Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has come out as a vocal proponent of bringing back the V12 engine to Formula One.
Folks, it’s time to have a serious discussion. We all knew this was coming. It was inevitable. The new 2017 cars, for all their might and prowess, sound terrible. The newest generation is set to tick all boxes off of the “most impressive vehicle” list, but the one deficit that has no improvement in sight is the sound of their engines.
Certainly, the sound is one of the last things that should be given attention when the performance of vehicle is in question, but the sport truly feels as if it’s lost a portion of its DNA. The loud, hair-raising effect that the engines of days’ past would incur simply isn’t around anymore. Even the current iteration feels as if it has that old sound trapped somewhere beneath the new rumbling of the current engines.
Drivers have already commented on the nature of the cars’ sound – a prominent figure being Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton – but now another has joined their ranks: Max Verstappen. Verstappen recently gave voice to his thoughts on the F1 sound after FIA president Jean Todt insisted that a return to V10 or V12 engines “would not be accepted”.
“I think it would be very nice to have a V10 engine or something, with the lovely sound.
[The current engines are] nice for me in the car, but I think it’s not really impressive for the fans, if you compare it to a V10 or V12.” – Max Verstappen
Verstappen’s comments highlight a problem that Formula One will continue to face as a global Motorsport: the delicate balancing act between delivering continually impressive driving performance while still managing to offer up a spectacle worth watching.
Jean Todt and the FIA are obsessed with the idea that Formula One needs to reflect the wider world in this department, with the automotive industry gradually leaning towards electric power as a more sustainable route into the future. We still think F1 is missing out on an opportunity to tap into a niche. If the rest of the world becomes electric, v12 engines will stand out even more. Why can’t F1 accept a step back from attempting to be at the forefront on hybrid power? It demands to be relevant across the board, but doesn’t realise that this creates a beige landscape of false progressivism – A sport that builds healthy air-miles lugging gear across 20 locations a year in giant freighters trying to set the benchmark on carbon footprint reduction? A motorsport dedicated to green alternatives already exists and is gathering interest from even manufacturers like Ferrari – that window is closed Formula 1 – Time to “regress” back to the noisy, naturally aspirated V12’s and do yourself a favour.
Formula 1 is still at the forefront in other areas. The amount of work that goes on in composites is at the forefront and very relevant to the modern world. At the cost of trying to “out-Formula E” Formula E, the sport has forgotten the ruggedness of a V12 that used to engage the fans and keep the petrolheads happy.
There’s been a recent commitment to introduce “noisier”, “cheaper” engines by 2021, what these will be remains to be seen, and 2021 is a long way away.