What F1 spectators say about the engine noise debate

2014 F1 season

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2014Formula One was plunged into a storm of negative publicity at the beginning of the season when Bernie Ecclestone furiously criticised the quieter sound of the new generation of V6 turbo engines.

Last month in Spain he convened a meeting of F1 race promoters during which they discussed “various aspects of Formula One the benefit of all fans who are concerned about maintaining the unique feeling of Formula One”.

This was clearly a reference to the debate over engine noise. The following week Mercedes tried – and rejected – a revised exhaust designed to make a louder noise. Nonetheless the FIA have pledged to continue looking for louder alternatives.

But while this is all being done in the name of ‘improving the show for the fans’, no one has yet produced any evidence that large numbers of fans feel the engines are too quiet. Ferrari claimed to have, but did so without even asking fans about the noise and few seemed to have paid any attention to their findings.

An F1 Fanatic poll, which did not distinguish between fans who have and have not heard the new cars for themselves, found the majority were positive towards the new engines, but a significant minority responded negatively to them.

But can we get a sense of what fans who go to races actually think of the new engines? Are they so turned off by the new formula that many won’t be buying tickets for next year’s races?

F1 Fanatic has canvassed feedback from readers who’ve attended test sessions and races since the season began. Here is a representative sample of their responses so far.

Jerez test

Max Chilton, Marussia, Jerez, 2014

The difference between the V6 and the V8 is huge. The V8s are screaming and the V6s have a deeper sound, but both are special.

The V8s were as loud as you could get, but as I didn’t have earplugs, my ears were annoyed after a day of F1 action. Though they were very impressive, you could hear the cars from miles away.

The V6 is very enjoyable to listen to. You hear much more different sounds. At full speed the cars still sound incredible, not screaming but a more heavy noise. As the cars are braking you hear a sort of whizz, in the middle of the corner the cars sound like a standing aeroplane, and you hear the turbo and ERS working together with the engine when the cars accelerate.

Although the sound is very different, it is still unique and impressive in my opinion.

TV viewers might be disappointed with the sound, but in real life the sound is much better. I think they have to tweak the TV coverage a bit because on TV the cars don’t sound at all like in real life.
Julien (@Jlracing)

Most people’s experience will be through the television where it has never been the case that you can hear what they sound like in real life even with the old engines.

But the sound of the cars is almost irrelevant because I think most go to see the cars in action and these engines produce more power/torque than the tyres and aerodynamics can handle so they are much, much better to watch. You can see the drivers using their driving skills to tame the beast.

And surely that is the whole point, isn’t it?
Steve Mumford (@Toolmansteve99)

Australian Grand Prix

Start, 2014 Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne

The noise will take a bit of getting used to. I quite like it and it’s still quite loud when all cars are on track at once. It was a little strange though being able to have a conversation 50 metres from the track while the cars were out. No chance of that with the V8s!

I must say, it does sound much worse on TV though. Hopefully a change in microphones or audio calibration will be an improvement.
@Tommy-C

The sound of the cars under braking and acceleration is pleasing and it sounds like a ‘real’ race car.

But most people are here to have their faces turned to a mix of pain/amazement when an F1 car goes past; now when they go past the reaction is one of mild satisfaction.

I never thought I’d be so eager to watch the ultimate speed comparison with the old V8 engine, and it’s a bit sad I can’t hear the new F1 cars from the other side of the circuit.
@Nackavich

Yes, the sound is much quieter than previous years. However I honestly prefer it, there’s no need for earplugs because they aren’t at deafening screaming levels and even more better because the engines are quieter you can hear the tyres.

In my opinion actually get more enjoyment because its not all overrun by the engines, you can hear everything else as well. And yes, you can hear the announcers, obviously not when cars are right at your point on the track, but unlike previous years.

