of interest on the first day of practice at Albert Park – would the power-trains be as subdued as many fans feared and were the tyres going to screech as they slid around with the lack of downforce?
The second concern of the day would be the weather. Friday turned out to be a fine autumnal day as the sun shone and a light breeze blew; keeping the threatened rain clouds away.
Melbourne is well known for having four seasons in a single day but today there were only two. And whilst it’s true that there was no rain, there were many unfortunate men who were obliged to sit in the covered stands to appease their wives.
It was like a winter’s day, warm in the sunshine probably too warm to sit in all day and yet in the shade there was a wind that rapidly chilled to a level which was rarely experienced even in the northern territories of Australia where coats are seldom, if ever, needed.
The most clamourous machine that we heard all day was the FA-18 jet that spent 15 minutes soaring overhead entertaining the crowd. As it screamed low over the track no-one could communicate with anyone else except with sign language. I probably should have been using my ear protection but I never even thought of it!
Second in the deafening stakes was the Red Bull RB7.
This was involved in a race called the Ultimate Speed Challenge which aimed to get three vehicles – Mercedes 6.3 L AMG, a V8 Super-car and the RB7 completing a single lap from a standing start by going over the finish line simultaneously after embarking with a carefully calculated gap between them.
Yesterday the RB7 had managed to go 3 seconds faster than it had been expected to – while the other two cars went a second slower. The starting times for each car were further adjusted today in an attempt to get the concurrent finish.
Mick Doohan in the Mercedes AMG made an error on turn 15 which resulted in the V8 just beating him to the line. However David Coulthard in the RB7 passed both cars easily at the beginning of the main straight. He will have an even bigger time margin before his start tomorrow!
Trailing the RB7 by some decibels and taking the final place on the ‘noise’ podium were the V8 supercars. They were aided by the fact that they came around Turn 3 in en masse, all struggling desperately to gain the advantage over their opponents.
They managed to get up to three cars spread across the track but despite this, passing was very limited because the drivers who took the best line going into one corner and gaining a slight advantage would lose it at the very next corner. In a strange twist – the leading driver into Turn 3 on the first lap would go on to win the race.
Fourth but not last came the new fangled Formula One V6 turbos.
Sitting by Turn 3 there was no need for any ear protection. In fact, said ear protection would have taken away the challenge of trying to determine – by sound alone – which power-unit was hurtling down the short straight between turns 2 and 3 before the car came into view. The cars fortunately still looked spectacular and went very fast.
What made even more noise than the engines was the sound of the tyres locking up coming into Turn 3. Perez was the first to have an incident – spinning out of control but managing to extricate himself from the gravel. JEV had two such instances, both times managing to travel across the gravel, avoiding contact with the wall, and back out onto the track.
Kimi was trying to make my heart stop by screeching his brakes for seven laps in a row whilst trying to slow down for Turn 3. He made me fear that he was going to end up in the gravel right in front of me and I had no wish to see him out of his car at close quarters. I would much prefer his car to remain firmly on the track.
There was only one car which caused the crunching sound of carbon fibre meeting an immovable object. Grosjean, seemingly throwing caution to the wind after his minimal completion of laps, hit the wall at Turn 13. This was not as unlucky as it might seem as he had had numerous contacts with the grass verge and frequent locking up of his tyres prior to this final indignity.
Last of all in the noise stakes were the Mazda 3’s. I had not noticed the start of the race and the first thing I heard was the squealing of their tyres in front of me. I looked up stunned as there no sound of any engine audible. Car after car went past in silence (apart from their tyres). I don’t think I’m a fan of electric car racing – I’d much rather hear engines than tyres!
Fortunately for those concerned about the mechanical grip of the new Formula One cars there was no tyre sound emitted from the tyres while cornering except when the car was about to go into the gravel. This at least had the advantage of giving us some warning that something exciting was about to happen in front of us!