10 Things That Sound Better Than Formula 1’s Horrid Current Power Unit

It may be an awesomely fast racecar, but the current Formula 1 engine sounds like a vacuum humping a goat.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan
Mark Thompson—Getty Images

Formula 1 will descend upon our TVs this weekend in the penultimate season before the series’ current engine regulations are changed. Those regulations haven’t been made public yet, but the series has stated that it hopes to reduce cost, complexity, and promote closer racing. As for the outgoing engines, we’d just like to say this; good riddance. 

The hybrid era of Formula 1 has been one of utter aural disappointment. Succeeding the fantastical V-8s and supernatural V-10s, the hybrid V-6s have been likened to vacuum cleaners, dustbusters, civilized road cars (trust us, that’s a sick burn), and actually saw Bernie Ecclestone—F1’s former czar—say he was “horrified” by the lack of thunder. And we’re with him—at least on this subject and this subject alone. 

Ahead of the rule changes, we’d like to again say don’t let the door hit you on the way out, and offer the FIA a complement of better sounds it could use as a template for the upcoming engines. Honestly though, literally any engine sound would be better than the modern hybrid era. Racing is inherently a spectator sport. We, as fans, want drama and noise in an integral part of that drama. Do better, FIA. 

10.) Rallycross’ 2.0-Liter Turbocharged 4-Cylinder

600 rampaging, stampeding, crashing horses are churned out of the minuscule 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Rallycross engines. The racecars are equipped with anti-lag that sends gunshot-like cracks hurtling through the air keeping the massive single turbocharger connected to the engine spooled. Unlike the current FIA regulations for Formula 1, however, these engines do burn quite a lot of fuel for such small motors. But this is racing, not Greenpeace. 

9.) Formula E’s All-Electric Whirs

Say what you will about Formula E, the racing talent and wheel-to-wheel action is exciting. The series has also produced futuristic whirs, zips, and wild weirdness that tingles the senses. It’s as if Blade Runner met The Jetsons and produced a racecar. If Formula 1 wants to be more climate-conscious, it shouldn’t half-ass it. Go full-ass and make every car electric. Just do so with Rimac’s 1,900 horsepower motors. 

8.) “Shallow” by Lady Gaga

“Shallow” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Visual Media, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, another Grammy for Best Pop Duo, and a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Song. “Shallow” also went platinum in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and a host of other countries. Can Formula 1 claim any of those? We thought not. “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground!”

7.) Nissan’s RB26 Turbocharged Inline 6-Cylinder

Aside from the trick all-wheel-drive system, what made Nissan’s R32, R33, and R34 generations of Skyline GT-R win the hearts and souls of enthusiasts everywhere was its RB26 turbocharged inline 6-cylinder. If you’ve never heard one climb from 1,000 rpm to its 9,000 rpm redline, why are you even reading this website? The RB26 has also been proven to handle a metric ton of horsepower reliably, meaning Formula 1 could return noise and lose little speed. What’s better, Nissan just restarted production of the RB26’s block and it’s dirt cheap. Cost reduction secured. 

6.) Aston Martin’s Cosworth-Built Hybrid 6.5-liter V-12

The Aston Martin Valkyrie’s Cosworth-built 6.5-liter V-12 hybrid is what happens when you give RedBull Racing’s Adrian Newey more money than God and a sheet of white paper. We haven’t yet heard its full song, but Aston Martin has teased us over the last few months with short clips of the 1,000-plus horsepower V-12 revving to its 11,100 rpm redline. And with the addition of the battery technology from Rimac, Formula 1 could still satisfy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal and racing fans everywhere. Win, win. 

5.) Chevrolet’s LS7 7.0-liter V-8

There’s no replacement for displacement or so the old saying goes. Chevrolet’s last-generation LS7 was—and is considering you can still order the engine through Chevrolet Performance—a 7.0-liter big-block V-8 with an 8,000 rpm redline. Lower in the LS7’s rev range it had enough bass to crack mountains clean open and a preternatural yowl at the top that turned enthusiasts into putty. With the LS7, Chevrolet perfected the naturally aspirated V-8. From low to high, it’s brilliant. Use it, Formula 1. 

4.) Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid V-8

Aside from the wildly quick air-powered lug wrenches, imagine an eerily quiet pit lane. The racecars are moving, but they’re doing so in absolute silence. Then, when they reach the exit, all hellfire breaks loose as the race-spec V-8 sends a fusillade of violent sonic vibrations into the grandstands. That was the character of Toyota’s TS030 racecar and its hybrid V-8. It would enter the pit silently and then blast back onto the racing line. The hybrid V-8 has noise and fuel frugality. Sounds good to us.

3.) Trombone Guy on a Moped

We’re not sure we have to explain why this is better than the current engines, so we’ll just move on.

2.) BRM’s Supercharged 1.5-liter V-16

Our last two choices had us fighting amongst ourselves about which nabs first place and which follows. They’re both small displacement engines, both with some form of forced induction, and both designed for Formula 1 competition. However, only one produced actual race wins, which is why BRM’s supercharged 1.5-liter V-16 comes second. The V-16 was designed in 1947 and raced until 1955. Even though the engine was lilliputian in construction, the supercharged engine produced 600 horsepower and revved to 12,000 rpm. It was overly complex and prone to failure. But when the V-16 worked, sweet all father did it moisten people’s respective loins. 

1.) Honda’s 1.5-liter turbocharged V-6

Whereas the current turbocharged hybrid V-6s sounds like a vacuum cleaner humping a goat, the turbocharged V-6s of Ayrton Senna’s era produced a sound that was as sweet as crystalized honey sprinkled with Pop Rocks. Granted, Honda’s engines were pushing absurd amounts of fuel through their systems and there was much less interference between the engine and exhaust’s exit, you cannot deny that the basic design that’s used today could produce a similar noise to something we’ve all come to worship. Honda or McLaren has to have a few lying around somewhere. Just dust them off and let’s get back out on the track.