Contemplating a Hybrid-Free Future for Formula 1

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is contemplating a hybrid-free future for Formula 1 and this week I look at why and give you my thoughts on the idea.

I also bring you video from Sebastian Vettel’s outing at Goodwood using synthetic fuel, IMSA being open to hydrogen in the future, Formula E’s criticism of F1’s sustainability push, a new hot hatch EV from Hyundai and more.

All this plus why electric race cars are actually safer than street going EVs in this week’s Sustainable Motorsport Roundup on Motorsport Prospects.

Sustainable Motorsport News

Contemplating a Hybrid-Free Future for Formula 1

I mentioned this in last week’s Sustainable Motorsport Roundup so here is Sebastian Vettel doing donuts in his sustainably-fueled Williams FW14B F1 car at Goodwood as part of his Race Without Trace initiative.

During that same Goodwood weekend, Vettel stated that F1 risks being banned by governments in the future but he also hinted that he may be involved in F1’s sustainability plans in the future. “It’s not so much the threat that people might glue themselves onto the track on a race day or maybe at Goodwood, it’s more the threat that at some point governments will be looking at things that they can cut and ban and maybe motorsport is at threat and might be one of them.”

Speaking of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, it is not only a chance to see past race cars in gorgeous surroundings but an opportunity to see the future of motorsport. Everything from Vettel’s synthetic fuel-powered F1 cars to hydrogen prototypes were on display.

Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds is critical of the sustainable push in F1 and states that they are discussing sustainability from a very low base. “I’ll give them credit for getting better but let’s not try and convince anybody that that’s a big sustainable sport, because it’s not.”

Quite frankly this is of no help at all as motorsport works to increase its sustainability credentials. Both series have different focuses but both can learn from each other. Instead, he should be proposing a “Motorsport Sustainability Working Group” where F1, FE, WEC and IMSA meet from time to time and exchange ideas and case studies on what they have done to make their series more sustainable. They could build a best-practices framework around logistics, fan transportation, race weekends, etc that can then be made available to other series. That would be more constructive than this type of criticism. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.

Motorsport UK’s monthly magazine Revolution has a great cover story on sustainability in motorsport and what they are doing about it in Racing for the Environment.

Stefan Mackley explains how Motorsport UK and national racing clubs are leading the sustainability charge. “Motorsport UK has offered resources and guidance to clubs and competitors on how they can reduce their own carbon footprints. Head of sustainability Jess Runicles believes that while the governing body should be leading the way, it also needs to empower clubs, venues and competitors to make a difference on their own.”

Sustainable Motorsport Tech

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

Could this be the first true electric hot hatch? According to Road & Track, the 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is a 641-HP EV built for track rats. “The Ioniq 5 N is far more than a reskinned Ioniq 5 with a more powerful drivetrain. The entire car has been transformed with the goal of delivering more smiles to the driver.”

Contemplating a Hybrid-Free Future for Formula 1

In the video above, Scalar Performance co-founder Brian Bourne sheds light on the topic of EV safety, addresses concerns and explains why electric race cars are actually safer than street going EVs. “Throughout the development of Scalar Performance’s SCR1 all-electric amateur touring race car, it is important that our viewers are educated on the truth behind EV safety.”

With the finals of the Formula Student competition beginning this week, Motorsport UK and Coryton have revealed that one third of the 130 university teams entering the competition have opted to use Coryton’s sustainable fuels, including a team from Italy and another from Slovenia. The universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow Caledonian, Kingston, Exeter, West of England, Sheffield Hallam and Wolverhampton have also chosen the environmentally friendly alternative.

Porsche Mission X

Stuttcars reports that the exciting Porsche Mission X concept study will visit the U.S. for the first time this fall, celebrating its U.S. debut at Rennsport Reunion 7 at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California from September 28 to October 1.

Rennsport is the perfect location to mark the first US visit by one of the most exciting cars of the year – allowing our customers and fans to see it up close for the first time,” said Joe Lawrence, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Porsche Cars North America. “At the largest Porsche gathering worldwide, we are not just celebrating our rich Motorsport history and those who shaped it, but also look forward to an exciting future.”

