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F1 promoters gather in Barcelona paddock, noise on the agenda
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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 May 2014   |  11:03 am GMT  |  69 comments

The F1 paddock in Barcelona is a fascinating place this weekend as race promoters from all over the world are here, as well as many prominent figures from CVC.

Bernie Ecclestone arrived on Saturday morning, after attending his court hearing in Munich on Friday where the convicted former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was giving evidence in Ecclestone’s trial. Ecclestone is charged with having bribed Gribkowsky to sell Bayern LB bank’s shares in F1 to CVC in 2006 in order that Ecclestone could remain in charge of the sport.

The presence of all the F1 race promoters, apart from China, is interesting as they have much to discuss regarding the future of the sport, the cost of hosting races and one of the main items on the agenda is the noise of the F1 cars, which continues to be a concern for them. It is widely considered that the new hybrid turbos are too quiet and undermine the show.

Mercedes is due to track test a megaphone exhaust next week during the two day test, following on from work done at its Brixworth engine base on the dynos. It is said that the engine sound was significantly louder in that test, now it will be tried on circuit and assessed.


But it appeared yesterday that some rivals are unhappy about Mercedes doing this as they are concerned it might be a performance enhancing move by the German manufacturer. Mercedes already has a significant advantage over its rivals and has won all four races this season from pole position.

Mercedes F1 team chairman Niki Lauda scoffed at these suggestions,

“It changes the horse power of the engine by zero. The only thing that changes is the funnel at the end of the exhaust. It just makes more noise.

“Everyone thinks Mercedes has done this to have an advantage; what absolute nonsense.”

Mercedes has been frustrated that the positive story about the new technology has been drowned out by the arguments on show, noise and fuel management.

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69 Comments
  1. Brian says:

    “Horsepower” is a compound word James, not two separate words.

    1. Quercus says:

      Unless you’re referring to horses.

    2. Random 79 says:

      He was quoting Lauda, so the quote might have been “It changes the horse…” pauses to scratch ear “…power of the engine by zero”.

      Anyway, I’m with Quercus: Power to the horses! :)

  2. Alex W says:

    I am old school and like my racecars/bikes/boats LOUD. But adding an artificial addition for the sake of making it louder is farcical and takes away the positives of the quieter power plant.
    I have a solution that ticks a lot of boxes… In 2014 we currently have supercharged cars, the supercharger is powered by both a turbo impellor in the exhaust, and an electric motor. In 2015, simply add a new regulation so that if a constructor removes the turbo impellor, they are allowed unlimited ERS. This will not have any immediate effect on F1, but there will be an inevitable time, hopefully in the very near future, that a team will turn up one day with a LOUD ERS loaded rocket ship…. just like when turbos turned up in the 80′s…. I over simplify but it is better to have naturally occurring change rather than megaphones…

    1. Quercus says:

      But without it we’ll just be back to KERS, and the heat energy will be wasted as noise. That’s not very efficient and it will probably mean the cars can no longer achieve race distance on 100Kg of fuel.

      Efficiency is what it should now be all about. I for one prefer hearing the sound of the energy recovery, the waste gate and the whine of the electric motors, as well as the sound of the engine. It’s a much subtler, more meaningful and informative noise. It seems like it’s also an acquired taste.

      1. C63 says:

        +1
        I really like hearing the whistles, whines etc .

        ps no one is more surprised than me that I like the sound of these new PU’s :-)

      2. Paul du Maître says:

        +1
        Plus there are all those other noises, like the tyres squealing that were hidden under the engine loudness, and we get to hear them now!

    2. Grant H says:

      Take out the turbo which generates most of the power from the ICE and replace it with more ERS what and how are you gonna harvest the energy and store it … Weight limit etc etc….I think its a little bit more complex than that! The turbo is not the only reason for quiet engines dont forget the rev limit and max fuel flow regs all contribute

  3. kenneth chapman says:

    surely the massively resourced pr/marketing departments of mercedes/ferrari/renault have failed miserably in promoting the new technology across a global universe.

    only they can tell the story in total depth and they have missed the boat entirely.

    if you combine this with the obvious lack of pre emptive analysis of the ‘sound and economy’ angle then it becomes doubly worse. it was not as though there was any doubt about it. the sound angle was mooted to be a problem a very long time ago and no one thought to set up focus groups to see the effect it might have.this is a primary function of any major marketing thrust and it has been a total dereliction of basic marketing analysis.

    this new technology was and still is a great story but it is getting late in the day to woo back those who are disaffected. as for the economy angle, another great story but the major question is, does it belong in the F1 world? i personally don’t think so but we have yet to see just how much the F1 supporters/followers have been alienated by this angle.

    of course economy is important…but not as primary function of F1. if the FIA believe that it indeed has a place of prime importance then i’m afraid they have lost me.

