Have the new rules killed Formula 1 in 2014?

Spending a few days at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne on Grand Prix weekend you get to hear a lot of different sounds – cars, planes and all sorts of great sounds.  One thing I’ve heard a lot of are spectators complaining about the sound of the Formula 1 cars.  Is this a bad thing for the sport?  How important is the “sound” of Formula 1?

For a full explanation of the scope and type of technical changes that have been made to the regulations of Formula One this year, check out this fantastic video from Infinti Red Bull Racing, featuring Aussie Daniel Ricciardo

But in the real world, fans come to Formula One races for a range of reasons, not in the least the sound.

As a teenager I went to the Silverstone Grand Prix in the UK – I can still remember the sound of the cars in the distance as we walked nearer to the track during one of the practice sessions. In recent years I can recall hearing the piercing sounds of the F1 cars belting around Albert Park while I was in the city of Melbourne.

The 2014 Williams Martini Racing F1 Car

The 2014 Williams Martini Racing F1 Car

I feel sorry for the bloke at the entry gates to the F1 circuit here in Melbourne and across the world for the next 19 races – trying to sell ear-plugs to fans arriving to watch the race. You don’t need them.

Because of the smaller and now turbo-charged engines with Hybrid power thrown in – the volume is lower, the sound less piercing and less distinct. There is no doubt that if you take a poll among fans trackside here at Albert Park they would prefer the sound of our own V8 Supercars over the Formula One cars without any doubt. And that’s not some parochial outlook supporting the local category – ask the same question in 2013 and the majority would have voted for the Formula One sound – hands down.

Kamui Kobayashi - Caterham F1

Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham F1

The sound of a Formula One car screaming up through the gears along the straight then down the gears into the corner is something you simply had to hear in person to believe. The Television coverage cannot do it justice. I’m not so sure that’s the case any more.

Could it be that as one punter suggested in the tram line after yesterday’s second practice – “just wait until after 4 or 5 european races, they’ll have to change it”.

Now he and his mates went on to suggest they just bolt on a few more cylinders – in the high-tech world of F1 we’re not likely to see any changes this season, let alone even next to fix this “problem”. But the question is – will it harm the sport’s track-side appeal in the long run?

TV audiences will stick solid, but if the bums on seats aren’t there race after race for promoter after promoter we could have an issue on our hands.

With all that said, there is one thing that will save Formula One even from its own self-inflicted harm – Great racing and a diverse range of winners.

Perhaps if season 2014 goes down to the wire with a range of race winners across the year – we’ll forgive them the sound of Formula One in 2014?

Have a listen for yourself – what do you think?

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nathan

    March 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    For me the sound is a big part of F1. So I agree that something has certainly died in terms of the F1 “Spectacle”. I’m just so surprised that this situation has arisen at all.

    Can you imagine Harley Davidson getting rid of their loud engines and going green aswell. Ha! No, they actually trademarked their iconic “noise” in 1994 because they realised the VALUE it has to their brand.

    I understand that Formula One Management needed to make the sport more attractive to Investors, but at the same time they have DISCARDED their most distinctive and recognisable pieces of branding – right when they’re trying to SELL formula one to new emerging markets. WTF?

    I am having serious doubts that Formula One Management even have a Marketing and Branding division!. Imagine Coca Cola getting rid of their iconic red can? It’s laughable – BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT F1 DID!

    They wanted to move the sport forward, to keep up with this modern world – well we live in a world of youtube and five second sound-bites. I would love to know how much money they just wiped off the value of the Formula One BRAND from what can only be described (politely) as a monumental miscalculation.

    I’m so surprised we aren’t hearing more about this? Where are the marketing gurus when you need them?

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