Also, I prefer the engine note this year as it sounds more like a proper engine, you can hear the revs change as they are accelerating and braking. Last year it was just an increase in the pitch of the scream.
@Jarred-Walmsley

The only thing I really missed was the sound at the start. I was seated at turn one and in past years you’ve been able to hear the cars coming, building up the atmosphere to when they all appear in a flurry of noise, colour and possibly crashes. This year though there was no real sound to get the hair on the back on your neck to stand up as they approached.

Beyond that, I really like the sound. No massive noise means you hear so many other noises from the car. I love the mechanical sound of the turbo you hear, and it’s the first time since the late nineties that I’ve actually heard a lock-up! I could tell the engines apart better and it was better for the family sitting next to me, as their kid wasn’t screaming from the noise.

I like them, beyond the noise, the cars move around a whole lot more, which makes them a whole lot more enjoyable to watch.
@Scottie

The first thing you noticed was they were a lot quieter, however the next thing you noticed was you could hear the sound of the crowd, the tyres and the sound of the braking.

My first impression of the sound is it sounded less like the V8s and more like a very sporty road car. I did notice all hell was breaking loose over the sound on social media back home.

Having watched the TV feed back, I thought they didn’t do the new sound justice at all, I still think the TV companies have yet to find the right sound levels for the TV Feed.

I really don’t mind the sound of the new engines trackside at all. Different yes. But that’s progress.

Its made no difference to me booking to go to races this year at all.
Andy Donnelly (@Dinalli)

Malaysian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2014

I feel that a certain part of the spectacle has been lost with the V8s. They were massively impressive, especially at the end of long straights going from high pitched full revs to deep growling on the overrun and down the gearbox. However I think the fact that we can now hear the track commentary as well as lock ups etc… and have a conversation with the person next to you during the race is excellent. So we’ve lost in one way but gained in another.

I disagree with the claim that they are too quiet. I was surprised by how loud they were when I heard them in Malaysia this year, given all the complaints about it. You can have a conversation with the person next to you, but you still have to shout to be heard! Plus the sound now is also more intriguing to listen too with the whistling of the turbo and the squeal of energy recovery under braking. It sounds a bit monotonous from onboard cameras on TV but at the track it’s fascinating. It also means the most impressive place to listens to cars is now through corners, as that’s when all the power unit components are in action, rather than on straights at full revs.

It hasn’t negatively affected my love of Formula 1 at all. The racing this year has been great and I can’t wait to go to another race.
@DanielPatchett

I very much prefer the new sound which as many others have mentioned, is more ‘wholesome’ sounding like that of sports cars and I really like hearing the hissing sound from the power units which was very distinct at least in Sepang.

My only greatest regret is also the decrease in volume as the V8 F1 engines made a huge impression and gave me a distinct ‘F1 feeling’ every time I stood trackside. The way the exhaust notes reverberated of my rib cage was a surreal experience but it is a bit of a let down to not be able to hear it now as it was exactly that which set F1 apart from all other forms of motorsport for me.
Joachim Ong (@Gactac)

The noise was pretty disappointing. In 2013 you could hear one car from the other side of the track. This year you needed to be on the same stretch of road as the car to be able to hear it.

For example, at the quick sweeping corners in the final sector at Sepang you could hear the car coming from the straight on the back area of the track. You could hear it accelerating down the straight, braking into the 90 degree left-hander and accelerating through the next corner until it flew past you. This year you needed to be able to see the car to be able to hear it.

There’s no scream and the noise just doesn’t carry itself anywhere. I’d go again (I do every year!) but I won’t say it wasn’t disappointing. No chills-up-your-spin stuff any more.
@Toby

Spanish Grand Prix

Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014

There is not a ‘complete lack of engine sound’ there still fairly loud and the actual sound they produce is now so much better than the previous V8 engines.

These new V6 engines are quieter, but there not anywhere near been silent, There still plenty loud, they all sound different and they all have a very nice tone to them, A lower pitched but very satisfying sound.

It was also cool to be able to hear all the extra noises they make now from the turbo and energy recovery systems, A new extra layer which I thought was interesting to hear.

