Formula 1 didn’t so much roar its way back into action in Australia today as it whined its way into the Friday Free Practice with Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari setting the pace in the first session.  The distinctive turbo off-throttle whine was certainly present but the missing shriek of the former V8 engine format was tangibly obvious as well.

This year’s engine, or power unit as they now call it, has presented a lot of challenges for the wallet and the technical brains of Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault Sport F1. A 1.6-liter V6 turbo engine sounds quite different than last year’s V8 as if it revving at 15,000 rpm instead of 18,500 rpm. What is difficult to reconcile is the use of the hybrid system known as the ERS or Energy Recovery System.

Formula 1’s visceral effect of the old engines was also a auditory measurement of the use of energy and  our minds could extrapolate the sound of the engine with the use of energy to produce speed. Without that visceral auditory engine note, it is difficult to know how much ERS energy is being used or applied to the car to produce speed. If it was purely an electric power unit, we would hear the energy, tires and whine of the system but the V6 Turbo is also running and it masks they sound of electric energy being applied to the chassis.

Whether you like it or not, it is the sound of Formula 1 for 2014. Has it gone too far or is this a great sound for the future of F1 and something we’ll all get used to in time?

Last year’s best lap time in  P1 was set by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel with a 1: 27.2 and this year’s P1 fast lap was set by Ferrari’s Alonso with a 1:31.8. The

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Jeff

    Gotta admit, the sounds coming out of Aus GP FP have me… Underwhelmed.

    To be fair, off throttle/in braking zones, I rather like the turbo and ERS whines, and the Mercedes PU on-boards have some interesting thrumming going on, but overall, these engines sounds kinda anodyne.

    In particular, the Renaults have this flat whir, a sewing machine w/o it’s pleasant mechanical background sound. The Ferrari pops and swooshes it’s turbo whistle with little else in evidence. Only the Mercedes has the gnashing of a real racing engine, and even it sounds like it’s off-key and needs a drink of water.

    Do a video search on “lx9 v6,” a GM passenger car motor. Sadly, the modified ones sound like the new f1 PU’s to me.

    I’d advocated waiting to criticize until we heard multiple cars on track; well, time to criticize. :). The only hope is that these FP the teams are still taking it easy on the motors.

    We will get used to them, and some will appreciate the quieter and less piercing tones (the better half hated the v8’s shrillness, liked the v10 sound at a corse cliente, but thought both way too loud), but I finally admit the new v6’s, as of now, sound kind of sucky.

  • Jeff

    The cars themselves looked great on track. Lots of twitches, back-end nervousness, and distinct car behaviors (holy under steer Caterham/rear instability Sauber).

    They may sound like poop to some, but in these early days, the racing looks to be exciting.

  • nofahz

    It’s different but the change hasn’t bothered me. They could filter out some of the higher frequencies of the onboard audio for the world feed. It’s not WRC dentist drill bad but close

  • Jiji the cat

    The sound is rather dull, on the plus side you can hear the tyres squeal.

  • R

    Sounds bloody terrible.
    Look vulgar.
    We got lied to by those fortunate folks that are employed to report on formula 1.”They sound fine” they said. “You will get used to their inappropriate protrusions” they said. Oh what a job. Fly around the world watching what was the greatest looking and sounding machines doing what they do best and get paid to tell everyone that all is fine.
    Was today the first time that the cars were seen on TV? I appreciate that in person the buzz of seeing them may sway any sane judgement but across my TV set they did not impress. Lets hope I am over emotional due to Mclaren struggling. Put Jenson on the top step Sunday PM and I’ll think they are beautiful.

  • Tim C

    Will we get used to the sound of the engines? . . . yea, we will. We may not particularly like it, but we’ll get used to it. I predict by mid-season it will be much less of an issue. I love the roar of a V8 engine, but Formula 1 to me is more than the engine (excuse me . . . power unit). It’s the sum of all the parts that I like (e.g. the cars, the engines, the strategy, the drivers, etc., etc., etc.). It’s still Formula 1 and it’s still the pinnacle of motorsports.

  • Tom

    I have to say, I like the general sound of the engine, the lower pitched grumbling engine coupled with the hiss of the turbo…if only it were louder…

    But I would think that at least for the benefit of the TV audience, they could crank up the live sound to make up for it. Live on track that won’t be any help of course.
    I have to admit, I only saw one race live in my life (it’s just so freaking expensive), but that was in 1997 during the glory days of the V10 and yes, the noise really made it special. With the current engine formula, I’d fear that being in the crowd lost some of its appeal.

    Having said all that, I still think it was the right move to return to turbo engines, though I’m still not sure what to think about that whole hybrid thing. But for now, I’m still willing to give it a chance and support the attempt to bring it in.

    What bothers me the most about the new engine formula however is the way it is over-regulated. In an ideal world, the only limit would be fuel consumption (and possibly the amount of PUs per season) and every manufacturer could try to figure out a way to maximize the energy from that fuel, no matter how wild their ideas. I really don’t see why engines need to be regulated down to the angle of the V or the revs.

  • CH

    Looks like a poster above said ‘underwhelmed’ before I could. From a fan that has gotten up or stayed up regardless of the wee hours to watch all races live…. suffice to say I’ll be catching up on some sleep this year. Sad.

