Looking back over the top moments of 2014, we move to #19, when Formula One moved to its new engine formula.
For eight seasons – 2006 through 2013 – Formula One cars were powered by a 2.4-liter V-8 engine.
For 2014, the Formula One engine became a 1.6-liter, turbocharged V-6, a change embraced by… apparently no one. This is the first year since 1988 that turbochargers have been part of F1, and the sound from those turbos, and the inherent difficulty in making any lower-revving, 90-degree V-6 sound pleasant resulted in an exhaust note that Red Bull driver Sebastien Vettel called – well, a four-letter word for “excrement.”
“For the fans it is not good,” Vettel said. “F1 has to be spectacular, and the sound is one of the most important things.” The promoters of the Australian Grand Prix even threatened to sue over the noise, or the lack of it.
“I was not happy with the sound,” said race organizer Ron Walker. “It’s clearly a breach of our contract.” (Really? It’s in the contract? Really?)
"Sorry to be proved right"
Even F1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone was not amused: “I was sorry to be proved right with what I’ve said all along,” Ecclestone groused after the race in Australia. “These cars don’t sound like racing cars.”
There were, of course, some additional changes to the 2014 car: Noses are lower than before. The rear wing design was altered. Gear ratios were fixed. The kinetic energy recovery system, or KERS, is different, due in part to the addition of the turbo, and more powerful. The car is heavier. There are other, smaller changes, and most all of the alterations were made in the name of safety, conservation or cost savings, or some theoretical combination of those commendable goals.
Presumably had we not had those cost-saving initiatives, we might have had even more than just two teams go bankrupt.
For fans, though, the most visible, or at least audible, change for 2014 is those engines, which on some tracks had the F1 cars traveling at slower speeds than GP2 entries.
But when we said practically no one embraced the new engines and their sound, that’s not quite true: Mercedes employees seemed to like it, with powertrain head Andy Cowell actually suggesting it was “musical.” Of course, with Mercedes winning 16 of the 19 races, he could have been thinking of the pleasant sound of a cash register bell.