“Formula 1, by its nature and essence, is a sport dedicated to perpetual change. The inherent mutability of the category under our analysis is, of course, a result of the need to constantly challenge the clock while the legislator, from time to time, must reshape the rules to prevent the cars from turning into missiles with all the associated safety issues.
The pinnacle of motorsport is also a realm of contradictions: the more it adapts to the technological trajectory that must be traversed at breakneck speed, the more it generates restless reactions from the most staunch fans who remain tied to patterns that cannot be eternal.
F1: Turbo-Hybrid Power Units Have Revitalized the Sound
During the winter preceding the 2014 season, the season that marked the technical revolution banning naturally aspirated engines, the fanbase was able to observe that the new turbo-hybrid gems had a significant deficiency compared to their predecessors. We’re not talking about power or the ability to deliver horsepower, which, thanks to electric motor generators and the turbine, increased significantly in quantity. The new generation engines were quiet, almost mute. This is a major flaw that has not been corrected over the years.
The reason for the sound decline? Blame it on the smaller displacement and significantly lower rotational speeds of the internal combustion unit component. These factors definitively eradicated that sweet – and deafening – roar that almost shattered the eardrums of onlookers every time a car sped by. Among the many changes fans have had to observe – and endure – this is perhaps the one they have accepted the least.
After exactly ten years of turbo-hybrid power units, there has been an improvement in terms of sound. But nothing to warrant exclaiming ‘miracle.’ The FIA, in collaboration with the teams, tried a variety of strategies, including placing a sort of megaphone at the exhaust to amplify the noise. These ridiculous tactics could only meet rejection. Perhaps it would have been better not to propose them at all.
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Now, looking ahead to 2026, there is a contemplation of reinvigorating a subdued, flat, and not-so-marketable sound. This matter of marketable spectacle, as known, is much to the liking of Liberty Media, who are adept at packaging a product to make it more appealing. The new engine regulations that will take effect in 2026, and which will see the abolition of one of the two electric motors (the MGU-H), are expected to reshape the acoustics of the power units, potentially restoring depth and vibrancy.
F1: Stefano Domenicali Wants to Amp Up the Engine Noise
“The intention is to ensure that in the new regulations, the engine is louder because it’s part of our emotion. It’s truly what our fans want, and it’s our duty to commit to this,” Stefano Domenicali stated a couple of months ago.
Simultaneously, in the context of increasing decibels, the Imola-native manager strongly asserted that Formula One will not shift towards quieter electric powertrains. The hybrid standard will remain, and while it cannot return to the sonorous splendor of naturally aspirated engines, it aims to significantly improve the produced harmony.
How will this objective be achieved? For now, there are no concrete proposals, but the FIA’s analogous interest is noted, indicating a desire for a more captivating ‘sound.’ However, as has been the case for the past couple of years, the Place de la Concorde entity and Liberty Media have found no peace, allowing tensions to overshadow the harmony that is needed when dealing with such delicate matters.
F1, PU sound: FIA Agrees but Wants to Do It Their Way
It’s the International Federation that writes the rules for the championships under its umbrella. The energetic president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has reported that he’s in discussions with Stefano Domenicali to achieve a dual purpose: having lighter cars and better sound for the power units. Many negotiations are ongoing between teams and ownership. The FIA, in this context, maintains its role as a rule-maker, preferably as impartial as possible.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem reiterated this to Total-Motorsport in an eloquent passage: ‘Decisions are up to us. Even if Stefano wants these changes, that’s great. But it’s us who will make them feasible. We won’t do it because a team or FOM wants it, but because it’s right for the sport. We need to be careful about who has what role. Clarity is always beneficial for the future: meddling in the affairs of the other side isn’t a good idea.’
Therefore, the FIA asserts its role as regulator-organizer-judge, even though within the F1 Commission, it carries as much weight as the teams and Liberty Media. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the other two parties, the ownership and the teams, lack the authority and competence to write the rules, not to mention the required impartiality. The FIA must ensure this element to prevent any individual party from benefiting from a regulatory framework.
Beyond what might be thought about this tension among the three top figures in motorsport, Ben Sulayem’s warning is not only permissible but also righteous. The Federation must have a free hand within well-defined procedural rules. This must happen even if it’s determined to produce louder power units.”
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica