By Zhaoli Zhang
Anyone who has some interests in cars or automobiles will know Formula One World Championship. There is no doubt that it is the fastest motor sports in the world. In 2007 the fastest F1 car can reach the top speed at 257.88mph, which is about 415 km/h. A Boeing 747 airplane’s take off speed is only around 280~300 km/h. It is a car which can go faster than a plane. When you seat at the auditorium, watching these fancy cars driving pass in front of you at an incredible speed, that kind of excitement is far beyond anything could ever bring to you. And of course the best part of the F1 is not only because of its speed, but also because of its sound. Since the speed of F1 is so fast, F1 cars will certainly have a big engine. In the early 50s one of the F1 team even developed a 1.5 liter V16 engine, it is an engine which has 16 cylinders! A normal sedan car has a 4 cylinders engine, some sports cars will have a 6 or 8 cylinders engine, and only the super car has 10 or 12 cylinders engines. But a 16 cylinders engine, all I could say is this kind of engine has ever been used in a mass-produced vehicle. Such big engine could sing a wonderful song which you have even heard. Even though the FIA, which is the management organization of F1, restricted this kind of engine couple years later. But the engine could still make a very nice sound to enjoy. So for many years F1 engine can play a fantastic symphony for the audience, but this year it could not play it any more.
It is because this year FIA made some changes about the rules, the biggest one is that all the F1 cars must use a 1.6 liter turbo charged V6 engine instead of a 2.4 V8 engine. For many years F1 cars all used a 2.4 liter V8 engine, but this year FIA said they should be more eco-friendly, they should protect the environment, save more fuels and help small scale teams to save their cost, so they decided to put a smaller engine into F1. I think they totally ruined this race with such kind of rules. This year F1 sounds like a normal sedan which its engine will blow itself up in any second. I thought everyone will have the same opinion with me about this issue. But surprisingly, there are some guys who think that this kind of quiet and horrible engine sound is brilliant! Sorry guys, I cannot agree with that.
Here is a brief YouTube video which was made by a F1 audience.
He was on the almost same seat on the auditorium of race in 2013 and 2014 Melbourne Australia. You can hear the big difference of these two engines between the 2013 season and 2014 season. The 2013 engine sound is a high-pitch and high-frequency sound. But the 2014 engine sound is much lower and quieter. If you notice the faces of the audience in the video, you could see how the disappointed about this year’s race. Actually after the beginning of three races of 2014, almost everyone is complaining about the engine sound. Everyone said the sound is too low, it is not exciting, not F1 sound should be. But some guys say that they agree with the FIA, they think this sound is good. Because the low sound can protect the staff and drivers from damaging their audition. And also you can hear the tires scream when the car get into the corner, and the sound of the gear change, these sounds are also exciting. These reasons do not make sense to me.
Here are my points about the engine sound. First, the staff and the drivers all have the ear plugs to protect their audition. FIA will certainly put their health in front of everything. And on the early days of F1 like 1980s, the sounds were much bigger than today, but the drivers’ audition are still good when they get old. You could always see old F1 drivers like Niki Lauda appears in the pits and talks to other people with the huge engine sound on the track. They can prove there should be no worries about staff and drivers’ audition. Second, I think the engine sound is much more exciting than the sound of tires and gear changes. Now let the statistic speaks for me, this year the number of audience has reduced by more than10% so far than last year. In China F1 loses more than 30million audience this year. Please do not forget, this number is just in China, but what about other place in the world, there must be more loss. On some hot website like Top Gear, if someone mentions this year’s F1, almost everyone will express their disappoints with the engine sound. So it seems that most of the audience have the same opinion with me. If FIA does not fix the engine sound problem, they will no longer have any interests in F1, the decline of the audience number will cause serious job problems.
This map below shows all of the countries which will have F1 race this year.
You could see how popular F1 is all around the world. There are more than 2 billion people watch F1 every single race. Such big number of audience make F1 becomes a very profitable race. It provides a lot of relative jobs like engineers andtechnicians. F1 helps many people get a job to feed themselves or their families. If the number of audience decreases a lot, F1 may not able to continue, it will let a lot of people lose their jobs. The world economy has not fully recovered yet, it will be very hard for these people to find a new job. So FIA must do something to maintain the number of audience, they must enact new engine rules.
Actually FIA knows they have made a mistake, and they are trying to fix this problem. But their solution is based on they do not change the engine. Their preliminary idea is that they could put a kind of sound amplifier in the car, and make the engine sounds louder. I do not like this way, this is not the true sound of the engine. I think audience like hearing the natural sound of the engine, not the sound which be revised by FIA on purpose.
Here are my suggestions to change the engine sounds. I have come up with four ideas may could make the engine sounds better. First idea I came up is the most fundamental one: change the engine. I know it is impossible to change the engine this year, but FIA could change it next year or later. Because it is Formula One, FIA should not think too much about saving the fuel, they should think how to make the F1 cars faster and faster. Letting other race like 24 Le Mans to save fuel. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying we should not protect our environment. I am an environmentalist, I just think F1 should keep being what it should be. Actually I think F1 cannot save too much fuel per a year by using a V6 engine. So why do not let F1 use more fuels and bring us much more happiness. My second idea is FIA could put a butterfly valve in the F1, it is a small device which can make a huge change of the engine sound. You could even adjust its opening angle to let engine make a completely different sound. Nowadays a lot of sports car have a butterfly valve, so F1 also could put it into the car. My third idea is to rise the engine’s rotate speed, now the engine’s rotate speed is restricted. I recommend to remove this restriction, so the engine will achieve a higher rotate speed, and then comes the high-pitch and nicer sound. My last idea is that FIA could allow F1 teams make an engine with a bigger displacement, letting the engine be 2.4 liter, not just 1.6 liter. I think it may could have some changes on the sound.
Finally, I just want to say the engine sound is the essence of F1. In some small countries like Singapore or Monaco, every time when there was a F1 race, the whole country can heard the F1 was running. What a sound that is, I really hope I could hear such nice sound in F1 again. This is many people’s favorite sports event, please do not kill it.