F1 set for electric starts – literally!
F1 set for electric starts – literally!
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Jul 2011   |  9:40 am GMT  |  128 comments

With the publication this weekend of the FIA F1 Technical Regulations and talk of the cars running on electric only in the pit lane, one of the things which hasn’t been considered is “electric starts”.

A careful reading of the regulations shows that teams are allowed to use electric off the startline from 2014. With the current regulations they must use the petrol engine only at the start and the KERS must only kick in when the car reaches 100km/h.

As the 2014 rules are written currently, we could have the opposite situation, with cars using electric only off the line and then the engine kicking in once the car is moving.

But this would lose all the shattering noise, power and thrill of 24 cars unleashing 750 horsepower, which is one of F1’s key signatures.

As things stand, the ERS system (replacing KERS, it will have twice the power at 120KW or 160hp) will be sized and designed around its use in the pitlane and particularly the launch from the pit box after a tyre stop.

But it will also work well off the startline because there will be little or no wheelspin and it’s easier to achieve a constant torque with an electric motor compared to a petrol engine and carbon clutch.

Two F1 technical directors have told me that this is a route the teams may well go down. If the rules are left as they are teams will certainly be testing this a lot.

But there is likely to be a big row over this; there was quite a debate in recent months about the noise of the 2014 engines with the original FIA plans to introduce four cylinder 1.6 litre engines shelved largely on noise grounds, in favour of a V6 which will rev to 15,000rpm.

Bernie Ecclestone is implacably opposed to F1 having anything other than screamingly loud engines, as he told me earlier this month,

“People love it (the sound) they come to an F1 race and it’s magic,” he said. “(The high pitched sound?) Yeah. We had the 12 cylinders that sounded fantastic. As long as it’s got a lot of noise. People love to go for the noise.”

And Hayley Fox, one of the JA on F1 readers who won a weekend at the British Grand Prix, wrote in her account of the weekend that the experience of the start had made her a fan for life,

“Well the start soon arrived and the feeling I got when 24 cars roared past in anger I’m sure to be a fan for life after experiencing that,” she said.

Can you imagine a quiet start for F1?

Featured Innovation
technical innovation from tata COMMUNICATIONS
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Anyone still think it will be easy to hear an “electric” F1 car in the pit-lane?

Watch this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLGTqKHQ7Ow – no ear defenders – no sound – damned sight more pwerful than any F1 electric motor will be!


F one and “green” are mutually exclusive! If the FIA does’t realise that they’ve really lost the plot. Going electric and/or putting canopies on the cars will lose a lot of spectator appeal.Obvious really so what is really behind all the posturing, what is it the FIA really want.


All this is bull…. if the FIA and the teams REALLY want to do what they can, and use their considerable developmental powers to have a positive influence upon the environmental improvements of moptorsports and road car development in general, then they should be looking at the manufacture of the fuels themselves, and NOT these stupid gimmicks.

I mean really, who can actually forsee silent starts to races? This will have more of a detrimental effect on the “spectacle” that Bernie was so concerned about, than any engine change ever will. While I think KERS and the next generation of systems being developed are a good thing, to have the cars launched SOLELY from electrics, is a distraction from the real subject; and that is the overwhelming impacts that the transport and distribution of the sport has.

I know this, not because i am an armchair supporter, regurgitating the views of journalists and commentators, read on internet columns and in newspapers, but because I am genuinely an Environmental Manager, and understand the factors involved.

It is true that there are several aspects here that need to be recognised….

1 – the “sustainability” of the sport, in terms of the cars themselves, the engines they use and their relationship to road cars, and their development of fuel types and efficiency whilst maintaining power and speed

2 – the image of the sport as a global money whore, parading itself around the world, flaunting itself in light of the massive economic hardships in defferent parts of the world

3 – the “sustainability” of the sport, in terms of how it moves around the world, when it races, where it races

The former and latter need to be improved, while the middle item needs to be reduced, and this is what I think the FIA and the teams are struggling with at the moment. They are trying to acheive some “quick wins”, to rapidly improve the profile of the sport and make a connection to the new motoring markets (electric vehicles, hybrids etc), whilst balancing this with the history, heritage and spectacle.

Kers only starts would be a massive mistake, when there are far better areas for improvement

Like I said, they should find alternative, sustainabily produced fuels that will have a far better impact on the “green credentials” of the sport (and Im not talking about swathes of the Developing World being turned over to crops for fuels). There are considerable technologies being developed in verticle algae farms, that produce ethanol based fuels far more efficiently and ethically than 200hectares of land in Botwsana or Malaysia ever will.

