Give us more noise!

It was perhaps an unfortunate juxtaposition of races. Sat near the start-finish line at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne’s Albert Park last month, our eardrums were severely battered by the V8 Supersaloon race, before the new Formula 1 cars with their 1.6-litre engines and electric motors made their debut.

Coming after the booming, fire-breathing V8 support races, the Formula 1 cars certainly sounded a whole lot quieter.

Where we were sat was just opposite the exit from the pit lane and during practice I kept remarking that cars sounded like they had a sick engine, before I realised the stuttery engine note – which sounded like a severe misfire as they accelerated from the pit lane – was normal on these new cars.

Australian Grand Prix champagne
The champagne-spraying had barely finished when the race organisers threatened legal action over lack of noise

Soon after the chequered flag dropped, the Australian race promoters were on the Australian media talking about taking Formula 1 to court. ‘This is not what we paid for’ was their complaint.

So, why do Formula 1 cars sound so different this year? In a move to present Formula 1 as more green and environmentally aware, the engine size has been cut to 1.6-litres with an electric motor boosting the power output, rather like a hybrid road car.

But it is the turbochargers, added to produce the power for racing, that seem to be the main culprit reducing the noise level. Fitting a turbocharger into the exhaust will deaden the exhaust note, in much the same way as a silencer (or muffler).

Now three races into the 2014 season, this noise (or lack of noise) controversy still rumbles on.

Bahrain provided some real edge-of-the-seat moments with close raising between team-mates. But still the complaints about the engine note of the new Formula 1 cars murmur on.
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