Something else which the kids really enjoyed was not having to wear ear protection, You could actually discuss what was going on without having to try and shout at one another and without the need for ear protection there was no need to wait until it was safe to remove the ear protection before trying to discuss what was going on.

As to it putting people off or taking away the spectacle, I didn’t find that. The cars are still fast, They still look fast and the acceleration, braking and cornering performance is just as impressive as its always been.

If you liked the dull, absurdly loud scream of the V8s just get someone to sit next to you and scream in your ear all race, Its the same noise you got from those horrible sounding V8s.
RogerPGR

Canadian Grand Prix

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014

I don’t know about many fans, but I come to the race expecting my ears to bleed standing next to the track without earplugs.

I’ll admit I used to to wear earplugs during the race in Montreal (Senna corner). All the cars bunched up for two hours was too much. But with earplugs you still felt that sense of resonance from the V10s and the V8s. The tingling of your whole body as they drove by is what makes fans come back. The sheer violence demonstrated and proved that Formula One was the pinnacle auto racing.

I’m watching the Ferrari Challenge as I’m writing this and they are just as loud. The new V6s rev higher which give it that edge. At the same RPM I’d call it a draw. I’m not talking any softer to my brother sitting next to me.

I don’t hear the tires squeal under lock up that much, and honestly I could care less to hear more of that. I can see the trail of smoke, that’s good enough for me.

The turbos spooling is a nice touch, although you can only really hear the Renaults. And ultimately only in mid-corner off-throttle scenarios.

I miss the days of loud. I don’t mind the new formula. I think it’s good to spice it up. I enjoyed listening to the difference of the three manufacturers, trying to guess which car passed by. But formula 1 for me, like many others I spoke to, was about the sound. That angry engine note is now lost and I think the spectacle has lost that edge.
@Ccolanto

I found the sound of the new engines very nice. Quieter then the V8, of course, but still nice to hear.

Liked the turbo whistle, the noise of the brakes, etc…, but feel like missing something, something more emotional, brutal. More sophistication, less passion.

Interesting to note that the three engines sounds absolutely different. The Mercedes are louder, lower pitch, the Renaults are quieter, Ferraris between then.
Gilberto Hingel (@GHingel)

What F1 spectators say about the engine noise debate

A few points come up again and again when reading comments from readers who’ve seen the new cars in action.

Although quieter, the sound of the new engines is considered more interesting and varied than the old V8s, and allows you to hear more of what’s going on at the track. Some fans would like the engines to be a little louder, but many also expressed the view that they sound far better in real life than they do on television.

On the whole, the reaction from spectators to the new engines is a lot more positive than it has been characterised as. It’s telling that Ecclestone fanned the flames in the media without having heard the new engines first-hand himself – and once he had, he was a lot less critical of them.

F1 spectators have a more positive and nuanced attitude towards the new engines than has been reported. It is nothing like as unequivocally negative as the reaction to the hated double points finale has been.

That should give those running F1 further cause to avoid hasty, knee-jerk changes to the engines. At least until advanced ticket sales for 2015 give an indication if the noise row has had any effect at all.

2014 F1 season


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86 comments on What F1 spectators say about the engine noise debate

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  1. JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq) said on 17th June 2014, 11:55

    Less noise? Yes. Much bigger problems to solve in F1? Definitely yes.

    • ^Mo^ said on 17th June 2014, 12:08

      Does FOM care? No. They’d rather debate the noise instead of problems that actually need solving.

    • For fans of F1 yes @joao-pedro-cq but for attracting new people no. And F1 wants that 50% casual viewers and new potential viewers to further milk the show rather than caring for the sport.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th June 2014, 13:49

      @joao-pedro-cq – I agree; the distribution of the $1 billion+ worth of revenue that F1 turns over each year to the teams comes to mind. However noise is important, as my eight year old reaction to the noise at Brands Hatch in 1976 testifies, a reaction that hooked me for life. Since then F1 has fielded a myriad of noises, all invariably thrilling for those in short trousers and those with receding hair lines alike, but, shall we be honest, the current V6 turbo noise is perhaps the most underwhelming of the lot. Sat trackside at Monaco I didn’t find it a remotely unpleasant noise, quite the opposite, but it equally was not the audible thrill of previous years. However that is because of the volume, not the tone, and with increased volume I think we will see an end to the noise issues from a fan’s perspective. The problem I have is that, at the moment, GP2 cars are louder, and I’m sure attendants of the Spanish Grand Prix with also testify that the new engines in GP3 puts even them within range of the F1 noise level. All we need is more noise, not new noise.

