Pit Stop

Message is loud and clear - quieter cars are the future

Forget the noise, the turbo-charged engines will make the drivers more honest and the racing is already better than it was last year

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 10:29am

Boy racers. You know the sort. As you walk down the road you hear a low rumble, then a deafening roar. You think for a moment it might be a super car.

It turns out to be a 20-year-old Nissan March driven by someone in an oversized baseball cap.

The biggest thing on it is an oversized exhaust. It sounds like it could break the speed limit; in reality it might struggle.

The race experience has got better. We can hear the sounds of tyres screeching, the whistles of the marshals in the pit lane
Richard Drew

Sound has always been important to cars - and the people who drive them. It is of course a huge part of F1, and at the moment the engine noise - or lack of it - is the argument du jour in a bickering paddock.

With Bahrain looming, the deafening din isn't from the cars, but from the war of words.

Last year's engine roared, this year's V6 turbo hybrid version whimpers.

All things are relative, but it's certainly not what generations of fans have grown up with and come to expect.

The world champion certainly doesn't like it. Sebastian Vettel used an adjective that certainly isn't appropriate for this family newspaper.

He was backed up by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who said he was "horrified" by the engine, although he has since backtracked a little. The pair's misgivings have been echoed by fans.

However, the new engine is being championed by many teams who are determined to fight back against the negative publicity surrounding the sport.

They were aghast that people so senior in the sport could criticise the product they were supposed to be promoting.

Team bosses are talking up the new engine. McLaren's Eric Boullier says: "We can't dismiss it if fans complain, but we also have to see some positives and not focus only on the noise."

Claire Williams has waded in to the debate, telling reporters "Personally, I like the sound of the engines, but then I love F1 and I love watching cars go round a racetrack. I think people will pretty quickly get used to what F1 engines sound like".

Mercedes have reason to be delighted with the new engines and understandably backed them.

Toto Wolf is forthright: "This is modern technology, this is where road cars are going. Downsizing is the motto and I think we just need to accept that the formula has changed".

Let's be honest, if petrol heads can get past the noise factor, the new engines are a no-brainer.

Without the blanket sound of the old V8s, the race experience has got better. We can hear the sounds of tyres screeching, the whistles of the marshals in the pit lane and praise be, we can understand the radio messages from the cockpit at last.

Even the engine itself is an audio pleasure. The low pitch of the engine, the whine of the turbo and even the hybrid systems are all subtler, enjoyable layers of sound compared to the suffocating scream of before.

The fact that there's more power than grip this year keeps the drivers honest and the fans interested. When the turbo kicks in, the drivers are knocked out of their comfort zone, and that's as it should be. As former driver Martin Brundle said, F1 is at the cutting edge - and that is where it belongs.

The move to this new engine may well have saved the sport. Engine makers want F1 design to feed into their road cars. The old V8s were not doing that. The new hybrid engines will have to master green technology that is becoming the norm.

Renault threatened to leave F1 unless the sport had engines that reflected the drive for fuel efficiency generally. They are staying, and from next year Honda will return to F1 as an engine supplier for McLaren.

The racing is still good, the cars are faster than last year. Fans just have to get over the noise factor, which they will surely do. If you want to be deafened by an engine, go and find a boy racer.