Then they can say that they are not only at the pinnacle of motorsport and veheicle technology, but also fuel development and the technology to manufacture the fuel



OK – they have lost the plot this time. It looks seriously like F1 has lost it’s identity and sense of purpose. Perhaps there are now too many cooks spoiling the broth. I know the argument has raged for many years – is it a sport, is it entertainment or is it a business (or some combination of these)? Right now they don’t seem to know what it is they are trying to sell us, the public who the show depends on. Is it the technical and engineering pinnacle of motorsport? Is it a contrived show that promotes lots of overtaking in artificial situations? Is it a pure contest of man and machine versus man and machine? Is it a contest between engineering brains? Why should it be “green”? As Bernie says – doing away with the big portable media and hospitality fortresses will have a bigger environmental impact. What the sport needs is some serious stability as this is one way of closing up the field. The small teams will always be lagging whenever changes occur as they don’t have the budgets or resources to apply but catch up when technology becomes “old” (in F1 terms) after a year or so. Also, steel brakes, less aero and more mechanical grip will do far more for close competiton and overtaking when coupled with a period of rule stability.


You are kidding right. James can you stop this maddness. Sure it maybe an engineers dream but seriously to us fans do you think we would accept no noise off the start line. The roar of thunder from engines and tyres off the start line in any motor race is one of the best moments in a race, especially when you are there live. Race starts is one of main thrills that got me hooked on F1 when it came to Adelaide a few decades ago. No noise down pitlane would surely be a safety hazard too. Sorry to those engineering fans who think it would be a way to move forward. I dont think windshields would suit F1 either however the safety level in F1 today is very impressive.


I don’t think it will happen. I’m just pointing out that the initial 2014 tech regs allow for it. The rules will be written to outlaw it for sure


At least the commentators won’t have to strain their voices at the start shouting ‘Go Go Go!’ over the sound of screaming engines any more.


An electric start would be absolutely explosive, and the engines of all the cars would kick in very quickly indeed.

I may be displaying my ignorance, but I’d imagine one of the more interesting things about an electric start is that the amount of torque generated will make mechanical grip absolutely essential – otherwise you’ll see a phenomenal amount of wheel spin and not much else. Presumably a lot of the engineering required to make a full electric start feasible would have to go into making sure that all that power actually gets transferred through the tyres and into the tarmac.

While I love the roar of the engines at the start of a GP, I think an electric start and then the sound of that 1.6 litre turbo kicking in will be similarly spectacular.

Oh, and to those worried about the sound of the new spec engines, keep in mind that many of the fantastic f1 noises produced in the 1980s were made by 1.5litre v6 turbos.


No – mechanical grip wouldn’t have to be increased as the electric motors could very easily be programmed to deliver a load to maximise whatever tyre/tarmac grip levels were presented. With a petrol engine and clutch you can get the engine spinning and delivering maximum power and realease it in a burst by dropping the clutch. You control wheelspin by the amount of clutch slip you allow. With an electric motor, you HAVE to start with zero power and build it up gradually (not necessarily linear but it has to be a measured increase). So what might happen is that electric motors would start and take the car to, say, 100mph (maybe 2.5 seconds) and then the petrol engines kick in. I agree, this would probably mean even less potential for overtaking off the start and into turn one.


THats is what F1 engineers say would be the optimum. But it won’t be allowed. I’m sure they’ll write the rules to stop it happening


“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

— Isaac Asimov


No takers? Ok let me clarify: I love the sound of a high powered car. In fact, I am a heavy metal musician so I have a lifelong intimate appreciation for the sounds of high tech equipment being pushed to its limit at high volume.

However, I was also once a downhill ski racer. Many would say this sport is far more extreme than F1, including many of the F1 drivers themselves. And yet this sport does not have screaming engines (or 24 screaming engines for that matter) to make its point, that point being that it is SPEED, not noise that makes racing things like an F1 car at the limit special.

Only people who have never gone really, truly fast and on the limit will focus on the sound, because those who HAVE gone extremely fast and on the edge (in or on something), will tell you that the sensations and incoming stimuli needed to maintain control are so intense that ambient sound, no matter HOW loud, becomes one of those things your brain simply filters out in its attempt to focus on the tasks necessary for survival in such situations.

So electric engines will NOT take away the purist element of what makes F1 special: SPEED. I wish people would remember this and forget all the other nonsense like sound.


Having seen Emerson Fittipaldi race the nearly silent, Lotus 56 Turbine F1 car at Brands Hatch, I can assure you all that a silent F1 car is not lacking in drama. Quite the opposite, they seem even faster when their speed outstrips their sound. They literally just torture the tyres and go. Lack of engine noise means you can hear every squeal of the tyres starting the minute they hit the brakes and continuing right through the apex and some way up the straight, driver and car hunting for grip. Silent F1 would be different, but just as good. Its the speed that matters.


