MANAMA (Reuters) - McLaren head Ron Dennis criticized quadruple Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel on Sunday after the Red Bull driver described the sound of the sport’s new V6 turbo engines as ‘shit’.
The German driver had made his opinion clear at a news conference at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix when asked about the much quieter units that have replaced the screaming V8s.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of the governing FIA, agreed at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday that the sound would be tweaked with the full agreement of teams.
While the FIA has cautioned drivers about keeping their language clean in public in the past, Todt told reporters he respected Vettel’s opinion and would be happy to discuss the situation.
Dennis told Sky Sports television that he was disappointed, however.
“Being a world champion requires a dignified approach to everything, so putting aside the language, even the sentiment is inappropriate,” said the Briton.
“The simple fact is if he was sat in a Mercedes he would be extremely happy, and I’m quite sure any four or five-letter words would be more of joy.
“He should just reflect on the fact he has had a period of dominance, and just because that dominance is being shaken by Mercedes, doesn’t give him the license to be disrespectful of the obligations placed on him as a world champion.”
Mercedes, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Germany’s Nico Rosberg, have won the first three races of the season from pole position and their engines have been dominant.
Vettel won the last four world championships, and nine races in a row to the end of last year, but Renault-powered Red Bull have been playing catch-up in the new era.
The German’s Red Bull team boss Christian Horner rejected Dennis’s criticism of the driver.
“Our drivers, we don’t manipulate what they say in the press,” he told reporters after the race. “They have freedom of speech.
“Perhaps the choice of his specific word wasn’t ideal but I don’t think anyone would disagree with him that the sound of the cars could be better.
“It’s his opinion and he’s free to express that. If we don’t allow drivers to express themselves, we just end up with robots.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman/Nick Mulvenney