Today the Mercedes AMG F1 team introduced a new exhaust for their F1 challenger designed for the sole purpose of making the new V6 power units louder after complaints that the sport is "too quiet" after they got rid of the V8 engines the sport has been using since 2006. While it is obvious that the new V6's don't emit the same noise that the engines of the past did, why does this warrant a complaint? F1 has proved to be a leader in integrating new technology into the sport, so over time, changes like this should be expected. I'll be the first to admit that I like the sound the V8's made more, but I'm not totally against the V6's, and certainly not to the point that I'd sue because it's not as loud.
In the past, when F1 made a regulation change to "make the sport more exciting to watch" most people who followed the sport claimed that it was ruining and cheapening the sport. However, most of those changes actually have made the races more exciting and have added something positive to the "entertainment" factor of the sport. For instance, it's way more exciting to watch a battle where DRS is a factor than when its obvious that driver A is just going to pull away from driver B on the straight because driver A's car is faster in a straight line, thus ending a battle for position. Also, that isn't just for show, either. When drivers are put in a position where the guy behind them has a chance at passing them on the straight, it makes them more careful to defend their position, so more driver skill is involved than just pulling away and lapping the track by themselves.
The difference between those changes (I'll continue to use DRS as an example) and this new "megaphone exhaust" is that DRS actually changes the driving dynamics of the car. It makes the driver do something differently in order to drive the car effectively. This exhaust is purely for show. There's no purpose other than to make more noise, it doesn't change (or improve) the sport, and it doesn't show what the sport is really about. Formula One is supposed to be about going fast, and showcasing the top drivers and manufacturers in the world. With this idea, the viewers should naturally go to Formula One. If they like it -great, if they don't -then fine, they don't have to watch. The exhaust is the opposite of that, though. Its F1 trying to appeal to the audience. It's saying "Here, you think we're boring, look at this thing we can do to be less boring!" And that's the real problem here. Why should the teams feel pressured to make some kind of gimmick in order to appeal to the audience, why can't we just go with what's happening now, and over time we'll get used to it.
Photo credit: Sutton Images