  • Shane

    When I was watching P2 this morning, my wife came in and asked me what happened to the “angry bumblebees.” I told her that the FIA had exterminated them. I am rather bummed that the sound has been tamed; however, seeing each driver that ran try to test the limit of these cars was encouraging. I’ll still be awake when a normal human shouldn’t be to watch each practice/quali/race of the season. I’m just hoping to see actual racing occurring instead of watching 11 teams spend millions of dollars in manpower and technology to conserve a few liters of petrol.

  • Mack

    Let’s face it. F1 & the announcers can beat around the bush or hype it any way they want. But the truth is the FIA has wrecked the one thing the fans love and live for – the sound of a high horsepower angry motor. In truth, these new cars sound like the Peugot & Audi diesels that run Le Mans. It is flat out disgusting and it surely will hurt the F1 fanbase. TERRIBLE.

  • Baci

    I was at the track yesterday and underwhelming is the word. We can scrunch up our ears and say it sounds…ok… but the visceral wail, the primal excitement of engines tearing up the stillness of the later summer day has gone. The V8 Supercars sounded so much better – something I never thought I’d say. These cars are unattractive, they’re noticeably slower than last year, and they sound like lawnmowers. Factor in the 33% smaller fuel tanks, and the effect of the greater torque from the hybrid drivetrains on tyre wear and I doubt we’re going to see any unconstrained foot-to-the-floor racing this year. The transition from sport to entertainment is complete and F1 has turned into contrivance rather than the essence of motorsport it’s heritage entitles it to be.

  • Jason Anthony

    I was considering taking a weekend trip to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix this year. Not now! I would not pay the ridiculous ticket price to watch this. Going to the Toronto Indy Car race instead, can’t believe I’m saying it, but the new F1 cars make the DW12 look downright gorgeous!

  • JasonI

    Pure shit.

  • jiji the cat

    and that ferrari has to be the ugliest front end i have ever laid my eyes on. blaaaach!

  • Matthew Snyder

    The sound is unpleasant, but at least the cars are ugly.

  • Matthew Snyder

    Found FP1 on YouTube, but it was the Canal+Sport feed in French. Bot howdy, nothing like ugly, discordant cars being talked about by ugly, discordant Alain Prost.

  • Matthew Snyder

    #Boy howdy.

  • Andy

    It is worse at the track, you can leave your ear plugs at home. They are quiter than the support categories. Anyone watching from home, be thankful you haven’t forked out your hard earned $ to come to Melbourne and watch this garbage like I have.

  • Sam

    There’s an ad that keeps playing on the Australian race coverage. It features Lotus spruiking Microsoft’s cloud services and has shots of Pastor Maldonado. All I can think is: If that guy was driving for me, I’d want to keep as many delicate/expensive electronic components in a remote location (and not actually on the car) as possible, too.

  • jeff

    I’m surprised so many hate the aesthetics. To me, it’s more variable than ever. Yes, the Ferrari is horrifying proportionally, the Torro Rosso and to a lesser extent FI and Mclaren are “flashlights,” but the remember range from interesting (Sauber) to beautiful (Red Bull, Williams, MB) to me. I dig the tightly wasted rear bodywork, undercut front side pods, more-narrow front wings, and lower noses. Better by far than the long, narrow 2010 cars w/ flat high noses, shark fins (uggghhhh), and snowplow wings.

    Give me the current cars w/ 2004 front/rear wings and maybe the 2009 Chassis length and I’d be happy. Or the 2004 cars with current-width slicks and current rear bodywork.

    Andy, are you in Melbourne? My next race is Canada, and I’m excited/nervous to hear the new cars in person. Some decent Youtube vids have me vacillating over whether it’ll be better or worse than TV coverage.

  • The power units sound futuristic. They have several different whining noises, a grunty engine (not deeply grunty but more so than previous years), and a popping and whirring under braking. The downshifts demand the turbo to release pressure and then spool up again within milliseconds. The intricacies are quite amazing and I think most of us will come to appreciate the strangeness.

  • jeff

    off topic: F1B staff, how a weekly post showing each driver’s remaining Power Unit elements, or even a sticky’d graph? I just saw Maldonado’s had his complete Power Unit less the actual motor and turbo replaced, and Ericsson of Caterham his ES. With each driver having 5 units of 5 pieces each allotted, it’s going to get mighty confusing who has what.

    Just a request; will make predictions easier :)

    • MIE

      It’s a good idea Jeff, but it depends on the teams making the data available. While we know that Maldonado has used two MGU-K, MGU-H etc. this race, what we may not be told is if the drivers are using the Australian units in Malaysia.
      If previous seasons are anything to go by, teams used an engine for the first race, and then used that item for the Friday running in subsequent races, leaving fresher units for Qualifying and the Race.

      • MIE

        Actually, the report in Autosport states that it is the Control Electronics for the MGU’s that has been changed, not the MGU’s themselves along with the Energy Store.

        • jeff

          Good point, well made. To further your point, AMuS is still stating it was the MGU’s, not the ECU, on Maldonado’s car, and further that Ericssen needed his ECU replaced. There are resorts on either side whether Maldonado’s MGU’s (IF they’re even the modules replaced) are reusable or not. Yikes.

          The wonderful world of F1 info-hunting… :)

  • jiji the cat

    i have no issues with the sound, my issue is with the volume.

  • I was listening closer today and couldn’t help but think of GT class WEC cars when I hear the F1 cars run.