Are The New F1 Engines Too Quiet? Yes. But…

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding the lack of noise at the Australian GP. It’s a shame really, because it’s overshadowed what was in my opinion an exciting race and the fact that these cars are a lot better for racing than their predecessors. The power units themselves I think are quite an interesting idea. They make the cars more difficult to drive, which in theory should mean that drivers will really be tested and have to show their skills more, and they allow higher top speed. They even sound nice. I do think they are too quiet, but the noise itself I like a lot more than the ear splitting V8 screamers. I like the lower, more growly tone. I like the whistling of the turbo under braking and the whirring of the electrical power.

The issue I have with people complaining about the noise levels isn’t so much about the noise. It’s more because people are acting like it’s the only thing that makes F1. I think if the racing is tight and more of the grid has a chance to win consistently, then it can only be a good thing. I’m sure they can increase the sound of the engines to some extent if they wanted to, but don’t you want racing cars to be loud because they are inherently loud? Rather than because they are tuned to be, like annoying kids tuning their first car to sound fast when they aren’t.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I really want to be able to crank the TV volume up and enjoy the revs and shifts with the nice new sounding V6 turbo engines. Without being deafened by the commentators who aren’t drowned out like they used to be that is. Overall though, even without considering the engine change, the aerodynamic and tyre changes make F1 better anyway.

Maybe they should just leave the engines alone and just turn the sound from the onboard camera microphones up.


F1 2011 Testing So Far

Testing has been interesting so far. As always, the times are not generally representitive of actual pace under race conditions. Not only this, but many teams still aren’t running their Bahrain packages which means they have several major upgrades to come before the first race, which may or may not take place, due to the current problems in that part of the world.

Going back to the cars themselves, from what people close to the sport are saying, Red Bull appear to have the best car, unsurprisingly blitzing everyone else in terms of down force, with reports suggesting that they can use their movable rear wing in the middle of high speed corners. If true, it would be a massive advantage in qualifying if they were the only team able to do this.

I’m a bit fearful that despite everyone talking up their chances, especially last year’s new teams Lotus and Virgin, that they will once again flop and will still be in effectively a championship of their own. Lotus have the best chance to make an improvement but I think that they will again struggle to keep up with the back of the established pack, especially with Toro Rosso appearing from early indications that they might have a relatively competitive car on their hands.

The other recent news that excites me is that Tonio Liuzzi has been tested by HRT in Barcelona this weekend which I hope will lead to him landing that race seat. I think he was treated abominably by Force India, especially when most of the incidents that happened to him last year were mechanical and not his fault. I did mention before that he could end up being paid twice this year, and that looks increasingly likely, as I can’t see any better candidates for that second Hispania seat than him when you consider his fast experience of modern F1 cars that almost no other contender can match.

He’s a seasoned campaigner and even though the HRT will no doubt be very uncompetitive, it’s still a drive and it still keeps him in the sport he loves to compete in, and that’s got to be a great thing for him. Especially as excellent drivers like Nico Hulkenberg are having to sit out the season.

Mercedes are a team that everyone thought would bring themselves into contention as the fourth real contender after suffering a dismal 2010 compared to their championship winning form the previous year. Up until today their pace and reliability were both a concern. Pleasingly, they seem to be getting a grip on the teething problems with various parts of the car and Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in today’s test session. While this doesn’t necessarily prove they have genuine pace, it’s at least a positive sign of things to come.

Likewise, Renault who have also been tipped to challenge for wins this season have had one massive setback, the injury to star driver Robert Kubica. It’s hard to gauge how well they will do this year, but I’m glad for Nick Heidfeld that he’s been given a final chance to prove himself in what is believed to be a competitive car. He’s known for his consistency as opposed to pure speed but he should still prove to be a worthy replacement for Kubica, even if he probably won’t be able to match the Pole’s pace in the car.

McLaren were the third fastest team this year, and everyone seemed sure that they would be even more competitive this year. They’ve had car trouble and their running time has been considerably cut down from what they wanted. Whether their car is as fast as it looks is unknown but Lewis Hamilton was fastest this morning until Rosberg took that honour in the afternoon session. I don’t think you could ever count out a team like McLaren anyway. They’ve shown multiple times, especially in 2009 that they can turn a terrible car into a race-winner with regular in-season upgrades.

Whether or not Bahrain happens in March or not, whenever and wherever the first race is, I hope as many teams are competitive as possible, so we can see the best racing possible. If only they would leave the regulations alone for one season to give the smaller teams a chance to catch up, because there’s only so fast a car can go under a set of static regulations. However, the changes in the last few years have allowed some great things to happen such as Brawn GP and Red Bull elevating themselves to glory. I suppose when you consider those things, you would still prefer to have constant technical changes but perhaps there needs to be a kind of trade-off where the regulations only change every other year or only when absolutely necessary.


Virgin Racing MVR-02 2011 Car Launch


Virgin Racing MVR-02


Today was the turn of the latest F1 team to launch their 2011 car. Virgin Racing, now officially named with Marussia, the Russian sports car maker and major sponsor in the title, unveiled their new car at the BBC television centre. I really like the shape of the new car over the previous one. The nose last year was quite unique in that it was very slim at the tip, similar to the one Red Bull started with in 2009 before they changed it later on in the season.

The new nose is very reminiscent of most of the other cars on the grid, and it’s clear that they were trying to incorporate everything they could from the leading cars to try and gain ground on their rivals. You wouldn’t expect anything less in F1. Like the other 2011 cars we’ve seen, gone is the long engine cover stretching back to the rear wing, and in its place is a still nicely shaped but smaller version.

Also gone is the tribal style livery that the team started with in 2010. Although, it’s probably been replaced on the car for most of last season as well, when sponsor additions called for livery changes. I think it looks nicer and cleaner anyway.

Other changes aren’t as obvious but I’m sure the car will be much stronger this year. Whether they will still be fighting with Lotus or not remains to be seen. I very much hope they’ll be with the tail end of the main pack as opposed to stuck battling HRT for this season. I think Lotus are likely to make big progress due to their more aggressive car design, Renault engines and Red Bull gearboxes. I hope Virgin can keep up with them but it’s going to be difficult unless they’ve made significant performance improvements with aero and in its use of the Cosworth engine.

I’m going to be rooting for all the smaller teams and hoping they all claw their way into contention for points this season.


McLaren MP4-26 Launch

McLaren launched their new car for 2011 in Berlin today. At first, it was hard to notice any real differences between this car and the 2010 challenger. However, upon closer inspection, you can see that the car features very distinctive L-shaped sidepods, the likes of which we haven’t seen before. Whether or not they make a great deal of difference aerodynamically remains to be seen, but you certainly can’t fault the McLaren engineers on their ingenuity and originality.

I was however very surprised to see essentially the same front wing and nose as the previous model, which was evolved during the last campaign. They haven’t really got aggressive with the design of that part of the car in the same way that Mercedes have for example, which is surprising.

The rest of the changes appear to be under the hood, or are just waiting to be added to the car later on during testing or before the Bahrain GP. McLaren have the most experience with KERS of any team as they ran it at if not all the races in 2009, then the vast majority of them. Not only do they have experience with it, which many teams such as Mercedes and champions Red Bull don’t, but they also have what’s widely acknowledged to be the strongest and most reliable KERS unit. That combined with the also very strong and reliable Mercedes engine could put them right at the sharp end of the grid this year.

Jenson has said that the Pirelli tyre characteristics should benefit his gentle style which is another bonus for him and the team. I really think McLaren are going to be far stronger this year and give the other front running teams a lot to think about.