It’s working! The Furby of F1 cars is bringing families back

I noticed this article yesterday by the dashingly handsome and fearsomely talented Mr. Benson over at the BBC and it caught my attention because like most things these days, being the contrarian—and my how society has bred a pot full of them who instantly take a contrary position the moment anything big happens via their preferred social media outlet—gives you instant appeal, clicks, press coverage et. al.

The story is centered on the sound of the current specification of Formula 1 car and while F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t like them much—and many, many fans don’t either—it seems some Malaysian fans think they’re great. Why is this you ask?

According to Andrew’s delightful article, Razlan Razali, head of the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, says that he feels the quieter engines have created a new fan base for the series:

“We were concerned after the feedback from Australia. Very concerned. When it finally came to Malaysia, I didn’t like it. It was simply too quiet.

“But what I noticed in the grandstands is that you get families with kids watching and enjoying Formula 1 better.

“I can remember in the past where a dad would put headphones on the kid and hold it. Or a kid would be too scared and start crying, wanting to go home. I think it attracts a new breed of fanbase now. And that’s what you want.”

There you have it! Families are interested again because it is not as loud as the old cars. Now, as you would imagine, Andrew does a much better job of actually unpacking the story so check it out at the link below.

Now at the risk of being the contrarian to the contrarian, we all know kids hate loud things. It’s not like all those damned toys with batteries make loud noises that annoy the heck out of parents right? As Mr. E himself says, what kid is going to be buying a Rolex this year anyway?

While F1 contemplates a return to 1,000 bhp engines, perhaps we are moving too quickly on this whole engine sound issue? To be perfectly fair, the current specification of F1 engine is an amazing piece of kit, folks. It really is. While F1 teams and the organization itself didn’t do a very good job of explaining the technology to its fans, I can tell you that it is an incredible engine—it just sounds like crap.

No shock that when you tell engineers in F1 that they will now be able to harvest energy from exhaust, this is the result. To be honest, I’m surprised these egg-heads have left any exhaust coming out the engine at all such is their technical prowess of exploiting every single technology innovation angle.

So, if quieter F1 cars are possibly luring families back, at least in Malaysia, then perhaps what we really need is just a different exhaust note? Maybe one that’s not so…flatulent? Maybe if we could make an F1 car no louder or annoying than the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn – Learning Puppy or perhaps the Dora the Explorer Tunes Guitar, then we could lure families back to F1 by the hoard.

I will close by saying that when I was a kid, I heard a Ferrari V12 at full tilt and was forever hooked…that sucker was loud and it was awesome and it shook the earth and sometimes people fell down. That was F1 to me as a kid and while I know that the world is changing, I will still cling to the memory while I watch the Furby version of F1 cars (the F in F1 stands for Furby now) run around the track because, like Malaysian families, I love the sport.

Hat Tip: The Ball Popper Andrew Benson at the BBC

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