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New sound of Formula 1 divides opinion

Mar 14, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

When it was confirmed that Formula 1 would be downsizing from V8 engines to turbocharged V6s, the big question was “how will this affect the sound of the sport?” Part of the series’ appeal and schemata is the distinct screeching sound of the cars, but it appears that the new power units have divided opinion in this respect.

For many in the paddock, the new engine sound is lacking the gusto of its predecessor. Typically, working outside in the paddock during a session can be troublesome for broadcasters due to the sound of the cars. However, this time around, there wasn’t this same volume. Some journalists tweeted about how quiet it was in the media centre without the sound of a V8 engine ringing throughout the paddock.

Force India team owner Vijay Mallya spent the second practice session hanging over the side of the pitwall, watching the cars come along the main straight. When approached by the FOM world feed cameras, Mallya said: “The noise of Formula 1 has gone!” Former F1 driver and now British TV pundit Martin Brundle even remarked how trackside he could cope without wearing ear protection.

Marussia’s Max Chilton posted a picture of a fighter jet to Instagram, saying: “Finally some noise returns to the F1 paddock!”

However, some praised the sound of the new engines, likening it to the sound of the hybrid power units that are used by Le Mans prototypes. NBCSN’s Will Buxton also expressed his happiness with the new sound of the sport.

The arguments against the new sound are very similar to those lodged when F1 downsized from V10s to V8s and from V12s to V10s. It may merely be a case of getting used to it, and come the end of the year, we may not know any differently and not be as bothered by the sound difference compared to 2013.

  1. tosatom41 - Mar 14, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I am at home watching F1 practice, thinking about the way the new cars sound. I closed my eyes and realized that, at times, they sound a bit like MotoGP or Superbikes.

  2. pftisahalftruth - Mar 14, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    They sound a lot like an Indy car now. I prefer the high pitched screaming at a zillion rpms of previous models to the current ones…the only potential I see is that in future years as the teams make the engines more durable, they’ll be able to increase the rev limits to over 20k

  3. testover6370 - Mar 14, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    I prefer the old noise but I think in time I’ll get used to it and yes, it is like the new LMP1 cars. Its just different, the sound of technology moving on, and that’s how it is.

    The spectacle may be lacking in ear-splitting noise, but seeing the cars squirming and sliding all around the track, spinning wheels half way up the gearbox, due to having more power than grip adds a lot. We’re seeing drivers really have to wrestle the cars now and that is cool!

  4. kitnamania13 - Mar 14, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    It was very strange to hear the commentators on NBC talking about the new sound. It was fairly obvious that they all hated it, especially Matchett. Even though they were trying to be diplomatic, I could hear their disgust.

    As for Buxton, he said he liked the sound, but he has to say that or Bernie will ship him off to Azerbaijan for the rest of eternity.

  5. f1spd - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Matchett really didn’t seem to like the new sound. Maybe they sound better up close and personal so that could explain Buxton’s opinion. They didn’t sound that good to me though.

    One thing I would like to see changed is the rev limit. If somebody can make their engine last the required number of races and run 1,000 RPM higher, I say let them. I’m also not crazy about the fuel limit. I hope ti doesn’t come into play. I want to see the cars going all out, not conserving fuel. This is F1, not an endurance race.

    • jezza819 - Mar 14, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Yeah I really hope the fuel limit does not become an issue too.

      If the cars are squirming around this much in the dry, I can’t wait to see what happens in the rain.

      The noise is going to have to take some getting used to for me.

  6. PZ - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    The sound is certainly very different than what I’ve heard my whole life. I think I’ll wait a few races before passing judgement on liking it or not.

  7. offlinej - Mar 14, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    The sound, or lack thereof raises the question: Austin, to go or not to go? Went first two and is highlight of my year but without that sound…

  8. Luke Smith - Mar 14, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    Some very interesting views here folks! Let’s give it a few races and re-assess things.

  9. oppo76 - Mar 14, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    Well they finally did it. In an attempt to save money, they’ve made Formula One (the one true World Championship) sound like an Indy Light. I grew up during the 1000 hp era in Detroit. They shook the ground. They’re missed.

    • kitnamania13 - Mar 17, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      The problem is, they didn’t save any money. These are far and away the most expensive racing engines of all time.

  10. Jeff - Mar 14, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    Imagine what Formula E will sound like.

  11. worknman24hours - Mar 15, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Well ,after the first qualifying session,I have to say,I don’t hate it as much.

    The cars are a sumbitch to drive and I like that.

    And there is a low range gutteral sound to the cars due to the low revs being helped by the monster low end torque of the battery assist electrical motor units in the cars.

    The race start tomorrow should loud and amply exciting.

    I don’t think the sound will be an issue after the race gets under way.

  12. worknman24hours - Mar 15, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    I will add though, if you need a sound fix from the “Golden years of Formula One” go to YouTube and put in -Practice at Monza-do a little searching and you’ll come across a long video of a 12 cylinder F1 classic race car just being driven with ease amongst a lot of other cars the same style on a sunny day in Monza.

    That video ranks as one of the finest several minutes of classic in car you will ever see just for the sights and especially the sounds of those amazing race cars.

    We will never see that type of racing again but the trip back, for just a few minutes, this video and those like it are priceless.

  13. mikton - Mar 16, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    I think Formula 1 will lose many fans this year, a big part of F1 was the thrill of the sound.
    Going from V12’s down to V8’s the sound did change but there was sound, now its like someone just turned the volume down to zero and makes it sound like any other type of racing.
    Its lost a unique element…sadly

    • indycarseries500 - Mar 17, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      Well it gained difficult to control racecars and a much better race, I’ll take that over the old sound any day.

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