BETTER THAN BEFORE: Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says the new exhaust is a bit louder than before during pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain. Image: AFP / Jose Jordan
Barcelona, Spain — It sounds like Formula 1 has failed in its attempt to bring back loud engine roars.
Some drivers, teams and fans say they did not notice a significant increase in sound when cars made it to the track for the first time this week in pre-season testing in Barcelona.
F1 forced teams to introduce a modified exhaust system to try to boost the engine sound after widespread complaints that cars weren't loud enough, but the effects fell short of most expectations.
Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg said the car "sounds similar" to what it did in 2015. Sauber driver Felipe Nasr noticed only "a little" increase in the engine sound.
Red Bull's chief engineer officer Rob Marshall said F1 would have been better off without the exhaust changes.
Marshall told The Associated Press: "I think the new exhausts are a waste of time. I don't think it has made it any noisier. I think it just made the car a bit heavier."
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel noticed a positive difference.
Vettel said: "I can say it is nice to have a bit more sound coming back. It is still not as loud as it could or should be but it is a lot better than it was, now sounds a bit more like F1."
The new exhausts were among the few regulation changes for 2016, along with an increase in the size of the head-protection area in the cockpit. The modification in the cockpit was made to better protect the drivers, while the one in the exhaust system was aimed solely to make the cars noisier and please the fans.
"I think it's a little bit better," McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said, before pausing to rethinking his answer, "Isn't it?"
Some drivers said the improvement, if any, was minimal.
"It's a very small difference, to be honest," Force India driver Sergio Perez said. "I don't think there's a massive difference from last year."
Perez noted that the Circuit de Barcelona may give a false impression of improvement because the track is compact and cars are always racing close by, so they are heard from nearly everywhere in the facility.
'Bring back old engines'
"I think the cars sound the same as they did before, perhaps just a little throatier," said 31-year-old Spaniard fan Dani Huguet, a regular at the track. "They need to try something else to improve this, either by changing the size of this turbo of going back to the old engines, which is what everybody really wants."
The F1 sound changed dramatically after extensive rule changes were implemented two years ago. The series switched from ear-splitting V8 engines to V6 turbo power units, taking away one of the sport's biggest attractions.
Although F1 knew it could not restore the same levels of the V8 engine, it tried to improve the sound by making teams switch from the single exhaust system they used last season to twin exhaust pipes that theoretically make the sound a bit heavier.
Felipe Nasr said cars are still developing and it's too early to say that the change did not really affect the sound of cars.
"I think it's a little higher already," he said. "We can't judge right away."
Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg did not need any more time to reach his conclusion.
"There's no difference, it sounds similar to me," he said.