18 Mar 2014
Our senses make us subjective creatures and so it's often said, we eat with our eyes. Formula One's move into a new technologically advanced era has once again bought up the question of sensory appeal. This weekend I've seen key figures like Martin Brundle and Bernie Ecclestone deriding F1's soundtrack and unfortunately as they're in a position of influence this can further sway opinion.
Do you remember the V12's of yesteryear? We're you disappointed when the switch was made to V10's? How about when the V10's were swapped out for V8's? Or maybe when the V8's rev limits were curtailed to 18,000rpm?
These are all signs of progression and at the time we all yearned for the sounds of their predecessors but as time went by we learn to accept and then love the new auditory pleasures at hand.
The same can be said for aesthetics, another battle ground over the seasons where teams have chosen what suits their aerodynamic needs over the way the cars look (step noses and now finger noses) but as time goes by we adapt and learn to accept that which is better.
The condemnation of the new PowerUnits sound is loud and clear but frankly given the regulations there is nowhere to go.
In order to increase the sound of the new V6 Turbo units I see only 2 solutions, a mandated change to the exhaust system, inevitably leading to arguments amongst the teams, power unit manufacturers and FIA as each grapple with a regulation change that would have technical ramifications. (Performance could be won or lost and be detrimental to the health of the PowerUnits due to limited testing.
Or something that's caused a backlash amongst car owners over the last few years who've felt cheated by the installation of sound enhancing devices, bridging the gap as the vehicles sounds theirselves are attenuated. The Volkswagen Golf GTi is perhaps the most well known/documented of these with owners even going as far as removing the devices.
From a personal perspective I have no problem with the new F1 soundtrack. Yes they're quieter and you won't feel like your chest cavity is about to erupt as the cars thunder past. However if you take the time to listen you can discern much more, as the driver stamps on the throttle we hear the MGU-H and K whining, producing power that then assists the Turbo and we get a rush of boost. Heading into the braking zone, you can hear the K harvesting energy whilst the H keeps the turbo spooled and then almost instantaneously the boost is at full song as the driver hurtles on his way.
This isn't the only thing though, as the diminished engine sounds also lead us to a juncture where you can hear the tyres squeal under load through the corners as they struggle to both stop the car, turn in and then deal with the increased torque of the new PowerUnits. Furthermore you can even hear the front edge of the plank hitting the floor, as the car pitches forward under braking.
Lastly have you ever heard the furore from the crowd as the driver rounds the last corner during qualifying? Certainly nothing like we heard in Melbourne. The crowds elation was clear to hear and I think we all rode that emotional roller coaster with the crowd.
I for one don't have a problem with the new PowerUnits but having been through several downsizings in the past I can understand why others are having problems assimilating. As time passes by though I'm sure you'll all come to live with the sound. Besides this is just the start! Remember how much exhausts were exploited in the past to extract aero performance, changing the sound characteristics as they went. (Especially the gunfire sounds of the Off Throttle exhaust blown diffusers of 2010)