Only A Game? - The sound I loved so well

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in action last year.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in action last year.

There’s no sound quite like that of a F1 speeding around the track during a Grand Prix.

I’ve done my fair share of impressions of what a F1 racing car sounds like in my time. The high pitched, ‘neooooowwwwhhhh’ is without question one of most satisfying and exciting sounds in sport.

Last Sunday, with scrambled eggs, bagel and two extra strong cups of coffee, I readied myself and 6am it was lights out - the new season had started with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The race started brilliantly. There was overtaking, Lewis Hamilton was swallowed up by his team mate Nico Rosberg and several drivers’ brakes locked up but, and it’s a big but, there was something missing. The sound I and many others loved so well was gone.

The high pitched ‘neooooowwwwhhhh’ had been replaced with a guttural growl.

At first, I thought something was wrong with Fernando Alonso’s F14 engine. It didn’t sound right but it wasn’t until the camera zoomed out for the first crossing of the finish line that I realised that this was a sound coming from every single car in the race. It sounded awfully boring, dull and disappointing.

I went to my first ever Grand Prix last year when I cheered Fernando Alonso and Ferrari over the finish line at the Circuit de Catalunya. I remember one of the things that caught my eye on the walk through Montmeló was the amount of people selling ear plugs.

I bought a pair and pretty soon after the cars started their engine, it became clear why.

The sound of the cars that day were awesome. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before or since. I was hooked and remember thinking if there was ever a sport that gave an entirely different experience to what it is like watching it on television, F1 was it.

If the engineers of the cars are anything to go by then this year’s cars perform better but this shouldn’t come at the expense as something so unique and defining as the high pitched ‘neooooowwwwhhhh’.

In the days which followed the race I scoured the Internet for a comparison of of this year’s sound of the cars with last year’s sound. Eventually I found one. If I had any doubt, the video dispelled it and in the last few days it has gone viral.

In the last year, F1 has changed from using 2.4-litre V8 engines down to 1.6-litre V6 engines with turbos. I knew something had to be up when I found myself agreeing with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Ecclestone, who has been a long time critic of the decision to move from V8 to V6 engines was said to have been “horrified” by the lack of sound and is reported to have instructed that the issue be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker went one further and suggested the deeper growl instead of the famous scream of the V8 was a breach of their contract with F1. Walker is quoted as saying “this is not what we paid for”.

Walker and Ecclestone are indeed right.

Of course when it comes to a sport like motor racing the latest technology must be embraced but F1 is big, noisy and brash not plain, quiet and reserved. Altogether now!

What do we want? We want the high pitched ‘neooooowwwwhhhh’. When do we want it? Now.