Formula 1’s vacuum cleaner engine sound a big disappointment

The Formula 1 field purr into Turn 1 in Melbourne

The Formula 1 field purrs into Turn 1 in Melbourne

Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix are furious with Formula 1’s new low volume engine sounds, which simply lack the wow factor of previous generation power units.

Even some of the sport’s stalwarts were alarmed in Melbourne when the 22 cars purred towards the first corner in Melbourne on Sunday.

“At first I said ‘Just take out your earplugs, it’s the same as before’,” triple world champion Lauda told the German broadcaster RTL.

“But I have to honestly say I was slightly disappointed today on television, especially at the start. Simply something was missing,” he added.

“Before,  [the sound] was right down to the marrow. We need to get used to it but it has lost some of its attraction,” said Lauda.


Sebastian Vettel not impressed

World champion Sebastian Vettel said driving in Melbourne felt more like being at the wheel of “a vacuum cleaner than a racing car”.

Formula 1’s most experienced active driver Jenson Button is also worried, especially after a V10-powered demonstration car did laps at Albert Park at the weekend.

“Oh my god I miss that,” he said. “It sounded amazing. Those were great years for the sound of the engine, but that is no more.”

Most in the Formula 1 paddock are disappointed, but Australian Grand Prix corporation Chief Executive Andrew Westacott has revealed that he is actually angry.

Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 16 March 2014

New Formula 1 era means a new sound

“We pay for a product, we’ve got contracts in place, we are looking at those very, very seriously because we reckon there has probably been some breaches,” he told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

“One aspect of it was just a little bit duller than it’s ever been before and that’s part of the mix and the chemistry that they’re going to have to get right. Ron spoke to (Ecclestone) after the race and said the fans don’t like it [the sound] in the venue,” added Westacott.

But Lauda, who is dominant Mercedes’ Formula 1 Chairman, said it would be wrong to tinker with the engine rules just because the sport is now quieter.

“Everyone wants to do something about it, but you can’t just change the exhaust pipe, you’d have to redevelop the whole engine and the mapping,” he said. “That’s just way too expensive.

“Please do not change the engines just to make a bit more noise,” he exclaimed. (GMM)

Subbed by AJN.

Content on by: staff & contributors, Reuters syndication, GMM service, Getty Images, Formula 1 teams, sponsors & organisations.

  • maskasF1

    At the track on Fri/Sat, definitely no more wow factor. Both the Aus V8 supercars and Porsche cup cars blew them away, opposed to last few years where the F1 blew them away. Still enjoyed the racing but don’t feel the need to see them on track especially given the cost involved with flights/tickets/accom. I do like the sound but its just not loud.

  • jojo

    The problem is that with the sound gone you only get to enjoy looking at the cars but even THAT is horrible this year with the fugly noses!!

  • Tamburello1994

    It’s heresy to even have F1 and V6 in the same sentence.

  • McLarenfan

    these ugly noiseless insults to the brand F1 should never have been created. The race was worth watching for the curiosity factor I am just praying they sort the things out fast.

  • Ridhuan Abu Bakar

    i am delighted that people with power and influence actually sided with the fans about the engine sound!

  • Barlow

    Last year, at the start of a race the announcer would say, “turn up the volume” as the red lights came on, then the start, and all the cars screaming toward the first corner. Now, at “turn up the volume”, you get a muffled hum, like a vacuum cleaner, or a lawn mower, but certainly not an F1 car screaming toward the first turn, a fact I find very disappointing. Last year F1 sounded like it was the pinnacle of motor racing, this first race sounded like it wasn’t!! In 2013 I would have paid to see a F1 race, this year, I think not, and that really saddens me, and I have been watching F1 since the 1960s!!

  • F1Novice

    I was at some of the tests this year and was totally underwhelmed by the new sound levels :( . Although not so straight forward, there is a way sound levels could be increased – The predominant reason the new engines are much quieter is because there is a single exhaust pipe with the Turbo “fan” in the middle of it being powered by the exhaust gasses before they are chucked out the back. The engine part of the Power Unit is still a “V” configuration – it would be possible with some engineering tweaks to revert back to a twin exhaust configuration with one of them powering the turbo and the other a straight through “non-turbo turning” pipe straight out the back above the other exhaust pipe – then increase the revs a little and you won’t be far off the db’s of last years cars.