  4. David in Sydney says:

    Yeah, try air horns linked to a push to pass button as well… the hybrid engines are beautiful things and I don’t car if they’re not ear-splittingly noisy… sure it’s exciting to bleed from the ears but this is not the most important thing in F1…

    1. C63 says:

      +1
      The new PU’s are extraordinary pieces of engineering. The cars cover the same distance in (as near as makes no odds) the same time, and use a third less fuel. Yet, all we get are the moaning minnies whining on the engines are too quiet. Pathetic.

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        @ C63…why does covering the same distance on one third less fuel that the previous year make any difference whatsoever? are people going to rush out and buy an F1 car? gee!! wow!!!

        F1 is a singular event. it is all about racing [or it should be] not an economy run as has been stated many times before.

        i have absolutely no problems with the new technology and i think it borders on the brilliant, in part.

        it is important however to maintain the core essence of F1 racing and ‘sound’ just happens to be an integral part of that essence.

        surely it is not beyond the realms of expertise embodied in these brilliant engineers to manufacture ‘in’ a better sound. maybe the FIA should include a decibel rating into the R & R governing the sport and let the teams sort it out.

        [mod]

      2. C63 says:

        @kenneth chapman
        why does covering the same distance on one third less fuel that the previous year make any difference whatsoever?..(sic)
        Why does it make any difference? Hmmmm, let me think. Oh yeah, that’s it, I knew there was a reason – its one of the rules!
        The F in F1 stands for Formula – this defines the rules, regulations and parameters the teams must follow should they wish to compete. The FIA, in consultation with the engine manufacturers, decided to drive the development of hybrid power units through F1. This is, presumably, for reasons which are part PR and part speed of development.
        Imagine if all the cars in the world had as much power (ie were as quick) and they all used a third less fuel, the benefits to mankind would be enormous. Perhaps you should look at the bigger picture and ask yourself if you would you still be complaining the engines where too quiet if that was the case?

        With regard to the engineers manufacturing in a better sound; I was reading that Mercedes have developed a new louder exhaust that they plan to trial at the next test. But guess what? This may now not happen, as the other teams are worried the new louder exhaust is really a performance enhancement in disguise. It’s too funny, the people doing the moaning about the new formula, complaining the engines are too quiet, are trying to block a development which is intended to cure one of their whinges. You’ve gotta laugh :-)

    2. Urko says:

      Exactly!
      It’s true that this year’s F1 is quieter, but at the same time there’s much more to see. I never thought i’ll have a chance to see drivers catching their cars through corners (b/s of huge torque) like they do now. And for me, vision is much more important than sense of hearing.

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        @ urko, why be satisfied with anything less than the ‘full enchilada’? it is possible, through tweaks to the system to improve the sound without altering the current level of performance. then you would have vision and sound.

    3. barry says:

      Absolutely right

    4. Random 79 says:

      Every driver should have a speaker attached to their push to pass button that blares out “I’m faster than you…” whenever they press it.

      Anyway, +1 to you, C63 and Urko.

    5. moxlox says:

      Agree. The fantastic spectacle of watching the cars moving about in the corners far outshines the loss of noise.

      Have you ever seen F1 cars sliding so much at the Barcelona track?! A track previously made so sterile by endless testing. Practice and qualifying has been spectacular so far.

      As Brundle says, now the drivers are driving the cars metre by metre. Brilliant.

  5. Mitchw says:

    Rivals are concerned that Mercedes will be advantaged by their megaphone? Are these people insane? Formula 1 needs to put on a show that’s worth watching. I can easily read race results without sitting in front of tele for two hours, half awake. F1 isn’t about a horde of rats fighting over road kill.

    1. Grant H says:

      Exactly and if they cared enough they would already be testing their own exhausts too

  6. jmv says:

    All this discussion about engine noise makes it clear that Formula E is doomed to fail.

    Making the cars louder is a very artificial move.

    1. Torchwood Five says:

      An interesting point.

