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?

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The aspect of electric that worries me most is the pit lane.

Pit crews will be wearing ear-defenders/headphones for the noise on the track past the pits, engine checking in the pits and comms.

Where cars pit in adjacent garages, the crew of the front most car hear the car pull away from the other garage and can make sure they move out of the way.

Will they hear an electric car? I doubt it . . . and could easily step into its path.

Can't believe they are going ahead with this - can't believe they've thought about safety.

In any case - this is "motor sport" and, whilst an electric motor is still "a motor" - it's not what I expect.

Engine noise is key to atmostphere at motor racing. "Electric only power" phases will totally destroy it.


Very good point, people will be getting run over in the pits all over the place. Loud pipes save lives!


Might be good

Seo Bolton


I doubt the mechanics working on their car in their pitbox give any consideration to the position of competing cars, silent or not. Not to mention that a person's reflexes would need to be rather sharp to avoid an accelerating F1 car that reaches the pit speed limit and the adjacent pit box in roughly the same amount of time it takes to stand up.


If I am not mistaken the "Warning" that pitcrews get at the moment is an audible bell-like sound. Are there also lights flashing in the pitlane?? But it will be very difficult to get used to "Electric" starts. Turbo charged V6 engines won't sound too bad, remember the 1980's? The Honda RA167E comes to mind...


There's a chap around our parts that uses audio signalling. Nice fella, sells ice creams... Come to think of it, all the taxis around here come with portable doorbells too.

Seriously, the cars could be made to give out almost any kind of audio/visual warning - this is a bit of a non issue.

Also, on the point of 'silent' starts, the engines will be revving anyway, waiting to pick up the load at the cruical moment.


jfh: I think you'd hear the engines rev out as soon as the red start lights came on. Silence, roar, go... Sounds pretty exciting to me.


Agreed. I'm in two minds, as the traction from an electric motor will improve starts and although we wouldn't hear the roar at the beginning, wouldn't we hear it kick in after a few seconds...?


David, I agree with Robert.

I can't believe that people think that engineers and the like wonder around haplessly unless thye cna hear an F1 car.

In a pit lane, I'm guessing that they can't even tell teh difference between a car 10 meters away and one 50 meters away.

People can look before they step out. If someone put a blind fold on you would you walk around a pit lane jsut by listening? Doubt it, because you look.


unoc12: I never said anything about forklifts - that was SteveH. I was talking about a system to be used if two cars pit at the same time in neighbouring boxes, which triggers as the car behind leaves to warn the mechanics who can't necessarily see it that it is pulling out at a fair rate of knots, not to tell them where the car actually is. It's more a precaution in case something goes wrong and the driver ends up doing what Kobayashi did in Silverstone, but with people there instead of wheelguns. No mechanic worth their pay is going to walk into a car obviously, but they can all be caught out when things don't go to plan.

David: No worries - easily done. I was thinking more for the pitcrew when they're doing a pitstop and the car behind them leaves its box, so 5-10 metres at that speed is probably around a second (roughly) - not a massive amount but enough to react if needed. For people on the main pitwall etc. you could use a different distance for triggering a warning or something linked to the car's on-board tracking device perhaps. I'm not sure what the practicalities of that are but I'd imagine the FIA are working on something.


David Ryan

My apologies - you did say 5 metres.

At 100kmph that's a warning of 0.18 secs. That's probably not quite enough?



What do you mean I invented "“wandering about haplessly”, now now you invent “disaster”"

They are terms and words that are in the tdictionary. I wasn't trying to quote you, hence in my original post I wasn't using ' and ' or " and " around the words tos uggest that you were.

I used disaster to mean exactly what it says in a dictionary as with my other term. Just words used in a sentence.

David Ryan, the beeps on the forklifts are not to tell you where it is, but to alert those around that it is there. You here it and think 'wo, what's that, look look, it's the forklift, thank goodness I saw it'.

If you stick 2 forlifts 10 meters apart and you stand on one side of one of them with the other on the other side of it and one beeps you can't tell which. You can just tell that there is one there. Which the pit crew are already alert to... becasue it's a pit lane.

I don't see why it's so hard.

This is what I see happening and what I think will continue to happen.

Pit Wall hits tells the crew to get out there for ____ to change to _______ tyres

The guys grab the tyres run out looking to make sure they don't run into the path of a car in the box behind (as they do already).

They assume the positions. The back jack guyts stands near the right rear tyres.

Car comes in. The rear jack steps foward, chucks the thing under, the car is lifted.

Tyres and changed adn the car is tehn dropped.

Front jack moves to the front right tyre guys. Car leaves without disturbing box in front.

Guys then walk back into the garage. That is what happens currently and I cant see anything different.

Perhaps David could explain how a pit crew could walk into a car simply because they can't hear the noise


David: I said 5 metres, not 5 seconds. The devil is in the detail. The space between pit bays is something in the region of 10 metres if memory serves correctly, so a suitably sharp signal would have the desired effect in time. Alternatively you could place the sensor in line with the front of the pit boxes - 5 metres was only a speculative figure based on the length of a modern F1 car.


Industrial electric forklifts have a sound (noise) generator that runs when the forklift is moving so that others will be aware it is there. This would have to be done with F1 cars also, as a basic safety measure for the pit crews.



You like to introduce your own unrelated interpretation on what I've written.

Previously you intoroduce a a non-exsitent "wandering about haplessly", now now you invent "disaster".

I suggest that this "may be a danger". That is so far from a disater.

David Ryan

A 5 second warning is of little use where the car in the garage behind is either stationary or way past the pit crew in front within a second.


