The silence of the new era is deafening

Posted on March 21, 2014

By David Coulthard

While there was much to admire about the new regulations at the first race in Melbourne, one aspect left me cold: the rather muted sound produced by the 2014 machines. We must listen to our consumers.

My ear drums will probably not thank me for saying this but I agree with Bernie Ecclestone, I think the new generation of cars could do with being a bit noisier.

It was a fascinating race in Melbourne last weekend in many respects; an encouraging start to the new hybrid V6 era in terms of the cutting-edge technology on display, and the driving skills now required of a driver.

But if I'm honest, even from my soundproofed commentary booth, I could tell it lacked a little va-va-voom in the volume department.

OK, so Formula One doesn't strictly need that high-pitched banshee scream produced by the old V10s, and to a lesser extent the V8s, but ear-splitting noise is part and parcel of the sport.

Just as you expect your whole body to shake when a fighter jet passes overhead, so you expect your senses to be assaulted by a Formula One car. Try standing in the tunnel in Monaco when a V10 engine screams past and you will understand what I mean. It is a visceral experience.

The noise produced by the new V6 turbos last weekend, by contrast, has been compared on social media to that generated by a lawnmower or a golf cart! That's obviously an exaggeration but there is no smoke without fire.

And while we will get used to it if we have to, why should we have to?
It is not beyond the wit of Formula One engineers to amplify the noise a bit. Musical instruments make enough of a racket with wind blowing through them relatively slowly. A Formula One car expels its exhaust gases at over 1000mph. It might add a bit of weight to the overall package but I think it would be well worth it to recover a vital element of the F1 experience.

Don't take my word for it, though. Listen to the reaction from the fans. That is one thing that is coming through extremely loud and clear. And as Toto Wolff, Mercedes' motorsport boss, pointed out this week, we cannot afford to ignore our fans.

Or our sponsors. Big companies invest in Formula One because it is a desirable club of which to be a part; a heady mix of sport and entertainment, the best show on Earth. Noise is a big part of that show.

In sport, as in business, you ignore your customer base at your peril.