Mercedes test 'megaphone' exhausts
Mercedes will play the role of guinea pig this week as Formula One looks to pump up the volume.
One of the major complaints the sport has encountered for many years is to be addressed during a test session at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
Either on Tuesday or Wednesday, Mercedes will run a device designed to increase the sound level of the current 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units.
This season the ear-splitting roar of the old V8s has been replaced by more of a rumble from the V6s, to such an extent the cars in the support series of GP2 and GP3 are now far louder.
That has resulted in criticisms from fans and, far more importantly, as far as F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is concerned, circuit bosses and race promoters, with the 83-year-old meeting the latter group in Barcelona ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday.
It is understood the shape of the exhaust exit will be altered on the Mercedes, which has quickly been dubbed a 'megaphone'.
Providing the noise level is acceptable, and crucially the level of the car's performance is not compromised, it is almost certain to be introduced in the short term.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: "I'm sure everybody is looking forward to hearing what the 'megaphone' is going to be like.
"We were asked by the FIA and Bernie to put the device on the car, and then to see if it really is effective.
"We're pretty clear - if the fans want to have more noise, and if it's making the car not only sound better, but it's perceived to be more attractive, then we'll go for it.
"Hopefully the other teams will vote in favour as well. As you know, as it's out of the technical regulations, if you want something implemented in the season then you need a unanimous vote.
"There are not many times in the paddock when you have unanimous votes, so that's going to be an interesting one."
The argument against is the sport has been forced to implement an artificial element in order to increase the decibel level rather than the noise being emitted naturally from the engine itself.
For the sake of the show, however, needs must for now, although Wolff can appreciate the positive aspects of the tone from the current power units.
"It's an interesting moment in time for Formula One," added Wolff.
"Traditionally you would have said - and this is the first thought I had - Formula One needs to be loud to be spectacular because this is why we are here.
"Why are we making loud AMG cars? Because they sound spectacular, and it somehow means power. Maybe now that's changing.
"I had a discussion with someone the other day and we were looking at GP3, and it is much louder than Formula One.
"Is that actually what we want to happen? He said 'Yeah, I couldn't take my family to Formula One before, now I can'.
"Maybe the future is going to be the most powerful cars are not going to be the most noisy ones. It's about technology.
"Honestly, I don't know where it's going. I think we need to test it.
"Obviously we're not talking about a loudspeaker on the back of the car. It's a change to the exhaust, which you see in road cars.
"We'll then see if it's more spectacular and how we perceive that."