    2. Random 79 says:

      Maybe, except for two things:

      First, even though I don’t really care about the volume of the current F1 engines many do. Right or wrong it’s an expectation that F1 cars should be loud.

      Second, F-E is targeting a different demographic that (in theory) is going to be more interested in the new technology than the sound. No-one’s expecting the F-E cars to make much noise so there shouldn’t be the same controversy.

      I’m not sure if F-E will succeed in it’s own right, but lack of noise shouldn’t be it’s downfall.

      1. Jim says:

        Good response, exactly right.

  7. Guillermo says:

    James, until some of us fans actually hear the cars in the flesh, it’s hard to have an opinion. Just how quiet are these cars?! What do you think? Personally, I would love to hear these engines with more revs and without fuel flow restrictions. I think that would really spice up the show.

    For me, a bigger issue are the noses. I feel offended every time I see a Force India, a Toro Rosso or a Caterham. They are literally offensive. And whilst we’re in the subject of improvements for fans, driver numbers should cover a minimum area of the nose and rear wing and five place grid drops for helmet design changes mid-season please!

  8. Rich C says:

    Those complaining would be the rivals who are increasing their HP output with “reliability” mods?

    [mod]

    1. Rich C says:

      Bummer. I got modded out.

      Or maybe it was the noun: “scumbags” ?

      Just curious.

      1. James Allen says:

        Among other things – Mod

    2. Rich C says:

      And here, all along, I thought it was NASCAR that was the pinnacle of those things.

  9. Monza 71 says:

    They certainly need to take notice of what the fans are saying.

    I have to say I’m not hopeful :

    All the money Bernie and CVC take out of the sport and they demonstrate their total greed and meanness by for the first time this year they have taken away sector times from the live timing available to computer users.

    The only people this is likely to “upset” ( using my words carefully here ) are the really dedicated enthusiasts who one would have thought they wanted to retain ?

    CLearly they don’t care about us.

    1. franed says:

      No only sector times are missing but also the weather and the lap chart.

  10. Paige says:

    People should shut up about the noise. Noise does not make F1 the premier form of motorsport. Being the form of motorsport with the fastest cars, most advanced technology, the greatest level of performance among all involved, and the most intense level of competition does.

    The planet belongs to all of us. Ultimately, F1 is making the changes that all of human society needs to make in advancing the technology state of the world and using less fossil fuels- all while putting out more horsepower. Let the dinosaurs who complain about the noise watch old clips of Gilles Villeneuve on YouTube.

    1. Howard P says:

      ” Let the dinosaurs who complain about the noise watch old clips of Gilles Villeneuve on YouTube.”

      Except they burn a lot of fossil fuels to power the servers which store and run said clips of Villeneuve on Youtube!

      1. Random 79 says:

        Dinosaurs…fossil fuels…

        There’s a joke to made there, I’m sure of it ;)

      2. kenneth chapman says:

        yes there is something in there and has to do with ‘coprolites’

      3. Random 79 says:

        (Googles “coprolite”)

        Ohhhhhhh…nice :)

    2. Quercus says:

      Very well said. My thoughts entirely.

    3. ant says:

      Do you know that some of the GP2 cars are quicker than the slower F1 cars? The notion of fastest Motorsport being F1 is very quickly disappearing…. The sport is on a downward spiral and I know many people at Spain this weekend who are thoroughly disappointed and will not be going back next year…

  11. Lee Armitage says:

    I am largely fine with these new powerplants. Yes the glory days of screaming v12′s is behind us and things are not quite as raw and pure as they used to be.
    However, the noise of them for me does take something away from the experience at trackside, not as much from the armchair though.
    I think the megaphone idea would be perfect, the slight raspy note of these units would sound awesome if they are simply made louder. As long as we are amplifying the natural sounds they make rather than trying to make an artificial sound I can’t see any reason not to.

    I certainly think that the more reliant the teams now have to be on mechanical grip rather than all the aero downforce of previous years is a step in the right direction.
    Once the powerplants are fairly level in terms of performance I believe we will enter a new golden era for the sport with the type of battle we saw at Bahrain from Rosberg/Hamilton more frequent between the top drivers of all the front running teams.
    We just need to be a little patient and let the new technology bed in, and deal with slight issues such as the sound along the way.

    1. Quercus says:

      The TV sound engineers set the level of the ambient sound feed from the trackside microphones at an appropriate level when compared to the commentary. If you make the cars louder they just turn down the level on the ambient sound. Make the cars quieter and they turn it up. It’s only at the trackside that the volume makes a difference.

