• The Inside Line

All quiet on the western front

Kate Walker
January 28, 2014
There was more action off the track than there was on it ... and often more noise © Sutton Images
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They say that no news is good news, but can that be applied to noise? Because there was a definite lack of noise on offer in Jerez on Tuesday, and it's not entirely clear whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

The good news is that the first day of winter testing in 2014 didn't start with the noise of 11 (or even ten) engines exploding in unison. But it didn't actually start with much in the way of noise.

While Lewis Hamilton was leaving the pits in his Mercedes for the first time in 2014, I happened to be out on the balcony of the media centre, making a phone call. Outdoors during a session is normally a stupid place to try and do business. The cars are loud, conversation is impossible, and the person on the other end of the phone loses ear drums to the shrill shriek of a V8 engine.

At least, they used to. These days it appears that you can do all the business you require.

Which isn't to say that the 2014 power units are quiet, or that they're unimpressive. The noise signature has certainly changed, with the bassline hum now accompanied by a gurgle, not a scream, but different doesn't necessarily mean worse. It's a bit quieter, a bit less abrasive, but still a throaty roar.

A big concern for the teams this week is not being the first team to suffer a spectacular and dramatic engine failure. Mud sticks, after all, and the first power unit drama of the current generation will be the one everyone remembers. As a result, the very limited running we saw on Tuesday in Jerez saw teams running at reduced power, the wick turned far enough down that respectable lap times were possible but failures less likely.

The problem with limited running - mechanics aside - is that in these days of the ever-hungry 24-hour news cycle, it means that excessive amounts of attention are given to everyday occurrences just to fill digital space. And in this online era, the negative headlines tend to generate the most clicks.

Take Mercedes' day of running. Where the team should have been celebrated for being the only ones ready to run when the pitlane opened at 9am, with Lewis Hamilton the only driver to set a timed lap for a couple of hours, instead they suffered a barrage of headlines that concentrated on the failure that cut the W05's day short.

But the real story in Jerez was that the Mercedes car was good to go at 9am, while the Mercedes power unit completed 36 laps of the circuit thanks to the combined efforts of Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, and Sergio Perez. The Ferrari engine managed 38 laps (31 care of Kimi Raikkonen, and the rest thanks to Esteban Gutierrez), while the three Renault-powered drivers logged a combined total of 19 laps.

All three power units (and eight cars) had their engines turned down. As the teams get more confident, we'll see more power, more noise, and more running. But for the day that was supposed to bring about exploding engines and embarrassing failures, Jerez day one was relatively peaceful. Maybe a little too peaceful in terms of actual running, but just right for all of the suppliers, PRs, and officials who have spent the past few months planning crisis management strategies for all the things that didn't go wrong today.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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