Formula 1 2014: Turning it All the Way Up to Eleven


2014 Renault Formula 1 Power Unit

Despite a thrilling beginning to the 2014 Formula 1 season‘s new, turbocharged era of hybrid-electric race cars, one thing has been missing from F1 since the series went to its new, more fuel-efficient formula. That is, of course, the noise.

For 2014, the new F1 hybrid drive trains are more powerful, more reliable, and up to 30% more fuel-efficient than the naturally-aspirated V8 engines they replaced. There is so much electric gadgetry involved, in fact, that Formula 1 doesn’t even call them engines anymore. They’re “power units”, and we went into great detail on Renault’s 2014 power unit a few months ago. All the power and efficiency in the world won’t change the fact that F1 needs to be a good show to stay profitable and, therefor, relevant.

Right now, the on-track action is hot- but the sound sucks. “I miss the noise,” says Colombian racing legend and ex-F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. “At least on TV. I don’t know how the engines sound in reality, but I think it is definitely not close to the screams of the high-revving V10s from my time.”

If you haven’t tuned into F1’s flyaway races this year, this is the sound he’s referring to …

… which, yeah. While I fully understand that the cars’ turbos turn exhaust energy into forward motion, rather than noise and heat, I’d still call that “uninspired” at my most politically correct, professionalistic sort of best.

Worse yet is the fact Montoya isn’t the only one who’s disappointed with the new F1 sound, either. F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone agrees, and has tasked executives at Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault to work on making the 1.6 litre ‘power units’ louder. “We’re at the beginning of a consultative process,” confirmed Renault’s Rob White. “I think we need to be realistic about the scope of any action that we might take but of course we’re sensitive to the subject and we’ll certainly participate in any of the studies that might lead to actions being taken.”

Given that “quieter running” is part of turbocharging, though, it’s hard to imagine what kind of changes could really be made- especially since the teams will want to take every opportunity to put their fuel’s energy towards pushing the car forward, rather than splitting eardrums.

Source | Images: Formula1Insider599, Motorsport.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • Bi-Polar Bear

    This issue is a red herring. Everyone hates change and the new power units (we don’t call them engines any more) have been panned by many around the globe. The promoter of the Australian GP has threatened to sue because he says the fans did not get the “show” they expected! Chances are, this controversy will quiet down by later in the season.

    What IS important is the announcement this week that Formula One will introduce more and more standardized components – active suspension control units, front and rear crash structures, front wings – that will move the sport even further toward being just another spec car series like IndyCar or NASCAR. Pretty soon, the only difference between the cars will be decals to distinguish a Ferrari from a Marussia!!!

    Most people agree that the shriek of the V-10 engines was an awesome experience. I heard them at Indianapolis and they made my ears bleed and my intestines quiver. I loved it, in other words! If people are concerned about the sound of F1 cars, how in the world will they ever be able to watch a Formula E race, where the cars will whisper around the track as distant and remote as a 747 passing by at 40,000 feet? The jury is still out on that…..

    BTW, Jo. I submitted an application to your parent company to write for you guys. Took quite a while to fill out the application. That was about 6 weeks ago. Never heard back from them. Not a peep. The least they could do is tell me to go shit in my hat and pull it down over my ears. Very unprofessional, in my unbidden opinion. Fie!

    • Jo Borras

      Weird. Send an email to joborras at gas2 dot org. All I can say is we had a major server crash in April, but that wouldn’t be 6 weeks ago.

    • Just an FYI: I told someone to go shit in a hat today. 🙂

      • Bi-Polar Bear

        That’s an expression i picked up from my old college roommate. It has to be used with caution, but in the right time and place it is very effective! : >

  • Beanspeak

    They sound great, they could just use a bit more volume.
    Really, really sick of all of the retards posting about the sound because it’s popular. Congrats, you run a clickbait site and offer zero insight on a range of F1 issues that are more important right now …

    • Bi-Polar Bear

      I listed some of the issues you mention in my post below. What issues did you have in mind, specifically? Feel free to speak freely. There are only a few of us who come here for Formula One news.

    • I get what you’re saying- and I agree that the turbo sounds have a great character, but they don’t sound the same. To a generation of F1 fans that never knew the 1980s turbo era, it’s a shocking change, and that’s why it’s so popular.

      You might also note that, instead of this article bitching about the sound, it’s an announcement that the FIA is now acting to change the sound (which is news), and that it quotes a racing legend as saying that he doesn’t like the new sound (which, if not news, is good gossip).

      THAT SAID: we’d love to cover some better F1 news. What would you like to read about? Tech stuff? Team news? Drivers? F1 coverage is new here, so let us know! 🙂

      • topkill

        I share some of Beanspeak’s concern. There is an EXTREMELY loud, “vocal minority” that is losing their minds over the engine noise. Yes, the first time I went to a race, I was awed by the noise as well. But then a funny thing happened: I went to Petite Le Mans and heard those Audi’s go by…and was SHOCKED to hear that quiet car go by and blow everything else out of the water. It suddenly occurred to me that I KNEW the obvious but was ignoring it because it sounded so cool: all that extra noise was wasted energy that should be pushing the car forward.
        The other thing I realized was that I would NOT bring my daughters to the race for fear of damaging their hearing. F1 was the worst. One of my daughters already has slight hearing loss and I would not take her near a race. With the new, quieter races, it’s a lot easier for families to take their kids and get them involved in racing without having to worry about that. And face it, if you don’t get kids into F1 when they’re young, you risk losing a life long fan that may never convert later.