The first thing that comes to mind when the topic of Formula One pops up is not the aerodynamics of the car, nor the drivers involved. Instead, it is the sound of imperious engines pushing the limits of automobile engineering on long stretches and sharp-braking points that captivate one’s senses.
Sound is an essential component of Formula One and a lot goes into making the machines sound the way they do.
The days of the thunderous V12 engines are well behind but that has not stopped F1 cars from sounding as good if not worse than their bigger, meaner predecessors. FIA (international motorsport body) brought in V10s and further reduced it to V8s to cut cost, but managed to retain good acoustics. To an untrained ear, the V12, the V10 and the V8 may sound just the same but to the teams and the entire crew that listens in day in and day out, there is a world of difference.
The FIA has planned on bringing a major revamp in the 2014 season and one of the changes is that the V8 will be replaced by a smaller V6 turbocharged engine. While little could be said in the difference in sound pattern between the V8, the V10 or the V12, the V6 turbo is a altogether new territory, and it is anyone’s guess as to how it will turn out, raising questions on whether one of F1’s biggest selling-points will remain a USP.
“The noise of a Formula One car is part of the DNA of Formula One. When people come to a Grand Prix for the first time, the thing that really stands out more than anything is the noise. Noise translates into speed, into excitement and so on, and I think it’s absolutely crucial that we don’t lose that element,” said Red Bull principal Christian Horner.
Most team principals maintained that the cars sound fine after listening to dyno-cycle recordings but Mercedes principal Ross Brawn was of the opinion that until the cars take to the track, little can be said about ‘their voices’. “We actually need to see the cars on the circuit because I don’t think a recording of a dyno-cycle is actually that representative. If you listen to a V8 on the dyno it sounds nothing like it does in the car. I think we should all wait and see. I remember the early turbo days and they seemed pretty exciting to me and we’ve had a whole range of different engines since then. I don’t think -- to be honest -- that they’ve been more or less exciting than each other. Just different.”