Aussie GP organizers: New, quieter F1 cars may have breached contract

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Saturday night’s Australian Grand Prix seemingly had everythinga dominant performance from Nico Rosberg, stellar efforts from several of the sport’s young guns, and stunning defeats for some of its veteran superstars.

But it didn’t have the distinctive scream of V-8 engines, which have been jettisoned in favor of V-6 turbocharged engines for the start of Formula One’s new technological era.

The V-6 engines definitely made for a different noise around Albert Park and that’s apparently annoyed Aussie GP organizers – with one of them having gone as far to say that the quieter cars may have breached their contracts with Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management.

In an interview with Australia’s Fairfax Radio network, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott said that in addition, the turbo-powered machines have also robbed some of the mystique from its event.

“One aspect of it was just a little bit duller than it’s ever been before and that’s part of the mix and the chemistry that they’re going to have to get right,” Westacott said to Fairfax, as relayed by Reuters.

“[Aussie GP chairman] Ron [Walker] spoke to [Ecclestone] after the race and said the fans don’t like it in the venue…We pay for a product, we’ve got contracts in place, we are looking at those very, very seriously because we reckon there has probably been some breaches.”

Reaction to the new sound of Formula One – more of a throatier growl these days – has been mixed among team owners and fans.

During this weekend’s event broadcast, one of those team owners – Force India’s Vijay Mallya – proclaimed “the noise of Formula One has gone” on the world feed.

But three-time Formula One World Champion and current Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda says that it’s pointless to rewrite the new engine rules for the sake of more decibels.

“Everyone wants to do something about it, but you can’t just change the exhaust pipe, you’d have to redevelop the whole engine and the mapping,” he said according to Autoweek.

“That’s just way too expensive. Please do not change the engines just to make a bit more noise.”

Westacott’s comments could make for more post-Grand Prix controversy Down Under, which is already high after Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from the race after finishing second because of a fuel flow irregularity.

His Red Bull team has vowed to appeal, and team principal Christian Horner is confident of said appeal’s chances.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.