Formula 1 cranking up the volume for TV

Formula 1 is working on a microphone that can be attached to a car’s exhaust system to make the sport louder and more ‘visceral’ for television viewers.

Engine noise has been a talking point since the quieter, more fuel-efficient 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid power units were introduced in 2014 in place of the raspier and less sophisticated V8 engines.


Formula One’s commercial managing director Sean Bratches said more needed to be done for the worldwide audience.

“One of the things that we want to amplify going forward are the sounds of the sport, because they are viscerally moving to fans and critically important in all the research that we do,” he told Reuters.

Bratches said Australian producer David Hill, a man with a stellar reputation in sports television and broadcast innovation, was involved in that.

“He’s working with a German concern to develop a ceramic microphone that we can actually adhere to the exhaust pipe to get the true amplification of sound for fans,” he said, as one example.

Older generations of Formula One fans still mourn the passing of the ear-splitting V10 and V12s, although the V10 wail has returned to the racetrack through the introduction of a two-seater programme run by former Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart.

Formula 1 has witnessed a quiet revolution following the takeover of U.S.-owned Liberty Media in January with fresh camera angles, apertures and positioning to create more of a sense of speed.

Previously, there was as much of a focus on ensuring track advertising was prominent as on getting the most exciting angles.

Hill, a former boss of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox Sports, has attended several races and is a long-time associate of Formula One chairman and former Fox Broadcasting chief executive Chase Carey.

Formula One insiders said the Australian had been working with F1 broadcast operations at Biggin Hill airfield in southern England.

A trumpet-like ‘megaphone’ exhaust was tested by teams in 2014 to try to boost noise levels but the experiment was deemed a failure.

Formula One faces a decision on what kind of engines to use from 2021, with some calling for a return to simpler, cheaper and louder ones that would allow new manufacturers to come in. Others want to develop the greener technology.

Jean Todt, president of the governing FIA, said in March that any attempt by Formula One to turn back the clock would be unacceptable to society.