Formula One and its inevitable engine sound redesign

The sound of the current Formula One engines has always been a central pillar of the sport, and a sharp redesign seems all the more inevitable.

The sound of Formula One is as iconic as the sight of seeing the open-wheel single-seaters rip into a turn at seemingly impossible speeds. Ever since the sport opted for the hybrid V6 engines, it’s lost something it has not been able to replace. Sure, there has been a plethora of improvements to the sport over the last several years that have given way to a new generation and new level of performance that was previously unheard of, but there seems to be no room left for discussion: the F1 cars have lost their sound.

(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Several high-profile drivers – including the likes of Mercedes Silver Arrow Lewis Hamilton – have come out in the past in favor of revamping the sound back to something that can once again stir the hearts and incite goosebumps along the grandstand as they come screaming by. Now, another top figure has added his name to the list in support of a return to audiophile form in Formula One’s future: Toto Wolff.

The Mercedes team boss shared his thoughts regarding the state of the current engines recently, specifying that he does not wish to see the sport regress to using older and obsolete engine tech for the sake of spectacle, but does concede that there is much work to be done in the are:

“With everything going hybrid on the road, going efficient, and going autonomous, watching racing cars is still an audio-visual exercise.
You can see the cars going fast, but the sound is very important. It gives us the perception of power and speed.

I think maybe with the current generation of engines we have forgotten to take care about this point.

Having said that, I don’t think it is completely bad. But with 2020, when we do the new engines, quality of sound should be an essential part. It is very important.”

Toto Wolff

Wolff went on to highlight that a possible solution to the problem could be the introduction of an independent engine supplier showing its face in Formula One, though he isn’t entirely certain of the performance viability:

“Will an independent engine supplier ever be competitive against OEM structures that have invested billions over the years to be where they are? I am not sure.

But I think if we create a new formula early enough, it will allow independent engine suppliers to look at the concept, and if they find sponsors or investors then this can be a formula that works.”

Toto Wolff

Wolff’s concerns have merit – he is right to caution against a sharp correction purely for the sake of sound and an independent engine supplier might not be the best answer for the problem – but the acknowledgment of the problem is already a healthy step in the right direction. Truth be told, given how Liberty Media is interested in revamping their newly-acquired international franchise, we may see a move implemented on their decree before the teams and owners reach any sort of concession.

Start the discussion

to comment