• The Inside Line

V8 nostalgia

Kate Walker May 23, 2014
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I've not changed my mind about the sound of the 2014 engines. Far from it, in fact - the more time I spend trackside, listening to the cars, the more I like about the whizz of the turbo, of the gurgles and pops that contribute to the aural tapestry of Formula One in 2014.

Each engine sounds different, and - thanks to the various fuel and lubricants used - they also smell different in close quarters, with McLaren's Mobil giving off a different scent to Mercedes' Petronas, despite the basic units themselves being the same.

But on Thursday in Monaco I had a brief moment of mourning for the V8 engines, for their death has lessened the impact of one of the greatest privileges of life as a member of the F1 press corps.

While journalists can go trackside at any circuit of their choosing, Monaco is special. Not only can you get up close and personal with the cars as they jink through Piscine, or slow down around the Nouvelle Chicane, but you can stand in the tunnel itself, the most physical experience Formula One has to offer. At least, it used to be.

In 2012, I wrote about my first experience of watching a session from the tunnel: "Standing in the tunnel as car after car rushes past - sometimes even passing each other in the narrow confines - was something else entirely. As a car enters the tunnel, you can feel the vibrations start in your feet. As the car gets closer, your legs start to pulse as the ground rumbles beneath you. And as the car passes, you can feel the pistons moving inside your stomach, rattling your organs one by one.

"And the noise. Oh, the noise. It's a physical experience, and not only because it strips you of your eardrums. Who needs eardrums, anyway? The sound of the engine enters your skull, bounces around your cranium, and then works its way down into your veins, so that you are throbbing at 18,000rpm. Every fibre of your being is buffeted by sound, and the combination of noise and physical sensation means you feel part of the car, part of the F1 experience, in a way I'd never heretofore imagined."

Eager to repeat the experience, during FP1 a colleague and I made our way to the tunnel before the session began, keen to spend as much time there as possible.

To say it was a disappointing experience would be something of an understatement.

Of course, you would need to have a heart of stone not to get excited by being up close and personal with the cars, to watch the drivers wrestling with their steering wheels as rear ends twitched and tyres struggled for grip.

But for sheer physicality and aural devastation? Sadly, there was none to be had. No need for ear plugs, nor even for fingers in your ears. We maintained a (shouted) conversation the whole time we were in the tunnel, and no comedy mis-hearings ensued.

Worst of all, there were no vibrations, no rumbles, and no shaking of organs. It was a spectator sport, and not a fully immersive F1 experience. It's a shame, but it's a small price to pay to try and safeguard the long-term future of the sport. I guess.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.