Here’s what F1 used to sound like!

If you’re new-ish to Formula 1, you may not have heard what F1 used to sound like…what a V10 engine in F1 sounded like. When people speak of a distinct wail in a V10 engine, this is what they mean.

When fans call for a return to V8’s, V10’s or V12’s, this is why they say that. Now, as a newer F1 fan, this may not appeal to you but there is a throng of fans out there who still love the sound of a proper ICE and wish it was still the shove behind F1’s cars. Notice I didn’t say “noise” because the sound of this engine has a quality and uniqueness all its own and is not an unwanted combination of random sound waves. It is a very unique and finely tuned piece of machinery with a incredibly distinctive voice.

Love the Heel/Toe move too.

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On the same theme, here’s another great vid showing engine sounds from onboard cameras, going back to the early days & up to the present. Those 1950s cars were absolute beasts to handle, you can see how hard the drivers had to fight around corners … and the same is true when it reaches Senna’s qualifying lap at Jerez in the early 1990s.


That was worth a hundred likes.


Early 90’s are my favorite. Still angry, not as droning.


Late 80s/early 90s – if you’re referring to the clip with Senna in the above video (which was actually 1989) then I definitely agree. Those cars were absolute beasts, and sounded the part.

Just for sake of completeness, here’s Senna’s full qualifying lap which earned him poll…

And why not include Berger’s too – he had more trouble with traffic and really had to fight oversteer on several occasions.

Roger Flerity

I’ve been in and around race cars and bikes for more than 40 years, and suffer massive tinnitus because of it. IMHO, there has never been a bad sounding F1 car, but there have been some unique and memorable audio effects over the years. V6 turbos today, like those before, are of lower volume, but still plenty racy, regardless of the constant whinging about them. Noise is energy, wasted energy not directed at turning wheels. The current cars have engines not much larger than motorcycles (smaller than quite a few, like my 117c.i./1.9L V-twin eardrum blaster making only 12% the… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’m not advocating that they have to be ear-splitting but it sure makes the visceral experience much better. I have tinnitus too but from guitars. :) 900bhp seems a tad high for a total output for the hybrids unless I’ve missed a recent uptick in the performance category lately.

What I did like about the new V6 ICE was that the cars had differing voices again. You could hear the Ferrari’s versus the Mercs and honestly, I thought the Honda sounded really cool.

Admir Šehić

Today it is farting formula, when mclaren is off trottle makes me think of old, early banging cars…


Why do you tease us so?

I think a lot of it goes back to the feeling on man and machine pushing the limit. Sure a driver could be going 10/10ths but if the engine sounds like a hoover it’s less impressive.

Not F1 (obviously) but my favorite sounding car. Sounds like a wild animal under the hood.


Here is another goodie.
ps that channel has tons of pure engine noise and vintage cars.


They sounded much better in the early days of the 3.5 litre era. Notice how low the engine was revving in that video, well below the current 15,000 rpm maximum. The sound of the last V8’s even before they were rev limited (I think BMW were running to about 22,000) were too much of a screen with a ridiculously narrow power band.
I do however like the sound of the 1930s GP cars with the screeming superchargers.

Matt B

As a “new-ish” fan of F1, I wanted to chime in on this thread as Todd – aka @negativecamber:disqus – seems to have been on a tear lately about sound v noise ( both here and on the F1B podcast, and is on again about V10s. This is likely an unpopular opinion, but I don’t care what the car sounds like. Full stop. I totally understand that those of you who have grown up with the howl of V10s are longing for that sound, but as a new fan, I honestly feel that talking about how the “new” engines don’t… Read more »

Negative Camber

Clearly you’re “big pants people”. Loved Kevin. :) Perfectly understandable that the engine sound holds no interest to you. That’s cool. It’s obviously other things that have you hooked and I think that’s great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it as a new-ish F1 fan. It’s always great to hear from newer fans about what appeals to them about F1. I think F1 needs to understand what’s appealing to new fans.