    There’s nothing tosay you couldn’t have rear two cylinders (one each side ) exhausted into a “turbo’d exhaust and the other front 4…… 2 each side into 2nd exhaust with no turbo in it….. Sort the firing order out correctly and it would still be balanced and I reckon the two turning the turbo could still generate enough energy to spin the turbo up enough to create enough boost to achieve parity with what they have now – the boost they are creating now is minuscule to Keke Rosbergs (still) Silverstone lap record setting 1500bhp Williams-Honda from 1985 (160mph average) – they have plenty in reserve if they want it so could use it if they so wished 95% of those I spoke to over 4 days @ winter testing said they thought the cars are now too quiet.

    Here’s 2 tweets from Martin Brundle the other day……. Gotta say I agree with him.

    @MBrundleF1: I like the sound of the new engines there just not enough of it, turbos strangle it. ‘Noses’ and ‘noise’ on the to-do list for 2015 please.

    @MBrundleF1: People don’t always know what they want but do know what they like,e.g the iPad. And fans don’t like the sound of F1 2014, we need to fix it

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    I watched the race on TV. Honestly, when the 5 red lights went on, I had a shock. I went like : «that’s it???». Before, you’d hear this thunderous noise, and now it’s like a Hoover competing with a Dyson, with an Electrolux trying to get noticed. A complete JOKE. The inboard shots are worse, it sounds like something metallic with a DeWalt drill.
    And hearing the first lap, it actually sounded like Formula Atlantic cars, mixed with the old Indycar turbos (2.65l V8, they were). So basically, a supporting race sound with some whistling.
    The whole race, I was like «THIS is the pinnacle of motorsport? Anteaters that sound like sh*t? No way.»
    F1 should shake your soul and your cor, both figuratively and litteraly. When you hear the sound of skidding/screeching tires over the sound of the engines, you’ve missed the mark 110%.

  • Stoner

    Pinnacle of motorsports ! Not anymore for me. down by 2 cylinders, electric power, No noise, ugly cars, where is this sport heading to.
    Honestly i believe F1 has lost its shine. Bring back the V10’s, atleast the V8’s.
    F1 cars should scream out loud, the only screaming i heard this weekend was the WHEEL GUNS

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    Stay tuned for Codemasters’ new game, Rear Tire Changer 2014!

  • Krunksoft

    It really wasn’t bad at all. Just takes some getting used to. It still sounds like an extremely fast open-wheel race car, just not as high-pitched and loud. It sounds more “mature” compared to the higher revving V8 or V10. Everyone knows what a turbo booster sounds like so I’m surprised so many people are complaining that the cars sound like vacuum cleaners. It’s silly. I just hope the FiA does not bend to the will of the long-time F1 fans who think they have the right to decide what Formula One SHOULD be. Stick to the new formula and let teams squeeze out as much development as they can until you decide on the next formula. DO NOT CHANGE THE FORMULA YET!!

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    I rewatched the start on Youtube… you hear NOTHING right before the lights go out. For what little sound you hear, it sounds like complete utter crap. It sounds like when an engine would die in years past, actually.

  • Krunksoft

    I don’t have to hear something before the lights go out. This is a RACE, not a sound test. I heard tires screeching as the cars left the pits which I had never heard before. I could hear the crowd cheering which I had never heard before. I enjoyed the new sounds. The sound on TV has its pros and cons but I disagree 10000000% that it’s total crap.

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    So you actually like hearing wheezing engines as much as the old V8s that pierced your eardrums if you didn’t have earplugs and shook your ribcage? Wow.

