Video: Five of the best-sounding Formula 1 engines
Recent bad press over the sound of the new-for-2014, 1.6-litre turbocharged engines in Formula 1 got us thinking: among the various cylinder and capacity configurations used since the world championship began in 1950, which powerplants have sounded the best? Turn up the volume!
Renault led the turbocharged revolution in F1 in 1977, with its 1.5-litre, V6 turbo EF1 unit. The French motor powered the yellow racers to 15 wins between 1979 and 1983, but would struggle against rival engines from BMW, Porsche and Honda over the next three years. After a sabbatical in 1987-’88, Renault returned with a 3.5-litre V10 and a tie-up with Williams. The multi-cylinder screamer was immediately on the pace, giving Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese 11 podiums in 1989, including two wins. Over the next five years, the derivatives of the same engine took 36 wins, drivers’ titles in 1992 and ’93 and constructors’ crowns in ’92, ’93 and ’94.
TAG V6 turbo
Built by Porsche at the behest of McLaren, which needed to take the fight to its turbocharged rivals, the TAG-branded TTE-P01 V6 turbo first appeared in the back of Niki Lauda’s MP4/1 in the 1983 Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Its inauspicious debut – Lauda qualified 19th and retired with cooked brakes after 25 of the 72 laps – was soon forgotten when V6 turbo-powered McLarens powered Lauda and Alain Prost to the drivers’ title in the next three seasons and the constructors’ crown in ’84 and ’85.
This eccentric – supercharged, 1.5-litres, 16-cylinders! – British-built monster was recalcitrant in the extreme but made a noise as distinctive as anything that ever troubled a decibel meter. The unit comprised two 750cc V8s with shared cam drives and gears sited in the middle and gave its creative team much trouble. Mounted in the front of British Racing Motors’ P51, it failed to start its maiden world championship race, the 1950 British GP. Brave Brits Reg Parnell and Peter Walker fared better a year later, with fifth and seventh respectively among the Ferrari and Alfa Romeo superteams. The cars appeared again at Monza but didn’t start the race after practice gearbox trouble. Apart from a few non-championship outings, that was it for this original wacky racer.
Ford Cosworth DFV V8
June 4, 1967 was a high-water mark day in F1 engine technology. A three-litre, double four-valve (DFV) V8, designed by Brits Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth and bankrolled by Ford, appeared in the back of the Lotus 49s of Jim Clark and Graham Hill for the Dutch GP at Zandvoort, the third race on that year’s world championship schedule. A debut pole position (Hill) and victory (Clark) for the powerplant set the bar pretty high for Cosworth and the DFV would become the ultimate, off-the-shelf customer F1 engine, taking 154 more wins until 1983 in the back of Lotus, McLaren, Matra, Brabham, March, Tyrrell, Hesketh, Penske, Wolf, Shadow, Ligier and Williams chassis.
From its sonorous first appearance on the streets of Monte Carlo in 1968 to its swansong around the car park of a Las Vegas hotel at the end of 1982, the delicious wail of the French Matra 3-litre V12 enraptured fans. And it still does.
It was Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise who started the craze with the MS11 in that ’68 Monaco GP and, 125 races later, Eddie Cheever and Jacques Laffite who played the final notes at Caesar’s Palace in their JS19s. There were only three victories – all for Laffite – in that 15-year period but it didn’t matter: the French-blue racers and their spell-binding sound were winners to every0ne who heard them.