The sound is important. of course. But what about the speed? Will an all-electric start make the cars jump off the line quicker? If that’s the case, I’m all for it.


Indy car racing is looking better and better.


Having read these comments with interest, I have voted ‘hate’. F1 should be a combination of the visceral and the intellectual but I can see nothing visceral in these starts; nor can I really see much real point other than saying “we did it”.

As has already been said, part of the magic of an F1 start is not just the fantastic sound but the anticipation that comes as that sound builds to a crescendo as the lights begin to go out. Electric engines will just move off.

Even if sound is produced at the getaway, I don’t believe it will be an exciting sound. Comparisons have been made with electric trains (surely the most boring form of transport ever devised and probably not propelled at all but repelled by the stations because they are so ugly) and jet engines (OK, the Eurofighter sounds good but airliners and Lear jets don’t), so I’m hardly trembling with anticipation!

Perhaps most importantly, as the above is entirely subjective, I do not think F1 can afford to lose yet another performance differentiator.

If electric engines are to be used in the pits, why not leave the start alone and insist they are used in all cicumstances when the car is not actually racing or qualifying, ie on the way to the grid, slowing down laps, etc? The lack of burn-outs on the formation lap might actually make the start a bigger performance differentiator, too.


Incorrect, sorry buddy, at least the part about the jet engines. There are some of us out here that love the sound of any jet engine. Fighter jet or widebody. Far better than the internal combustion engines. You want power? Jets have noise and power to shake your soul.


I suppose it’s a possibility, but even with the presumed increase in efficiency from the electric-only option I would have though the engine would have to kick in very soon afterwards to overcome the drag (F1 cars being surprisingly un-aerodynamic overall, like all open-wheelers). You’ve also got the question of how much torque the motor puts out, as that’s more likely to cause traction to break than anything. It also depends on how much the system is going to be designed for the kind of acceleration needed at the start compared with powering the car down the pitlane or supplementing existing acceleration. I certainly wouldn’t like to try and come up with a system that could do fast electric-only starts and everything else as well, but I suppose that’s why I’m a fan and not an F1 engineer!


All of you in the forum, even you James. Who do you pick for the GP2 win ?


I just hope a day doesnt come where speakers are fitted in circuits to create artificial noise and drivers are given remote controls to operate the cars from pit-lane for safety reasons.


Electric cars are an utter marketing failure on the streets and they will be a failure in F1 too. Nearly all electric cars exist because of government funding of some kind. The ratio of electric cars on the street is exceedingly minimal and demand has never met the wild hopes of the bureaucrats. The companies that make electric cars almost always lose money on them despite heavy subsidies. (Take a good look at Chevy’s current loss leader, the cutting-edge Volt.) The number of solvent electric car companies is dropping as governments realign priorities around reality. (Think Global just bit the dust last month.)

Just like electric cars on the street, this change is not due to market demand—it’s coming from a bureaucracy. I don’t see this as a template for F1 success.


The day F1 has electric starts James, will be the day that I start watching something else.

24 cars sounding like Milk floats driving away will be dreadful… 🙂

Perhaps they could do what they do on those little electric kids tractors and play the noise of engines.

I just dont see what the point of this is, Motorsport is about providing entertainment to the fans, as much as providing marketing opportunities for the teams and the FIA.

Very frustrating to hear of further push on electric. Electric in the pitlanes (very quiet and therefore potentially dangerous). Starts would just about finish us fans off I think…


These ticket prices ought to decrease substantially in that case…


Electric starts? No thanks.



It just broke today (yesterday) about the Australian GP.

During the GP there was a bit more talk than usual about the cost etc… and you made the comment that you would spen 100 or something here and someone else would etc…

Turns out it may need a bit more!

Cost of GP 50, 203, 000 ~= $50.2 million Australian dollars

Produced $39 million Australian dollars

Leaving $11 million Australian dollars of no value aparently. I’m guessing just going towards putting thte name out their.

Are there any cost benift analysis’ like this for other GP’s and what’s your take?

The in government Liberal Party (state Victoria) have it needs to be renegotiated in 2015 for the contract to be renewed. The Labor party (who didn’t bring the GP to Melbourne, but did negotiate the last contract) argued that it was better value that what they were saying.

As opposed to the desal plant or myki or… I want start a political spiel here.

Your thoughts/comparisons to other GP’s?


