FIA knew seven years ago that V6 sound would be “unappealing”

The sound of the 2014 F1 power units has been a subject of discussion since the Australian GP, and a negative reaction from many fans has hardly comes as a surprise.

The sound does not come across well on TV, or to those watching the cars blast down a straight. However it is much better appreciated live by those spectating in corners, and hearing the drivers go down and up the gears.

The always controversial Melbourne F1 boss Ron Walker was quick to join the debate, complaining that he didn’t get the show that he’d signed up for.

Intriguingly seven years ago the FIA was made aware that engine noise could be an issue once the sport switched to turbo power.

In June 2007 the FIA produced a document called “Formula One 2011: Power-Train Regulation Framework,” subtitled “A Briefing Note for the Formula One Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee Meeting, June 2007.”

Commissioned by Max Mosley and prepared by FIA advisors Tony Purnell and Peter Wright, it provided the guidelines that ultimately led to the new regulations, albeit three years later than was originally anticipated.

Although there would be many other documents, much (but not all) of the above report eventually translated into the 2014 rules pushed through by Mosley’s successor Jean Todt.

Purnell and Wright were well aware that the fans had to be taken into account, writing: “The main constraint will be to avoid damage to the emotional attraction of Formula One for its fan base. In particular the technical awe of Formula One and its sheer speed must be retained.”

Regarding the sound made by what was then intended a 2.2-litre V6, they wrote: “The noise of high rpm is to be replaced, by what we don’t know, but it will be quieter. The view is that the risk of this new noise being unappealing is a risk worth taking. Quieter cars are 100% in line with environment demands. The unique and sophisticated power-trains are certain to make a dramatic, if very different noise of their own.”

It will be fascinating to see if the FIA formally investigates the possibility of ramping up the sound for 2015, possibly by mandating a new exhaust design.


Filed under F1 News, Grand Prix News

16 responses to “FIA knew seven years ago that V6 sound would be “unappealing”

  1. Neal

    The new engine sound is awesome! Really takes me back! It’s also great to be able to hear the fans at the circuit!

  2. Caper

    Personally, Melbourne was a snoozefest for the aural senses. Big mistake, the report was spot on in that it takes away largely from the sensual experience of F-1.

  3. You saw me at Melbourne Adam, and they sounded awful Adam, effin’ awful – and no spin can deny it. I appreciate that all the GP writers are too scared to criticise, but this sound isn’t F1…. I fully expect someone to get run over in the pitlane this year, they are that quiet. Funnily enough, the size of engine shouldn’t have affected things too much. I guess it’s the turbos, manifolds and electrics and other bullshit, as I don’t remember Jim Clark’s 1.6 litre Lotus Climax (or indeed the 1.5 litre BRM V16) sounding like a vacuum cleaner – and when you looked in the engine bay you could see the cylinders, but there you go… At Albert Park it was frankly embarrassing that the support races were louder than the main event, so I don’t blame Ron Walker for what he said. When I grew up road cars and racing cars were markedly different. Road cars were made to be driven from A to B, race cars were made to be driven flat out by daredevil heroes, and often had more power than they could handle. Okay the aero is making them still quick, but it’s trick stuff, not horsepower. And don’t start me on fuel saving! What happened to the F1 that was dangerous, sexy, and breathtaking? What is all this rubbish with road safety? Who took away my Rock ‘N Roll? It’s very noticeable that there are NO birds in bikinis at Grand Prix anymore. Whoever wins the WGP this year will be a diligent and patient driver, good at receiving orders, but not an ace. If this is progress, then the sooner we get to Formula E the better…

    • Caper

      A-1, could not have said it better myself.

      • I’m going to hold off judging the sound until I’ve heard it ‘trackside’ which sadly won’t be for a few months but if I have to choose between exciting racing – which is what we look set to get this year largely thanks to the new engines, and being bored senseless by some of the processions with a ‘good soundtrack’ that we had last year (which renewed my interest in the BTCC again just to remind myself what wheel to wheel racing looked like…) then i’ll take this year’s offering every time.

      • Paul

        First time I’ve not fallen asleep during a race…..

      • Steve W

        My neck and upper back was bothering me after watching the race. I often found myself leaning towards the TV to see if I could hear anything. Leaning at the TV like that was something I hadn’t done since those old days when I had a 19 inch 480i tube TV…

    • Good to hear from you Leo. Don’t forget we were going to have silent electric power in the pitlane this year, but the FIA wisely agreed that might be too much to ask the teams. It would have been embarrassing if someone couldn’t drive an otherwise healthy car out of a pit stop due to an obscure sensor problem or somesuch! I understand your sentiments. However, I don’t know if you had time to go and watch at any corners in Melbourne, but they do sound a lot more interesting than when just blasting past the pits, and certainly a lot better than they do on TV. As I said on Twitter the other day the tyre sound is likely to be quite spectacular at somewhere like Monaco, and will add a new dimension.

  4. Emi

    I love the new sound too. F1 should always be seeking for performance. I can’t believe that FIA could mandate a spec exhaust design just for gaining a few dB.

  5. Paul

    The Rock N Roll left F1 years ago Leo…. and this is what we’re left with; however from my armchair I found the race quite exciting, not too sure I’ll be saying the same at a live race. Lets face it the majority of viewers are watching on TV….

  6. GeorgeK

    The true lack of significant engine wailing is the rev limiter. Do away with the fuel flow meter, give them a bit more fuel in the cell and raise the RPM limiter to a point where the turbos can sing!

    Let the teams manage the total fuel consumption as they see fit. Can you imagine the Q sessions under those circumstances? Out ‘effin standing!

  7. David Myers

    I think the new engines sound really good. They’re complex pieces of kit, so there are different sounds since there is more happening. The naysayers won’t notice the difference soon enough.

  8. Knuckles

    I don’t think it is unappealing at all, just somehow FOM always manages mess it up for TV, or maybe it’s the mix of the broadcasters. But that was the case even for V10s. There were many videos from 2014 testing on Youtube, taken with mobile phones, and their sound was way better than what FOM delivers. Which also was the case before the new engines. As for the broadcasters, I watched Melbourne on Sky Germany, and their mix between track/engine sounds and the commentators was so wrong – commentators much too loud, one could barely hear the turbo whirr or the tyre squeal. Why oh why. If FOM and broadcasters got their act together, it could be great.

    • Agreed but sure they’ll figure it out soon enough, just like for the teams it’s a new challenge and a new solution will be found.

      I was loosely involved in an electric racing broadcast project (2 wheels) a few years ago and the almost total lack of noise left a gaping hole – and made the commentators sound particularly wooden and exposed – and it really lacked atmosphere for broadcast. F1 will do just fine this season and if they want to create ‘fake’ additional sound I’m guessing the principal would be like adding a whistle to the exhaust of the cars (not that I think they should). I’m intrigued to see how Formula E gets on with it though as the sound from that will probably be almost non existent and I can’t see that going down well at all on TV…

      • GeorgeK

        Here’s a thought: With all electric cars the track announcers will now adopt the hushed and measured tones of golf broadcasters. ” Alonso is approaching turn one now, as the crowd holds it’s breath, and oh!!, he’s missed the apex again.”

  9. Everybody calm down. Formula E is coming and it will put everything else in a rather different perspective sound-wise.

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