      Having said that, the quieter the cars the more the viewer can here other generators of sound; like the ERS and the tyres. Haven’t you noticed that we;ve heard many more interesting noises this year — like tyre squeal over the chicanes. Mark my words, Monaco will be an eye…, sorry, …ear-opener.

  12. Azza says:

    I’ve noticed that many of the F1 fans who post on this site aren’t opposed to the new quieter F1, rather they say they appreciate and embrace the new technology and it’s not importantl. To me this seems disproportionate to the amount of people complaining in the ‘real world’.
    I’d bet my bottom dollar that the majority of the people on here who approve the quiet engines are forum geeks and arm chair fans who haven’t heard the new cars in the flesh.
    I’ve been to 25 Gp’s to date in 3 different countries and up untill this year, every time I hear the cars for Friday practise I would get goose bumps. The signature sound of F1 has been lost and this is a major problem!
    I love the new technology and remember to last turbo era which had a different but satisfying sound. F1 needs it’s signature sound track back asap, anyone who disagrees is not a true fan, period…
    No doubt the new hybrid technology is a step forward, now lets get the F1 sound back, the pinicacle of motor sport is missing it’s balls!! ;)

    1. Rudy says:

      +1
      Finally a very spot on comment thanks to Azza. I agree, F1 has to be the pinnacle of motorsport. Compared to GP2, F1 should be at least (backmarkers) 5 secs faster on tracks like Barcelona. At Spa around 10 secs. Tech wise, yes, good the hybrid PU’s are the future. But the problem with actual F1 is limited racing through tyres, fuel flow limits and the like. Today’s race was 90% boring and only the final 6 laps nail bitting! What’s the point on having 300km races if only 30kms are worth watching?

      1. Azza says:

        Cheers Rudy.

  13. 4mula1 says:

    Very well said! I should have been at Austin in 2013 to hear the v8 for the final time . The v10 was my favorite, these new “power units” make the v6 indycars sound sexy

    1. 4mula1 says:

      My comment was replying to Azza

  14. Howard P says:

    Isn’t it because the noise energy is being reharvested for the turbo? In which case, the only way of making it louder is by introducing INefficiency, which is not what the new regs are about.

    Having said that, F1 is a visual and audio experience.

    1. Quercus says:

      Exactly.

  15. iMaruri says:

    I’m in Montmelo now for the second year in a row, and it wasn’t til I heard a TV helicopter for the first time with F1 cars on track that I felt cheated by the lack of noise. Ironic, though, that GP2 cars instantly reminded me what an F1 car used to feel like, sound wise. I’d say the difference last year between an F1 and a GP2 is just the other way round this year. Then again, it’s nice not needing earplugs to enjoy your favorite sport.

    1. James Allen says:

      I agree with the last line, but it’s not right for GP2 and even GP3 to be substantially louder and more impressive sounding than F1. Makes no sense

      1. Random 79 says:

        Are there any plans to introduce the hybrid engines into GP2/3 once the technology matures a bit?

      2. Christopher Cathles says:

        OK, temporary fix then – strap on to each F1 car a WW2 Stuka dive-bomber screamer

        I do though appreciate hearing tyre squealing, crowd roar, and lots of other stuff which used to be blotted out by how it used to be. And iMaruri’s point about earplugs is well taken – Health & Safety anyone?

      3. Rich C says:

        A big stereo with a NASSCAR soundtrack should do it.

      4. Gujerati says:

        Personally, I find it much more impressive that such these cars can go immensely fast on much less fuel and without a load of banging and spluttering. I think that equating engine noise to performance is cultural and something that will change over time as hybrid and electric cars come to dominate the world.

    2. Grant H says:

      Also just as important many of the front running gp2 cars are faster than slower F1 cars, I am getting fed up with rule changes that make the cars slower

      1. Rich C says:

        Back in the bad old days IndyCars would have made the grid in Montreal. Or at least been within the 7%.

  16. JamesF1 says:

    I’m sure I read that the maximum fuel flow is only permitted at 10500rpm, not the 15000rpm maximum. Makes no sense! Tweak the regulations to allow them to rev to 15000 (i.e. increase the max fuel flow, but not necessarily the 100Kg allowed) and they will use it. I guess the extra 4500 revs are only used to charge the batteries under braking at the moment.

