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.