Augutst 26th, 2012 (F1plus / James Parker).- Formula 1 has always been considered the pinnacle of Motorsport, the most technologically advanced cars doing battle thanks to the cleverest minds in Motorsport, with the world’s most revered drivers at the wheel. It is where many iconic moments have been played out, and legacies created. When we look back through the history books of Formula 1 there are always aspects that every F1 fan recalls. Whether it were the masterminds of the sport, from Colin Chapman to Gordon Murray or Adrian Newey, to legendary drivers and cars such as Prost and Senna, the Lotus 79 and Williams FW14B.
However many people overlook engines as an integral part of Formula 1 history, they are perhaps probably the most important part of both the car and the FIA rulebook, with many different incarnations of engine regulations being imposed in the 62 years of F1 racing. It is possible they are considered the most iconic part of any Formula 1 car; the BMW M12/13 turbo engine pushed the Brabham BT55 into stardom as one of the most iconic F1 cars of all time thanks to its monumental 1500hp. Any person that has visited the Monaco Grand Prix always has their breath taken away by one thing, and one thing only; the noise. Listening to the glorious V10 engine soundtrack of the early 2000’s as it screamed through the tunnel was enough to send the hairs on your neck to stand on end, no matter how much racing you had witnessed as a fan beforehand.
While the turbocharged engines from the 1980’s were possibly the most ridiculous and scary engines we will ever witness in history (1.5L and 1300hp of pure terror), they are perhaps not as loved as their N/A counterparts from the 70’s and beyond. Formula 1 through the 1970’s rode the soundtrack of the glorious Cosworth DFV screaming to an 11,000 rpm rev limit – it going down as one of the most iconic sounds in Motorsport. However there is an engine that perhaps created a legacy with an unshakable reputation, one that still makes many an F1 fan go weak at the knees, and is now considered the greatest F1 engine ever made – The Ferrari 043 V12.
Enzo Ferrari, possibly the most charismatic man in Formula 1 history had long been an admirer of ridiculously powerful engines in Motorsport and this culminated in the now unbroken match between Ferrari and their V12 hearts. His early Le Mans efforts culminated in the 250 Testarossa, 250 GTO, 412P and the 512S, all utilising the iconic V12 in varying forms ranging from 3L’s to the 5L unit used throughout the World Sportscar program. It was a vision that Enzo himself lived by famously stating “Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines” – It is fair to say based on 5 Le Mans victories in a row you cannot really argue with him.
But with the 043 V12, we are simply not just talking about 50’s and 60’s Le Mans technology here, it was the definitive V12 engine in Ferrari’s arsenal for the assault on Formula 1, it had been in development since 1989 during the renowned 3.5L engine Formula and was considered the latest and greatest of that evolution starting from the 035 6 years beforehand.
In the 043 1994 spec it produced up to 820 hp in late season form, meaning it was directly in competition with that of the Renault engine from the dominant Williams/Newey combination and the tricky FW16. This huge power from the 043 meant the Ferrari car was incredibly potent on “power” circuits such as Hockenheim and Monza. Gerhard Berger famously claiming a pole and win at Hockenheim in rather dominant fashion, with Jean Alesi starting from pole at Monza with Berger claiming 2nd position after Alesi had retired earlier in the Grand Prix.
But it simply was not the sheer power from the 043 V12 that made fans instantly fall in love with both it and the car. It was a much deeper relationship than that and one that is still just as strong today as it was 18 years ago. It would come as no surprise that, if you asked a fan to stand on the corner of Becketts at Silverstone and ask which car took their breath away, that the Ferrari 412T would be top of the list and it came down to one thing alone – the noise.
The Ferrari 043 V12 engine as is shown the "scuderia" museum.
Now going back through the years Formula 1 has always been “pure” Motorsport with hugely iconic cars carving their own stories in the history books for numerous different reasons. However as a racing car one thing has to stand out above all else, that being – the engine note. If you were to ask 100 people from all eras on to what they think would be the most incredible engine note to appear from Formula 1 – only two engines would be top of that list, the 043 V12 and the BRM V16.
It is possibly the main reason why any petrolhead or Motorsport fans fall in love with the cars they witness racing. Nothing can beat that feeling of a car passing you at over 120mph with the ability to make every single one of your hairs stand up on end, and possibly the Ferrari 412T was the best at that and it was all thanks to that engine.
Whereas the Renault RS6 V10 from 1994 had an extremely metallic scream to it, and the Cosworth V8 in the back of the B194 a very high pitch engine note similar to that of a screaming 4 stroke bike, the Ferrari V12 was just so much more.
It had almost a two tone exhaust note that would firstly pierce your eardrums with a high pitch wail and then destroy your chest with a brutal bass note as the car passed you. The engine produced an extremely raw, mechanical sound that was unrivalled by any other car on the grid. It was vicious and brutal on acceleration and as revs climbed up towards 14,500 rpm it would be almost screaming – the induction noise allowing you to physically hear the engine sucking in mountains of air as it engulfed straights with ease.
But that was not the most impressive aspect of the car, for the downshifts and off throttle characteristics of the engine would push it to become one of the most loved noises in all of Motorsport. Thousands of fans would gather at the Adelaide hairpin just to witness both Berger and Alesi go down 5 or 6 gears and witness the savage overrun the engine would achieve, dumping huge amounts of fuel into the exhausts, spitting flames several feet long and creating a hugely powerful mechanical sound as it crashed down the gearbox. It is so incredibly unique that no engine has ever managed to eclipse that fateful sound since.
The V10’s from the early millennium were incredibly brutal in their own respect, literally howling as they achieved close to their 20,000rpm rev limit, the Williams BMW having a hugely iconic echo to its engine tone much greater than that of McLaren of Ferrari. However how great the V10’s were, they never quite achieved that raw and vicious mechanical sound the V12’s sent through your body.
You go on any video on the internet that is based on the 043 V12 from 1994 and you will see hundreds of fans still yearning for that sound to return to Formula 1 in all its glory. It was not only considered the engine of the Ferrari 412T but had a soul and contained so much passion, it was, put simply its beating heart that produced one of the best sounds to ever grace the F1 world. That is the Ferrari way, they don’t produce V12 engines, The Italians produce mechanical hearts that are the heart and soul of a car, the defining aspect as such. It just so happens that Ferrari not only provided that in 1994, but perhaps provided one of the most defining engines in Formula 1 history, tracing from its roots back in the 50’s when Enzo was creating “The Ferrari way”.
Put simply it is one of the greatest engines ever to grace circuits around the world, and produced a noise that perhaps might never be topped by any in the future. It epitomised Ferrari in every way and perhaps allowed us to witness the greatest ever noise in Formula 1.