V6, V10, V8… over the years basically every conceivable engine layout has been used in Formula 1 racing. We could go beyond the V, listing engines like BRM’s bonkers H16, but what we wanted to do was compare the sights, and sounds, of the four more recent eras of Formula 1 racing.
Video: ‘80s vs. ‘90s vs. ‘00s vs. ‘10s – which F1 era sounds best?
We start in the 1980s, with a certain Indy 500 winner (Takuma Sato) getting the chance to drive this McLaren MP4-4 up the Hill. The MP4-4 was of course driven by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and powered by Honda’s 1.5-litre, turbocharged, V6 engine. It was a car so mighty it won all but one race in the 1988 season. But does its flatter, turbocharged noise shape up to what followed?
We move into the high-revving V10 era with one of the most iconic cars of its time. The Williams FW14B took Nigel Mansell to his only title in 1992 in dominant style. Powered all the way through by Renault’s sonorous V10, which would be the dominant motor of the 1990s (it won four drivers’ titles, and six constructors).
The V10 era continued well into the 2000s, with the later versions, which revved to an excess of 20,000rpm, represented here by Michael Schumacher’s mighty Ferrari F2004 – one of the most dominant Formula 1 cars of all time. And it sounds incredible, the V10 that sounded amazing in the FW14B has gone from screaming to absolutely bellowing its noise out, with the revs getting higher and higher in search of power over torque.
Finally we move to the last of the F1 screamers. The V8 that replaced the V10 may not have been quite as manic, but even when restricted they still revved up into around 18,000 rpm, making themselves more than heard as they passed. But was that more rounded V8 noise a little less impressive?
So the only question that remains is which era you prefer? We’ve concentrated on the sound that these machines make, but you might judge it on looks, high nose or low nose? Big aero or little? Or you might just have better memories of one year over another. Let us know.