mercedes-engine-sound

The big bad F1 engine debate – 2013 vs 2014

This is the video that has caused a stir amongst F1 fans around the world. It features a direct comparison from a fans perspective between the 2013 and 2014 engine sounds at full speed. At the time of writing, it has nearly hit 1 million views as it does the rounds on twitter, facebook and Google+.

Is all the hysteria justified or are some F1 fans being a little narrow minded? Here’s my view…

Formula 1 runs through my veins but I’m also quite open-minded about future technologies and more importantly – change. This video doesn’t shock me one bit. We knew when they announced that F1 was moving from V8 2.4 litre to V6 1.6 litre turbo charged power units that it was going to mean much quieter engine notes. The 2014 part of the clip was actually far louder than I even expected.

Sports car fans flood to circuits around the World to cheer on the likes of the diesel powered Audis which literally just whistle round the race circuit in near silence. There are some incredible technologies in Sports Car racing and F1 had to follow suit at some point. The world is changing – fast and F1 can’t be a sport that is looked upon as standing still. It has to be the pinnacle of driver and team talent, as well as the technologies which power the cars themselves.

I think the V8 had had its day. Engine development had been over for years and the performance was so similar it was barely a talking point over the last few seasons. They were ridiculously reliable meaning very little surprise ever came from the engine department.

People are calling for the rule makers to “do something about the sound!” Are they talking about suggesting improvements to maybe the exhaust pipe, or actually creating rules to make them more noisy. It seems utterly bizarre thought that the FIA could even conceive of bringing in a rule to make racing cars louder. Where would this lead to?

“The race stewards deemed that the winning car of Nico Rosberg was running under the minimum 140 decibel limit stipulated in the Technical Regulations. The driver has been excluded from the result.”

People say F1 should be loud. Should it? Or is just that F1 has been loud in the past? Funnily enough, we are moving into the future and the future of F1 is – a more economical and road relevant sport.

There are numerous advantages to Formula 1’s new note. Here’s just a few:

  • Tyre lock ups. Have you heard how awesome that now sounds on the TV coverage?
  • Pit lane burn outs. Again, did you notice how violent the tyres get punished as the drivers drops the clutch out the box after a pit stop?
  • The likes of Ted Kravitz and other reporters can now tell the story of what’s going on in the pit lane without seemingly having a nervous breakdown as they try to compete with the V8’s. Information is golden…
  • Radio transmissions from driver to team are now much clearer and not such a panicky shouting match.

We were treated to a really interesting race at the weekend. Some big names fell out of contention very early on and some young rookies made outstanding debuts. The season is set up nicely and will not be the bore fest that so many people claimed the last few seasons have been. Is an engine sound really worth the arguments?

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2 Comments on “The big bad F1 engine debate – 2013 vs 2014

  1. That is a great video, and I agree almost entirely with your thoughts.

    For me, I think the real problem with the noise is not the volume at all, but that it’s now very difficult to tell when a driver is pushing hard. That was something that really struck me when I was standing trackside at Albert Park.

    The new engines have so much torque that a driver can now exit a corner in a higher gear and doesn’t have to max out the revs. As a result, drivers are short shifting when they come out of corners and will drive past you at low revs. When they do that, it sounds like they’re just cruising on their way back to the pits, even though they are pushing quite hard.

    Crucially, they make exactly the same noise when they actually ARE cruising back to the pits.

    The introduction of an eighth gear also means that drivers can choose a variety of gears at each corner, so there is no such thing as a ‘third gear corner’ anymore. Drivers could use third, fourth or fifth gear instead. This means that each driver will go past you in a different gear, so it sounds like some of them are pushing much less, or like they got it totally wrong. It is very deceptive.

    One of the great joys of visiting a Grand Prix is watching the drivers up close whilst they push hard. The noise, which reveals a driver’s throttle input, has always been a big part of that excitement but now it is lost. That matters to me much more than volume.

    My Dad summed it up very well when he said “it just sounds like there is something wrong with them most of the time” and he is exactly right. I think some of the people complaining about the noise feel that as well, but have been too caught up in the debate about volume.

    A driver could be on the ragged edge of a hot qualifying lap, and whilst that used to be thrilling to watch, it now sounds like he is cruising back to the pits and the spectacle is lost.

    The video above shows a comparison on a straight where this isn’t so evident.

    The other point to note is they’re much quieter than you’d expect. I knew quite clearly they would sound nothing like the V8s, and even though I heard the cars on YouTube during testing, I was still incredibly surprised during Friday practice. Hugely surprised. You can easily talk over them at close range, and the touring cars at Albert Park were much louder. I don’t mind the volume to be honest, but they sound a lot crisper and nicer and louder on TV, especially in the above video. It’s a very different experience for trackside fans.

    Most of the people defending the noise only heard it on TV, and some have been very critical of the fans complaining in Melbourne. Fans against the new noise are not necessarily against change, or against the sport’s technological future. They’re not anti-progress, they just feel that a large part of the spectacle that comes with visiting a Grand Prix has been lost. You haven’t lost that whilst watching it on TV.

    Fans who were trackside at Albert Park have every right to complain about the new noise. It’s just that volume itself is not the problem.

    • Very interesting take on it Marty. And I would love to get comparison at turn 5 perhaps as that’s usually a great corner for seeing/hearing drivers “on it” I’m sure you’d agree.

      But as you say, even a video comparison may not do the job – it comes down to what the paying public there in the flesh hear and experience – or don’t experience.

      Thanks for the different point of view!

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