  2. cheepy said on 17th June 2014, 12:11

    As much as i love the hearing the v8/v10 screaming away sounding like their about to rip themselves apart, I haven’t really notice the lack of sound this season since the races have been exhilarating.
    I actually like the new engine sound and being able to hear so much more, like when the crowd went wild as Riccardo qualified 1st for a few seconds at Melbourne.

  3. Ron (@rcorporon) said on 17th June 2014, 12:27

    Loved the sound in Montreal this year.

    Also, what does “FOM” stand for?

  4. Sam Andrew said on 17th June 2014, 12:29

    I’m actually looking forward to hearing the new engines in the flesh; I wouldn’t have bothered to go see another race under the v8 formula as the engine note wasn’t pleasant and left me reaching for the earplugs.

  5. danno (@goat) said on 17th June 2014, 12:37

    I was in Montreal and actually like the sound. Thought it was cool how complex the new sound was. I do, however, think the V8s and V10s sounded better. It was more animal like, even if the cars were “easier” to drive because of lower torque. The screaming of the V8s was special and I would go back in a heart beat.

  6. I have to say I really like them on the TV – finally you can hear the engines as they struggle, when drivers make errors in corners – we can even hear the tires squeal. I hope they don’t change anything.

  7. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 17th June 2014, 12:49

    It always seemed ironic to me that the upper reaches of motorsport was the only sport where the spectators as well as the competitors needed safety equipment!
    In years gone by, I attended various GP’s and practice sessions and often worried that the ferocity of the sound (even with ear protection) in my chest and skull would somehow be doing me damage. I always left with a violent headache.
    So although I haven’t heard the new engines ‘live’, I am a bit happier for the fans in the stands, and if you can hear different aspects of the car, that’s a bonus. But what about the support races, does GP2 now sound aggressively, painfully loud?
    The microphones for the TV feed will probably need adjusting between the support races and the Grand Prix itself.

  8. JS (@js) said on 17th June 2014, 12:59

    Hi Keith, others,
    This message is not to give my opinion but rather to testify what I heard at the Spanish GP.
    I talked to a number of people there (spending 4 nights at the camping). The message you have put is definitely not representative of what I could hear then. Every person I talked to deeply missed the sounds of the former engines, V8 or even V10. Several noticed that the tyres could now be heard, which was appreciated. But that was definitely a rather poor consolation for most. No more impressive fall of gear before the turns, no more roaring before the start of the race, or when engines are turned on. One fact is that GP2s are louder and people also noticed that.
    Definitely, the unique message you put is opposite to what I heard the whole week-end in the camping and on the track.

    Regarding the global impression people had (lack of power, higher speed at the end of the straight, impressive acceleration in some parts of the track (but you have to know where or be lucky), less attack, softer overall), it is hard to sort what comes from the engine sound purely and what comes from other changes, everything being mixed.

    As I said, I don’t give my proper opinion on engine’s sounds as I don’t have a definite one. As a matter of fact, the Spanish race was for me the best of the 4 races I attended, although the excitation was definitely much less during testing and qualifying, be it for engine’s quieter sound or for some of the other changes on the cars.