  • Krunksoft

    I didn’t say I like the new sound better than the old one. I’m just not going to fall out in the floor and kick in a circle about it. I won’t be folded up in the fetal position while the race is on because the cars’ sound is not as high-pitched and loud as the V8 or V10. Formula One engines didn’t always sound like the V8s and I’m sure people complained about those too. It doesn’t make sense to me to put the sound above the technological innovations and even the race itself. For many of you it seems like you could care less about all that as long as the cars are loud enough to make brain matter ooze out of your ears. I clearly watch for a different reasons than you do but it doesn’t make either of us right or wrong.

  • F1Novice

    It’s the long-time fans who have supported the F1 Circus for so long that has helped make the sport what it is today – why shouldn’t the fans have a say in how the sport should be run…. it’s our money the promoters / advertisers want to get their mitts on

  • Awang Selamat Karim

    Sound is PART of the fun. Put it like this: Imagine playing COD on your Xbox where your high-caliber machine gun sounds like a BB gun. Imagine playing Final Fantasy without the battle track. Will it still be fun? It probably will, but wouldn’t you like it better WITH glorious sound?

  • Krunksoft

    In which sports do the fans determine the future of how it’s played? Name one. At what point in the history of F1 has the FiA asked fans to vote on the next formula??? Why would they start now? The have their agendas, they come up with a formula to fit it and fans just have to get used to change. That’s all this is, as it should be. If they (F1) cared about fans so much the tickets for F1 races wouldn’t be as expensive as they are. Besides, if you really think fans are the only lifeblood of any sport you are delusional. F1 makes waaaaaay more money from sponsorships and TV rights than at the gates and that’s saying alot because of how expensive the tickets are.

  • Krunksoft

    So in real life, if the sound of machine guns were quieter (say, to not easily give away your position) and you bought the new COD would you not play it because the machine guns no longer make as much noise? You’d just keep playing the old COD forever, huh?

    Look, that is YOUR OPINION. Just because you like the old sound doesn’t mean the cars SHOULD sound that way. I, for one, think the sound is cool so why should your opinion matter more than mine? It doesn’t. The FiA doesn’t care what either of us thinks of the sound and they shouldn’t listen to fans because if they did there would be alot more deaths on the track.

  • Paul R Johnson

    This “green energy” dictate by FIA / F1 for newer “energy friendly” engines / cars is ALL BASED UPON THE FAR-LEFT IRRATIONAL CONCLUSION OF GLOBAL WARMING! It is almost total BS by the likes of A Gore et al. The conceit and arrogance of these “men” is beyond belief, and has cost billions of wasted dollars in chasing worthless concepts such as solar and wind power. F1 needs to get real.

  • hahaha

    I already said last year that the FIA is doing this deliberately to discredit F1. After they kill off our beloved F1they will push for that stupid formula E (I have seen zero promo till now, which rises some questions) . I was told by everyone that I’m a crazy man seeing to much conspiracies. Life is one big conspiracy!

  • hahaha

    Hope they also side with us when it comes to that stupid “abu double”

  • Krunksoft

    Both sides of that debate have good arguments so I’m not going to say anyone is irrational as it doesn’t move the debate forward. However, I will say that, as it relates to Formula One, I’m more concerned with peak oil than global warming. Whether you believe it or not the planet will run out of this precious resources and when that steep decline comes the last thing we’ll want to use if for is a stupid auto race. It is inevitable so we might as well start preparing for that reality now if any of these various racing series are going to continue over the next 100 years.

  • hahaha

    Sad that when a Mc Laren fan and a tifosi finally agree on something, it has to be on such ridiculous subject matter :D. People like Ron, Monty and Frank should slam their fists on the table.

  • Guest


  • Krunksoft

    There’s no conspiracy. The sad reality of our existence on this planet is that we use our resources faster than the earth can replenish them, so it is peak oil that will eventually force Formula One to completely transition to Formula E. All racing series will have to face the same reality.

    Formula E is trying to cut costs so why would they do so much advertising/promotion now? The series doesn’t start until much later in the year anyway. I applauded Formula E as soon as I heard about it because I know eventually the world will have no choice but to switch to electric power trains as our oil consumption continues to rise.

