If you were nonplussed by the new sound of Formula 1 cars, then this weekend could be a step in the right direction. Mercedes will test a new exhaust apparatus in this week’s post-Spanish Grand Prix test.

The new device, according to AUTOSPORT, will act as a sort of megaphone to amplify the sound of the exhaust note. Yes, the article and comments are predictably using the word “noise”. The undertow of the F1 pundits and press is not lost on me. I’ve mentioned this before but in the past, most F1 pundits and fans referred to the “sound” of F1 cars and the backlash from this year’s V6 Turbo hybrid has been due to the lack of a familiar or desirable sound such as the days of yore with V12’s, V10’s or even V8’s.

Very quietly and calculatingly, press reports, team bosses and proponents of the new power unit format dropped the word “sound” in favor of the word “noise”. Let’s look at some synonyms in order to understand why this bothers me so much:


noise, din, racket, uproar, pandemonium, hullabaloo, hubbub, clamor, babel


refers to something heard. Sound,  however, is more general in application, being used for anything within earshot: the sound of running water. Noise,  caused by irregular vibrations, is more properly applied to a loud, discordant, or unpleasant sound: the noise of shouting.

Yes, I am making a mountain out of a molehill but this does bug me quite a bit for the very reason that the “sound” of an F1 car is a large part of its appeal to many F1 fans and most of those fans would not use the word “noise” while telling their friends about how incredible the sound of the amazing V12, V10 or V8 is. When asked about their first experience at an F1 race, fans would say they had no idea how massive the sound of these machines are.

When the new format lacked all of that visceral experience, the exhaust and engine note of the cars has been reduced to just “noise”. Some unwanted, discordant side effect of the series. I find the use of terms has become important in this day and age and it is important to know what words mean and why they are chosen.

The test:

The test will be conducted by Mercedes and monitored by the FIA as a possible solution for changes to be implemented later this year. The system has been used in dyno testing and the results are said to be very positive…and that, actually, does sound like a lot of noise.

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.
  • Rapierman

    Yanno, I suspect that I could put a Boeing 777 turbojet engine right up to a person’s ear and achieve the same result. Then again, one man’s sound is another man’s “noise”.

  • UAN

    They should just do what Kilgore did in Apocalypse Now – putting speakers on their helicopters and playing a little Wagner. Imagine the Mercs tooling around playing Ride of the Valkyries while smoking the competition :)

  • It’s the reverse of racing technology to street vehicles. Soon F1 will adopt pumping sound trough the speakers at races and matching V12 music to the cars on track to enhance the viewers’ experience.

  • charlie w

    I see the FIA overlooked my suggestion: placing playing cards into the wheel spokes at all four wheels.

  • Oh FFS. So now instead of low level (SPL or dB[A]) “uninspiring sound” of a new V6 ICE and single turbo solution, we’ll now have the same “uninspiring sound” simply AMPLIFIED for us all to be further annoyed.

    When will these boofheads get it? It’s a QUALITY/SPECTRAL CONTENT problem, not a QUANTITY/LEVEL problem. F1 is bereft of intelligent leadership. JF

  • ps: When you fix the ‘Quality/Spectral Content’ aspect… THEN you can think about turning up the volume. Louder crap is still CRAP.

  • This is getting silly. Can’t F1 just get on with the racing?

  • The Captain

    So like all those Prelude and Civic drivers out there F1 has decided to take the Pep Boys solution to the problem?