Formula One’s motorsport director Ross Brawn says the sport could go all electric within the next ten years if it provides a better spectacle for the fans.
F1 is currently working towards a revised set of engine regulations for 2021, but it will still be based on the V6 turbo-hybrid formula that the teams race with today. A shift to all-electric F1 cars has not been given serious consideration as yet, but with the amount of electric cars on the road increasing Brawn is not willing to rule it out over a five- or ten-year timeframe.
The only all-electric series at the moment is Formula E, which will enter its fifth season later this year with an upgraded Gen2 car. The level of performance will still be a significant step down from Formula One, but the new cars will have double the energy store capacity of the Gen1 car used for the last four seasons and a power output of 250kW.
Brawn says Formula One does not see Formula E as a direct rival, but says he would be open to the idea of an all-electric F1 car if it provided good quality racing and a spectacle worthy of the pinnacle of motorsport.
“I think we have to respect what Formula E is doing and what it’s achieving,” he said in an interview on F1 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. 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. 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, 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.
“Ten years ago I don’t think many people would be able to predict where the world is now and therefore I don’t know where we will be in ten years, but Formula One will move in the right direction.”
The aim of the 2021 regulations is to tweak the engines to make them louder, more powerful and more affordable, but the new regulations will retain the current V6 turbo architecture. Some fans have called for a return to loud, naturally-aspirated V8s or V10s, but Brawn says that is not on F1’s agenda.
“There is a part of me which would love that to happen. I do love the old F1 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.”