  • topkill

    Yeah, it’s fun to do the conspiracy theory thing as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously. Formula 1 has nothing to gain so there is just not a conspiracy here. They are a multi-billion dollar industry and have zero desire to loose profits. Switching to a Formula E type series is at least 15 years away even if they wanted to do so.

  • Paul R Johnson

    Spot on mate. My “irrational” reference was to MAN MADE warming. Humans simply do not posses the ability to effect climate change, no matter how “bad” our behavior might be. One small, silly volcano eruption (there are 100s per year) puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than you can imagine. China and India will NEVER believe this hype. Fools buy the Prius and Teslas, as if they are “making a difference”. Baloney! Yes we will run out of fossil fuel someday.

    BTW the sound of F1 was like my car when my engine is lugging badly at low RPM; bad noise. Bernie is RICH, so no matter to him.

  • Krunksoft

    I hear ya man but I don’t know that everyone buying a Prius or Tesla care all that much global warning. Many of them just want to save on gas, not unlike F1. Whether global warming is real or not is debatable but either way we do need to be more considerate of our environment which we haven’t been doing as a species the way we should. Part of that is preserving our most precious resources like oil – that’s part of being “green” and sustainable. It’s not all about the CO2 release.

  • JFL

    I’m not bothered by the new sound. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Porsche 935, it was the same, a much mellower sound in comparison to what we were used to, but it was still a powerfull and exciting car. I care more about having more torque and less down force, you can already see the drivers working harder, it is going to give us better racing and the best drivers will shine. Sound is obviously something that provided an atmosphere, but does not affect the racing which is what we should care about.

  • keaaukeli

    Paul, what a load of horsesh!t. Resources are limited. With your way of thinking everyone should use as many resources as possible. We should all commute in SUVs by ourselves because it is our right. That is pure drivel.
    While I agree that the sound of F1 is pitiful, it is what it is. What draws many of us to F1 is the technology. The exciting thing about this new technology is how these new power units could be adapted to a street car. 5 or 10 years down the road. This technology could be commonplace.

  • Krunksoft


  • Paul R Johnson

    I agree with you, everyone should be conservative in their use of all resources, “nothing in excess”. I just want the right to buy whatever light bulb I want, and even a SUV (if i had 4-5 kids). The environmental “cost” (use of natural resources) of batteries is tremendous, especially when the replacements are included in the calculations. Same for F1, the environmental cost of the KERS (ERS-K and H), et al new systems are way greater than another 2 cylinders (6 to 8).

    I love technology driven by engineers, not politicians who demand more electricity (batteries). And while we’re at it, who cares if the teams stop for gas? Who is kidding who? And who dictates a team MUST use two diff sets of tires, if perhaps another company (Michelin, Bridgestone?) came up with a set that would go the entire distance? Allow for competition I say! Give us more competition and exciting pit stop strategy!

    And yes i love F1, just not guys like BE and his dictatorship.

  • Paul

    Your tag line says it all. Perhaps you should change it to “Conspiracy Theorist”

  • F1Novice

    They’ll change it….. Mark my words….maybe not this year but they will change it.

  • Damian

    Thing is that sponsors and tv are already shifting from F1 mostly because the cost/benefit analysis is presumably not working in their favour. The FIA & Bernie has been driving the genuine motorsport enthusiast ( as opposed to F1 Fanboy ) away from the series for most of the last 15 years. When we finally go, and this new engine may well start a mass exodus, then the empty stands will bring about the death of the series.

  • ufgrat

    You know Bernie doesn’t like the new engines either, right?

  • ufgrat

    Actually, I like being able to hear. I plan to be able to hear well into the future. The V8’s were painfully loud, and pain just isn’t my thing.

    On the bright side, it takes a bit out of the case of the people trying to shutdown the F1 race at Spa.

  • ufgrat

    I’m sure Aryton Senna and his 1.5 liter V6 turbo MP4-4 would agree with you.

    No, wait, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.

  • Krunksoft

    I never knew the sound was more important than the action on the track for some people. Oh well. This is a sad day for F1 but not because of the new formula IMO.

