For the past two years Formula One's boss Bernie Ecclestone has been critical of the new engine regulations which are due to come into force next year. His concern is that the new 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engines will sound so different to the current V8s that it will drive fans away from the races. Dissent has also come from the back of the grid as the new power-plants will cost far more than the V8s and this could put F1's smaller teams under pressure. They weren't the only ones who voiced concern.
Ecclestone's view was shared by Ron Walker, chairman of the Australian Grand Prix, who was so worried about the changes that he formed the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA) as Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt revealed in 2011. FOPA's objective was to safeguard the circuits' interests in F1 and its first achievement was getting the original specification of four-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbocharged engines switched to the V6s which are due to be introduced next year. However, it didn't appease the critics.
Earlier this year Walker told Sylt that the V6 "sounds like a lawnmower engine, and we will be fighting this tooth and nail. So, I am planning to get all the promoters together in Geneva some time before June to work out an agenda in order to preserve the status of the circuits once and for all."
All the while, certain F1 observers continually criticised Ecclestone and Walker and reassured readers that that the new engines will not put fans off the sport. One proclaimed that he has "heard both a simulation of the new engines and one of them running on the dyno, and while it is true to say that the sound will be rather different from the screaming V8 dinosaurs of the current era, they are not going to sound any worse than the turbos of the 1980s did. And I don't remember them driving fans away. Far from it, in fact."
These contrarian views seemed to be driven by deliberate bias against Ecclestone and Walker which ironically itself does readers a great disservice. As Pitpass recently reported, disregarding Ecclestone's view is not the most sensible of things but doing this deliberately is just plain foolhardy. Nevertheless, with no direct evidence to go on you can understand why readers would take their word for it. That all changed last week.
On Friday, Renault unleashed on the public an audio sample of its 2014 F1 engine. Coincidentally, it came just as F1's governing body, the FIA, was announcing the verdict of its case against Pirelli and Mercedes.
We could say that the engine noise sounds quieter than the hairdryer Sylt uses to sculpt his quiff. However, we would rather hand this over to the fans.
So, it's over to the public, starting with comments on the audio sample which has been viewed the most times on Youtube. It currently has had nearly 100,000 views at the time of writing with 101 liking it and 228 disliking it. The feedback became so negative that one reader had to step in and say "guys please stop being so negative. Yes it doesn't sound great, but I'm sure it'll sound better when the engines are in the cars. Most likely we'll get used to it and love it after a while." Sounds like one heck of a gamble.
The following is a tiny selection of the feedback from Youtube and some online F1 forums. So much for the reassurances that the new engines will not put fans off the sport.
"Well, let us say that it does not quite sound the same as Berger's 1989 Ferrari at Estoril 1989, that I just listened to in Youtube. (Full race available from Berger's in-car camera.)"
"It's an hairdryer not an engine!"
"This is NOT a F1 sound! ... It's a disgrace! I always prayed it could not be this. Who of you is gonna not to laugh to see Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen racing with this sh*t? My vespa sounds better ..."
"Im no sound expert but these engines sound flat, im guessing it is the lack of the extra 4000 rpm we get from the v8."
"Sounds too flat and synthesised to me"
"I really do hope it sounds better in real life."
"It sounds like a video-game."
"My vacuum cleaner is louder!"
"Damn, that sound is disappointing."
"That. was. bad. Sounds very weak to me."
"I'm sorry to swear mods but that sounds fuc#ing awful"
"Like a bee in a lift."