While FIA president Jean Todt has already broken the hearts of those fans – and some drivers – hankering for a return to V8s, V10s and even V12s, insisting that the sport will not be going backwards, Ross Brawn, the sport’s technical boss, is unlikely to make many friends with his prediction that F1 will be all-electric, possibly within the next decade.
As the sport finds a way to improve the spectacle, and particularly the sound, of the current V6 hybrid formula, Brawn claims that the sport must follow the direction the motor industry appears to be taking.
“I think we have to respect what Formula E is doing and what it’s achieving,” he tells F1’s Fan Voice. “But if you look at the magnitude of the two they are not really comparable; the amount of fans we have and the appeal of Formula One, Formula E is still very junior in that respect.
“I think Formula One will evolve in the direction that has the right balance of sport, relevance and engagement with the fans,” he continued. “If in five years’ time or ten years’ time there is a need, desire or wish to have a different type of power unit in Formula One then we will do it. There is nothing to stop us having electric Formula One cars in the future.
“At the moment they don’t deliver the spectacle, and with all due respect if you go to a Formula E race it is a pretty junior category of motor racing,” he said of the sport’s first ever all-electric series which has just concluded its fourth season. “It’s a great event in terms of all of the stuff that is going on around it, but the race itself is pretty tame when you compare it to a Formula One event.
“The cars are not particularly fast, you don’t have the personalities involved but they are doing a fabulous job at putting on an event and making it a street party.
“Formula One is different to that,” he adds, “Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, the speeds we do, the calibre of drivers we have and the teams we have, and if that moves in five or ten years’ time to a different power source then we will do it if that is most appealing and achieves what we want to achieve. I don’t see Formula One being locked into internal combustion engines forever, but who knows where we are in ten years.”
Fact is, a number of former F1 drivers have found a home in Formula E, and all four champions – Nelson Piquet Jr, Sebastian Buemi, Lucas di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne – have all raced in F1, albeit with little success.
Furthermore, the fifth season, which gets underway in Saudi Arabia in December, will feature a new Gen2 car with double the current energy storage capacity, meaning it can complete a whole race. With 250kW of power, it is anticipated the Gen2 car will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 2.8-seconds and reach a top speed of 280km/h (175 mph).
“Ten years ago I don’t think many people would be able to predict where the world is now,” admits Brawn, “and therefore I don’t know where we will be in ten years, but Formula One will move in the right direction.”
Echoing those calls of fans who want a return to ‘the good old days’, Brawn admits that he too misses the sound and fury of the old F1, but that there is no going back.
“There is a part of me which would love that to happen,” he admits. “I do love the old engines but I don’t see how we could make that step back without such a radical revolution that would really polarise Formula One and split it apart.
“The manufacturers we have in Formula One at the moment are committed to the engines we have now, and should we have a revolution? I don’t think so. I’d love to have those engines but it’s not going to happen, so we need to evolve the engines we have now and learn the lessons from introducing these engines to see how we can take them in a direction that is a bit more appealing to the fans.”
At a time Ferrari has yet to agree to the planned post-2020 engine regulations – assuming they are ever presented – asking the Maranello manufacturer to go all-electric will surely be a step too far.
It’s also worth noting that Liberty Global – John Malone’s other company – is a significant shareholder in Formula E.