Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone fears his multi-billion pound empire faces a severe hit unless the sport quickly addresses its unappealing lack of violent noise.
For the first time since the introduction this season of the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units, Ecclestone heard them up close and personal as he visited the Sepang International Circuit which will host the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.
On one hand, the 83-year-old was relieved to hear the more textural sound, compared with that of the old guttural V8s, was not as bad as many critics had complained to him about.
On the other, however, Ecclestone was also accompanied by and had his ear bent by Ong Beng Seng, the Singaporean magnate behind the island state’s highly-popular night race.
Ong, like a number of other race promoters, has made it clear to Ecclestone that a sudden downturn in attendance due to a drop in decibels would not be welcome and would make him think twice about renewing his contract.
“We are a city race and because of that the buzz must be with the noise, otherwise we will ask for a reduction in fees,” said Ong.
It is a comment likely to be uttered by many others as F1 travels the globe, and one Ecclestone has to deal with as he knows the sport will lose its appeal to fans, and crucially, to sponsors.
“The noise is better than I thought,” said Ecclestone, speaking to a select group of media.
“Whether people will accept it, get used to it, be happy with it, time will tell.
“But it’s more a sportscar noise than a Formula One noise. It’s not aggressive.”
Asked whether he was concerned at the potential loss of promoters and sponsors, Ecclestone replied: “Yes.
“I was with Mr Ong and the finance minister from Singapore and they have said if they lose a lot of the public then they’ll definitely stop.
“I’ve heard from other promoters too. You already know Ron (Walker, Australian Grand Prix chairman) is not happy, the people in America are not happy.
“Of course, when you buy something it’s about the whole package, but often there is one item that is important, and in this case it’s the noise.”