    • zee said on 18th June 2014, 5:52

      I was interested in the comments from the article but they were very one sided. You have picked out positive comments and so all the comments here seem positive too. I agree that people I’ve spoken too have lost their enthusiasm for engine noise, and formula 1 in general at the moment. Unfortunately, these are people who don’t bother with posting votes on a website, they vote by not buying tickets next year and that will be a problem, maybe not for the FIA as they have TV and sponsors (which is a grumble, as I seem to watch a TV screen full of sponsor’s names and a very tiny F1 car, these days) but for the venues it will be a cause for concern.
      The sound of the engine is just one point to argue about though as F1 seems to have lost it’s magic. I don’t think there is an easy solution and I don’t think the sound of the engine will really help.

      • Mark said on 20th June 2014, 1:24

        Bravo agree completely and put myself in that category. I have been following F1 via the iPad app only this year once I saw the formula during the pre-season testing. Cancelled plans for Montreal and Austin. Folks cannot tell me it does not matter it does to me and I vote with my money.

  9. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 17th June 2014, 13:00

    I’m going to Goodwood next weekend, and I’m hoping that at least 1 team runs both their V8 and their V6 simply so I can have a good side-by-side comparison. Until then I can’t really pass judgement, but I certainly see the points of view being presented in the article. The sound will always sound better in the flesh than through speakers, simply because speakers are never quite 100% authentic. They’re often close, but never perfect. Give FOM time and they’ll sort out the best place to put the microphones, hopefully play about with the setup to try and replicate the ‘live’ sound, and then we won’t be having these arguments.

    • PeterG said on 17th June 2014, 13:32

      You won’t be able to hear the new engines at goodwood because there not allowed to run 2014 cars there. The newest F1 cars you will see/hear at Goodwood is the 2011 cars with the old V8s.

      Regarding the Microphone setup, There actually doing a really good job at getting the sound across right now, On the raw feeds anyway. Its when broadcasters start re-mixing it to get there own commentary tracks over the top that the volume levels are lowered.

      I’ve got to hear the raw direct from FOM satellite feeds & the volume/sound quality on that is 100x better than what we eventually get to hear once Sky, BBC etc… have played around with them to mix there commentary tracks & stuff over the top of it.

    • kpcart said on 17th June 2014, 15:14

      this is a good example of how the engine sounds compare:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS4Dh_EAfJI
      the old engines make your heart race, very atmospheric, much like going to an airshow and seeing an F-18 hornet.
      the v6s just sound so bland in comparison.

      • dearg said on 18th June 2014, 1:50

        And that’s why the new engines are better, you can watch a race, hear all the additional noises from the car normally drowned out by the engine like turbo etc, talk to your friends about it, hear the commentary and don’t need earplugs. I was at a race and was happy with what I heard, judging via Youtube is pointless, even Bernie admitted he was far too harsh when he finally heard them in person.

      • F1 “you’ve lost that formula 1 feeling, oh that formula 1 feeling, you’ve lost that formula 1 feeling and now it’s gone, gone, gone oh gone” I have been watching F1 for 25 years now and they have just taken it too far now, the new cars “SIMPLY SOUND PATHETIC” and I shall not be watching another race until they come to their senses.

  10. David said on 17th June 2014, 13:28

    Indeed!

  11. DK (@seijakessen) said on 17th June 2014, 13:56

    If you can have a conversation with the person next to you, or not need ear protection, the engines are too quiet. The mid-80s turbo engines with unrestricted boost pressure sounded far better.

  12. Mark said on 17th June 2014, 14:57

    F1 always had a unique sound. That sound is now gone. It was crazy over the top loud engines screaming. F1 is now run by a commitee trying to keep everyone happy, it has lost its way.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th June 2014, 23:28

      “F1 always had a unique sound” Wrong!

      “Each engine formula of F1 has had a unique sound” Right, and so does this one.

    • megatron said on 18th June 2014, 20:22

      “F1 always had a unique sound.” F1 had 4, 6, 8, 10 12 and 16 cylinder engines over the years which sounded different. The high pitched scream which was declared as typical F1 sound by FOM was only lasting 15 years out of 60 so it isn´t unique for sure.