The GP cost benefit analasis by E+Y is pretty weak, only calculating extimated tourist spend in GP week, but even at $11m it makes the $35 billion dollar desalination plant we don’t need look pretty bad value!


Some races lose money for local governments, that’s pretty well established. I’d be interested in other cost /benefit analysis if anyone has them for other races


Hi James and Alex,

The most important part of undertaking a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA)is the defining of the boundary. Alex, you are quite right is noting that only including the tourist spend is “weak”. This is a very narrow boundary and under these assumptions will produce a result that is non-representative of the activity.

Social/education aspects (often difficult to define and determine but possible) must be included. I accept the the venture into social CBA can be a minefield but it is becoming “clearer” in most areas experienced with wide ranging CBA.

I would like to ask those who undertake the CBA for the Australian F1 GP if they consider the benefit to the education institutes, the benefit to the individuals being exposed to the F1 in Schools Program and the enthusiasm generated in young people who are then set on a path to higher learning in engineering, fluid dynamics and aero enfineering (and of course sports management).

The F1 GP provides the opportunity and excitement for these paths that people will take and therefore provide benefit to a community.

Set the boundaries too narrow and you get a simple accounting exercise (no disrespect to the accountants out there). This is not really an appropriate decision support mechanism.

Set boundaries which are broad, consider social/education aspects and take some thinking to assess and value, and we will produce a more meaningful result for the community and decision makers.

Do not underestimate the broad and real value of an F1 GP to any country.

Here endith the lesson!


It’s not the noise that’s the main issue for me (it is an issue).

My main issue is that it eliminates a huge part of skill for a driver off the line. No need to worry about wheelspin, or how many revs etc. You just gun it and the CVT of the electric motor will do the rest. Eliminates the tension.


I can just see it now… Electric Formula 1.

So all the drivers will be sitting in the pit lane next to the manager with scaletrix hand controls and watching their cars go round on screens.

Do they have to run and put the cars back on the track when they go off due to overzealous use of the control…??!


No. If they come out of the slot and fly off course they’re DNF.

The crowd will not be allowed to rush out and put them back.


ANother example of over-thinking.

Why all the stupid restrictions?

Let ’em run either or both, whatever makes sense to the teams.


Well, let’s wait and see how Bercy works out. Whether electric racing really can be exciting.

F1’s business model can’t simply rely on noise to fuel excitement otherwise it’s on very very shaky ground indeed.


They’re going to need some very big speakers to blast out the thrilling, Hollywood-style music to build up to the start if there are no engines running.


I think that either you guys do not understand this article or that you are not giving the F1 engineers enough credit.

As James said in a comment above the electric start is only an option in which they can choose to take, after speaking to these engineers they have decided this would probably be the best way to start the race. The only reason an engineer would say that is because of speed, their job is to design and build the fastest car possible for that season. As the electric start is only an option, if a petrol driven motor start would be faster, this would be the way they would go.

Also remember that this is just the start, i.e the first moment the wheel turns (with no wheel spin due to the torque settings.) As soon as a petrol motor out weighs that benefit gained from the electric motor it will kick in and boom you have the sound which so many see an issue with. My belief is that it will be delayed by a second if not less to get those cars off the line, the electric motor only used to give the car that initial grip.

This will of course produce a faster start, and due to the acceleration of a petrol engine outweighing the electric motor could pose quite a problem when that sudden extra power does kick in, it’s going to take a lot of restraint on the drivers side to avoid putting the power down to early and spinning the wheels.

It’s the same with KERS, DRS, Tyres and all the other technology which comes about, yes its a scary prospect at first, yes we all believe they are gimmicks to improve racing/make it greener. However look at the racing over the past couple of years, with cars producing ever more downforce, increasing speeds where lap times are bring broken despite tighter regulations, we have had some of the best racing. I am starting to get the impression that the only thing that will satisfy you guys now is that the FIA alter regulations to restrict the engineers down to 80’s style cars … But where would be the progress?



I don’t think there will be “silent” starts even if the cars are launched on electric power only.

It stands to reason that the petrol engine will be running in neutral anyway, it will just not be used for the start, and will kick in at a predetermined point. Exactly the present situation in reverse, where the petrol engine is running, and KERS is on a stand-by.

Next, starts are NOT engine power limited anyway. They are friction limited, i.e. even if you have all the power in the world, its the tyre traction that limits the acceleration.

So, the 120 kW ERS could power the early (and very critical) stages of the start, and then, when acceleration gets power limited, petrol engine could kick in.

Could be fun, actually – and most of us watch the races on TV anyway where the noise sure is not what it is trackside.

Top Tags
SEARCH Innovation