  • Krunksoft

    I wouldn’t be so sure. Alot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears has gone into constructing these new cars. I find it hard to believe these teams would be willing to throw it all away because the power unit isn’t loud enough. I would urge everyone to keep supporting F1. No formula stays around forever. Maybe someday in the future we’ll all look back at the next 3 or 4 years of this formula and have a nice laugh. Let’s at least try to enjoy the competition on the track in the meantime.

  • Ridhuan Abu Bakar

    Haha lets leave that to the season end and see how ridiculous it is

  • Tamburello1994

    I didn’t like the Turbo era then, and I certainly don’t like it now.

    As for Senna, He’s (was) entitled to his opinion, as am I.

  • McLarenfan

    With all the rubbish being spewed in this thread I would like to add a little thing or 2.
    1, Since when have batteries been classed as green or environmentally friendly.
    2, Why would any sane governing body force the members to invest obscene amounts of money in something that is not environmentally friendly to show that F1 is environmentally friendly and relative to road going machines. Now if they had said make engines that can run on Methane and fossil fuel or bio-diesel combined with hho as an example not not a suggestion with exhaust gas recirculation that would be less of a farce. The fuel companies could still get heavily involved and they would look good developing new fuels with the F1 platform as would the big engine manufacturers.

  • Damian

    Errr? I think Rosberg finished around 25 secs clear of whoever FIA would like to be 2nd…bigger gap than last year possibly? And the best action was mostly Bottas, who did a blinding job. Of course Kevin M could have done even better, but was told to slow down. Now, in the good old past, before pit-car radios were invented, drivers just drove flat out, until there was nothing else they could do, it was rare for anyone to run out of fuel, sometimes someone would, but that would be precisely because they had driven at 11/10ths all race! Economy running and Dyson sound effects? This is the Brave New World? Come Austin if it stays like this, the crowd will melt, and as for Monza….Yes, F1 or CVC + Bernie get a lot of cash from sponsors & tv, but have you noticed that McLaren has no title sponsor this year? Stories at the back end of last year, said there was a big one ready, but this failed? Why? As I said, sponsors and tv want to see full grandstands, empty ones mean no one is watching, and if one can’t get a crowd of fans in then why spend money with CVC & Bernie??

  • Damian

    I don’t think he ever made much comment, however his 1500t/c was a much different beast, although the MP4/4 was hampered a bit by the reductions applied in fuel tank capacity, by the FIA. Previously to 1988, the 1500t/c cars had 1000bhp or more available in qualy and race trim, and my God, did we all know it too! No one who ever saw or heard them at full chat, will ever forget the experience. In fact, I recently read ( think it was Brundle ) say that when talking to drivers from back then, they always feel amazed that they shared such a time, and still cannot believe what the cars were like.

  • Stoner
  • Hugo Lafreniere

    Oh… my … God… I didn’t even think it was THAT bad.
    What a complete joke. A bad one, too.

  • Krunksoft

    What is really behind the new formula? Do you think they created it just to see if it could be done? I’m mean that’s possible but I wonder what kind of conversations were they having at the FiA over the past few years that led to this. I’m not complaining about it, just wondering what end result they’re hoping for.

  • McLarenfan

    Has anyone a clue what those in power are thinking, a lot of the technology they are playing with is already in use. In Le Mans there is Toyota, The R18 from Audi the new Porsche’s Le Mans challenger 919, and the Porsche 918 Spyder is a Hybrid that was on Top Gear we should be in a different league not following the leaders. the rule makers should be saying to their think tank get off your asses engage your noggins and earn your pay.

  • ianchesterton

    Funny thing about saving gas. My truck is paid for.
    it would take me decades to break even if I were to buy one of these newer hybrids or all electric vehicles.

  • Dennis Bennett

    It’s F1 but not as we know(knew)it. It’s a bit like womens football, technichally the same game but without the exitement. It wasn’t broke and it didn’t need fixing. Trying to blind fans with science and technobabble, it’s all about the spectacle that’s why you have spectators.