  13. kpcart said on 17th June 2014, 15:11

    Here is what Robert Kubica said in a polish interview for http://sokolimokiem.com/ (translated to english):

    Do you watch Formula 1? Have you heard the new engines?
    Sometimes I watch. They sound weak. I think on the TV it would be fitting to amplify the loudness of the engines and turn down the commentry, because it is hard to watch the race. Before it was great, because you could hear it all. For instance Thierry Neuville told me that he was in Monte Carlo during the Grand Prix. He lives near the track and when the Formula 1 cars were on track, he did not hear them, but when GP2 or World Series cars were on track, it was great. To me, hearing the squeal of tires reminds me a bit of driving on go-kart tracks. Once in Katowice there was a karting hall with tiles and the tires squealed there. This appears to me similar, it seems a bit weak, but that is the way it is.

    • dearg said on 18th June 2014, 1:51

      Perhaps his opinion would count more if he actually went to the track.

      • kpcart said on 18th June 2014, 9:44

        id rather hear a racers opinion then your green opinion. you will no doubt love the sound of formula E more then traditional F1 – you ~will hear every little sound, you might even hear the driver talk to his mechanic over his radio – while you are sitting in the grandstand!

  14. Mackeine Loveine (@cocaine-mackeine) said on 17th June 2014, 15:13

    I think the sound is right, I mean, I haven’t gone to an F1 event this year, I’ll wait until 2015, but in the meantime, the engines sound very good to me but are really quiet. Every weekend I have trouble listening to the engines with the voices of the commentators. It’s annoying. But I like the sound, it doesn’t sound as bad as I expected, in fact, I like the sound when the cars fly-by, because the sound stays for a while when they are through the straights, until they brake. Also the onboard camera sound is very smooth. Maybe in 2015, when the engines are at equal power and they didn’t need the fuel restriction rule, they could revvy at 15000 rpm from today’s 12000.

  15. Davide (@dac72) said on 17th June 2014, 15:17

    I’ve been following F1 for quite some time and after being in Montreal this year and seeing/hearing this years cars in person all I can say is that you can’t help but feel the sport is in decline. The sound and feeling that an F1 car makes as it passes you by is 90% of the spectacle of the F1 event, and this year’s cars are VERY VERY dull and uninspiring. During the course of the weekend it was obvious that all other series (F1 Historic, Ferrari Challenge, and even the lesser Formula cars were all louder and more awe inspiring then this years “modern” F1 cars. I am sorry to say but our sport has definitely taken a significant step backwards this year and unless there is a real shake up at the top of the F1 management chain I don’t see things changing anytime soon. :-(

    • kpcart said on 17th June 2014, 15:45

      a simple fix would be to atleast get rid of the 100l/ hour rule – the cars will then rev to 15,000 so will sound more racy and might be a bit louder. they have gone green enough having a smaller formula, ERS and 100litre tanks, why did they have to add this stupid rule which makes the engines never get to their intended 15,000rpm redline. this formula has benifitted 2 drivers, and makes the series as boring as ever with one team granted an advantage because of ridiculously early homologation of the engines – which has thwarted competition and will probably see more engine manufacturers leave rather then join.

      • matiascasali (@matiascasali) said on 17th June 2014, 16:13

        when the engines were freely updated, 3 liters V10 gas guzzlers, Schumacher dominated the sport. Are the engines the problems, or the aerodynamics? Less Aero, more show, More Aero, less show, the engines are irrelevant for that (remember, half of Senna’s career where with 1.5L turbos, not with screeming V10 monsters)

        • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 17th June 2014, 20:00

          @matiascasali
          The engines has been always freely updated until the V8 era and not only in the period between 2000 and 2004. The 1.5L Turbos that you’re talking about were even more monsters than the monsters V10′s, Senna’s Renault Sport V6 engine could go up to 1200 BHP in qualifying and around 900 BHP in the race.
          The BMW engine could go up to 1350 BHP in qualifying !!! Insane

      • megatron said on 18th June 2014, 20:25

        Never. This is the most important part of the new regulations. The revs should be limited to 13.000, in contrary, as the engine efficiency will grow, anti-lag should be allowed.

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