    1. kenneth chapman says:

      many people have posted their opposition to deregulation of the fuel flow as the increased HP would be ‘dangerous’. it would be quite possible to increase the level of flow without given total free reign and possibly lift the engine revs to a higher level.

      as a point in question….LMP1 toyota’s are producing just on 1000hp and they have no problem with slower cars of which there are many.

      1. ManOnWheels says:

        Just ask Anthony Davidson what he thinks about “no problem with slower cars” in 2012:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvAyZeSaIt0
        Or Ask Mike Rockenfeller ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy2JIW0udTo ), or maybe Allan McNish who had their big shunts in LeMans 2011 because of slower cars.

      2. kenneth chapman says:

        @ man on wheels…. yes i am fully aware of those incidents but what you have to understand is that they are a combined number over some 10,000 kms of driving under vastly different circumstances to F1.

  17. Rich C says:

    This business of defining “reliability problems” as “slower than Mercedes” really aggravates me.

    To me it means something *actually broke and it blowed up real good. Not “we thought it might so we shut it off,” either.

  18. Petem says:

    No one is going to tell me all that will be tested is this megaphone exhaust. Mercedes are hypocritical and snakes in the grass. Look at the tyre testing last year and the extreme extent to make sure RBR was disqualified from Melbourne. Can’t wait to see one of their cars pull to the side with a failure!

    1. Guyb says:

      It’s a scheduled in-season test for ALL teams and it wasn’t Mercedes that got RB disqualified in Australia (they did ask for a more severe punishment but that didn’t happen).

      You’ve already seen one of the Mercs DNF and I’m sure there will be one or two other failures this season, so that should cheer you up a little bit. But it’s safe to say the rest of the season will see continued domination from the team that did the best job with the new regulations. That would be Mercedes.

  19. Ray C Boy says:

    Noise problem solved…

    VroomBox

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHdN2zdhUpI

  20. German Samurai says:

    I watch F1 to see the best drivers race is the fastest open wheel cars. It should be as much a physical test as one of driving skill. I don’t care about what is happening under the engine cover. The technical aspects are interesting and add to the enjoyment of the sport, but it comes a distinct second to the human element of the sport.

    The noise of an F1 car added to the excitement, especially live. It created a visceral connection that you don’t get in other sports and other forms of motor racing. F1 cars were not only by far the quickest road racing cars on the planet but the loudest. A sound so loud it had to be heard live to believe it. These hybrid engines sound horrible by old standards. Distinctive yes, but completely underwhelming. GP2′s sound better.

    The cars 10 years ago were much more physically demanding to pilot. The drivers today are emaciated jockeys. Think back to 10 years ago. You had thick, solid guys like Schumacher and Montoya. It was required to withstand the G forces and muscle the cars for 1.5 hours. Sutil looked frightening thin yesterday.

  21. ManOnWheels says:

    Now where’s the problem?
    Ferrari just brought a new wider exhaust to aid performance, why shouldn’e Mercedes be allowed to do the same? And since when is te exhaust pipe part of the homologated engine?

    http://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/regulation/file/1-2014%20TECHNICAL%20REGULATIONS%202014-01-23_0.pdf

    See 5.8 (Page 23) and Page 88/89 (Annual F1 power Unit Homologation). According´to the table at 88/89 everything regarding the exhaust after the turbine flange looks like it is no subject of homologation and even then everything regarding “Pressure charging” “From Engine exhaust flanges to turbine inlet” may be changed “For 2019 + 2020″.

    Really looks like the usual PR rambling that some people do before reading the rule book.

  22. Rich C says:

    Say, James – perhaps we could get F1 ppl to listen to us fan-atics if we had a mailing list?
    Then we could all spam them with our discontent instead of just venting uselessly here! [And ofc I wouldn't get modded.]

    lol

    Seriously they really need to get the message from someone besides Bernie & Co.

  23. Nikolaz says:

    Olivier Gillet head of marketing of Renault says the noise is a pollution! So at the moment, there are no plans at Renault to follow the example of Mercedes.

  24. clif morse says:

    In the Fifties Enzo Ferrari established the tradition that his F1 cars would never become unreliable.He claimed that their construction made them virtually “bullet-proof”through all the vicissitudes of F1 racing.In todays search for more speed,less weight and reduced cornering time there should be an effort to maximize reliability
    Maybe Ferrari could to be the first to adopt the strategy of ONE STOP per race?

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