Thanks for all the feedback and ideas so far. Given widespread concerns about global warming and the environment, the conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels for entertainment is a concept that has a limited shelf life and it present risks for the sport. This is the key area where innovation is essential for survival – it’s as simple as that.
Perhaps given the seriousness of the situation, many of your ideas concern the engines, fuel economy and alternatives for the future.
F1 cars will always be light and will need a lot of power from the engine. Most engineers agree that twenty years from now the prime mover of a Formula 1 car will probably still be fossil-fuel powered, but with a strong element of electrical assistance from hybrid technology, which recovers energy from braking and recycles it into motive power through electricity.
They all agree that the engine will probably be just 500cc, with a development of today’s turbos attached to the exhaust to harness the exhaust energy. The unit will probably develop around 300-400 horsepower, with boosts coming from energy regeneration. Scavenging energy to convert into power will be a vital part of the story. They will have direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and small motor generators on each wheel making the most efficient recovery of energy. Currently engines are only about 30% efficient. Engineers believe that by then they should have improved to be around 50% efficient or more.
F1 has to fit in with the developing process of man’s reaction to global warming and this presents its major threat. Between then and now F1 has the chance to present itself as the laboratory for the drive towards fuel efficiency and sustainability.
One of the challengers for the rule makers will be noise. The sound a racing engine makes is a big part of the attraction for many fans, but it will no longer be acceptable in 20 years time to put out 100 decibels. The sound will have to be reduced, although not to the level of hybrid vehicles today, which are virtually silent.
Although great progress is expected to be made in electric car technology in the next 20 years, engineers do not believe that F1 cars will be electric by then as it would take a revolution in battery technology to make ultra lightweight batteries which were able to charge up quickly enough in the energy regeneration phase, store enough energy to cope and then discharge the energy quickly enough. There will be good electric racing series in 20 years, but will F1 be one of them? Probably not.
Hydrogen presents safety concerns which are considered unlikely to be surmountable by then, according to F1 engineers I spoke to.