Series News

Toyota H2 Prototype

IMSA would consider adopting the ACO’s planned hydrogen class for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship if its manufacturer partners are behind such a project, according to IMSA President John Doonan. “Much like the hybrid system in LMDh, that was driven by our manufacturer partners,” Doonan said. “I think the next step of what the top category looks like is going to result from open and honest and adult conversations with the OEMs. If that’s a technology they want to pursue and they think this is a great storytelling platform for it, we would certainly try to help them achieve that. We did our sustainable fuel that we’re using now based on open conversations with the OEM base. That’s really what would happen. We’ll pursue what the market speaks about.”

Interestingly according to the Sportscar365 article, “In addition to Toyota, Sportscar365 understands there are upwards of ten other manufacturers currently involved in the ACO’s technical working group for hydrogen, including several major OEMs that are not currently represented in the Hypercar or GTP classes.”

Contemplating a Hybrid-Free Future for Formula 1

This is interesting. Formula 1’s future generation of cars could be based around lighter, simpler and noisier engines, says championship boss Stefano Domenicali in Autosport. “If we can be effective in the study and production of sustainable fuel, we will be able to think about the next generation of power units, focusing on lightness,” he said. “We want a competitive engine, with many horsepower and also with a great sound. 99.9% of people want to hear a Formula 1 sound on track again, and that’s something we’ve put on the table.”

This is something I talked about in a Sustainable Motorsport column from 2020 quoting engine guru Mario Illien’s thoughts on the prospect. “According to Mario Illien, the engines could theoretically be loud, open to various technical designs and would be less expensive to develop since the technology is well understood and the sustainable fuels would essentially be a drop in replacement for the current fuel. It would also take care of the power requirements needed to run an F1 car at top speed for the duration of a Grand Prix, something an electric motor currently can not do. Additionally, without a battery it could allow teams to reduce the weight of an F1 car.”

If the fuel is CO2-neutral, the fig leaf of the hybrid drive is no longer needed. Then you are independent of the engine’s architecture. Green is green, regardless of whether the power source is then a V6 turbo or a twelve-cylinder naturally aspirated engine. (FIA & Mario Illien: The future of F1 – low cost PLUS no hybrids or manufacturers?)

Organizers of the STCC have confirmed that the 2023 season will undergo further revisions as a result of manufacturing delays with the all-new electric cars being introduced this year. Supply chain issues relating to the battery systems being used on the next generation of STCC machine have left the series with no option but to move the season back to September, and also reduce the number of planned events.

Amongst several cities that Formula E is targeted to race in in 2024 is Los Angeles with the possibility that they may race around Dodger Stadium. “LA is one of the locations we are looking at, another large U.S. city, around the Dodgers Stadium — around, inside, who knows!” said Dodds. “But we are excited about the conversations we are having with them.”

The Julius Bar website explains the local impact that Formula E has when they race in the cities that they do. “Today, nearly 10 years after the first Formula E race in Beijing, the championship has delivered a range of environmental, economic and social benefits in cities around the world. Perhaps the sport’s most significant achievement has been accelerating the adoption of EVs worldwide; the number of electric cars on our streets has risen six-fold since 2014. And as a global showcase for EV technology, Formula E’s innovations have trickled down to road cars, boosting their reliability and performance.”

The World Rallycross Championship’s first inner-city race in Hong Kong will be an “incredibly important” test case that could lead to racing in more non-traditional venues, its championship coordinator Tim Whittington explains to Autosport.

It’s the first time we’ve done a true city race for rallycross at all, one of the very few times there’s ever been a rallycross event inside a city,” Whittington said. “China, Hong Kong is incredibly important for rallycross in the future. If we’re going to engage manufacturers, China is absolutely a key market. So getting that race right, providing something that an entirely new fanbase can understand and engage with is pretty important. It’s definitely a test case for us, and we absolutely have to get it right and prove that we can do this and race in venues that are not traditional rallycross venues.”

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.