It wouldn't be too hard for the mechanics to be provided with an earpiece which emits a warning sound when the car is within a certain distance (e.g. less than 5 metres) - proximity sensors are sophisticated enough nowadays to do the job. I'm also not sure how much they can react to the engine note given the properties of the ear defenders - I'd imagine it's as much peripheral vision as sound that guides them - but in any event it can be compensated for by other means.


I'm sure it may have something to do with it, but it is probably more also having a car exerting alot of force directly behind. Try having your hand quickly behind someones head. They'll pick it up. Now magnify for a Formula 1 car.

I just don't see 'silent' cars in the pits being the disaster you see it to be.


I never suggested they "wander about happlessly".

Watch the back-left guys when the car behind leaves the pit - their body language suggests they respond to the engine sound.


That audible warning is more for other people in the pit lane, and relates more to a car entering the pit-lane . . and pretty ineffective to those wearing ear-defenders designed to blot out the sound of an F1 engine.

There is, however, NO WARNING that a car is about to leave the box after a wheel change (only the lolipop guy knows when he'll give the signal) - and it is this danger to the crew in the box immediately in front (if they are tending to their car) that is the one that will be the danger.


Simple. The guy who is lifting the back end of the car or doing the rear left wheel work just needs to stay in position and look before moving, instead of just walking without looking


its not danger


The image of a load of F1 cars 'whispering' away from the start line makes me want to smile/cry in equal measure.

I fear change.


Of course they won't 'whisper' away. They may rely on electric for the first few meters but the engine will still be running and revving, ready to kick in as quickly as it can efficiently do so.

@James: while I'm sure everything you say is technically correct, I think you could probably have been a little less sensationalist, don't you think?



so compared to right now the cars WILL whisper away for the 'frist few metres' won't they?


It just makes me cry...


I fear FIA induced change.

It seems they're hell bent on turning the fan base away in disgust.

James do the individuals responsible for these completely out of touch illogical concepts do it for love of F1 ?,or are they more of an ego based event,selfishly something to bloat their CV's etc ?

I fear its the latter.Time for FOTA to re flex its muscle for the sanity of all.Next we'll just race Prius's & call it GP racing.


FOTA have the biggest impact on the rule changes, not the FIA.

That's why we're not getting ground effect, because FOTA don't want it.


Has the potential to be quite dramatic, all the cars set off silently but much quicker than they do now due to max torque from 0 revs. Then as they get up to speed - BOOM - all the engines kick into life.

Might be good, might be bad, it'll certainly be different.


It wont be max tourque. The drivers would then have to think before letting the power down. The guys at the factory will do an engine map that does'nt allow too many tourques to be ut down at too low a speed such as the start. Think of all the time that could be lost by a driver making a mistake!


very good remark, you've just changed my mind. It might be great in fact. The successive booms of the engines as the cars build speed.


Yeah, I mean it's only 160 hp. How far's that going to get you? The engines will explode into life within seconds. It should be a fantastic effect.

F1 has to evolve. It has to stay relevant. When was the last time F1 tech found its way into a road car? Because that should be happening all the time.

If old men want to reminisce, there's always the Goodwood historic festival. F1 changes. I wouldn't have it any other way.


Maybe only 160hp but DC electric motors have an ungodly amount of torque right from 0 RPM, it will get a 600kg carbon paperweight moving quick alright.

that being said, I like the full throttle, screaming launch, going electric launches may just sterilize the racing a little more as some drivers are good at starting, others have a history of going backwards, as James mentioned electric will smooth that out to mostly just reaction time.


I voted 'hate it' then read this comment and now having second thoughts. A silent start will be very eery but the anticipation of the BOOM has the potential to be great. Now have mixed feelings...


I'm one step up. I voted "Mixed Feelings" then read this comment and now I'm all for it!

Isn't F1 the "pinnacle of motorsport"? If this is the fastest way to get a car moving, they should do it.

And I can totally see a road car doing that too.


exactly what I thought. It proves that blogs are great making you change your mind when someone brings good arguments.

thanks martin tf


I agree with this, quite, extremely fast, even more chance of collisions followed by a huge roar as the engine kicks in and a pile up in to first corner.

Could make starts even more exciting, this one needs an open mind.

Imagine if Red Bull had this electric start functioning as badly as their KERS was at the start of the season, the would have been left for dead at every start.

As ever new technology brings opportunities and challenges to all teams.


It'd be an absolute tragedy if this was to happen.

While I understand the teams investigating the possibility of it in a bid to maximise performance/potential, the FIA surely must do something to prevent 'electric starts' in the technical manner; we want electric starts in the sense of action, excitement and energy that only a grid full of screaming combustion engines can provide.


"Can you imagine a quiet start for F1?"


I'm sure that if there wasn't any sound the starts wouldn't seem as exciting. The sound builds with the tension. Bernie is right, and you don't hear me say that often.


Anyone who has been to a race knows what happens to their senses when the grid is cleared with minutes to start.

The release of the grid at the start is a climax in itself - and at every GP I have been to over the 10 years, I have made it a point to be able to witness it. Even at home - the noise is a must. Put your TV on mute at the start and notice how it changes.

I think one of the best places to see a start is turn 1 of Interlagos as they scream straight toward you and try to shuffle into the Senna esses - what a rush as cars are pushed wide and what looks like almost into the grandstand! Amazing stuff.


First they make the cars pig ugly from 2009 but only after dumbing down the sound from the gorgeous V10's. Then they dumb the engines down again and from '14 they're going to have ELECTRIC starts and destroy what is for most the best psrt of the whole weekend.

At this rate Indy cars may well be replacing F1 on their own circuits!

Stop dumbing down the sport I love! Its getting more like slot car racing everyday!


Hybrids come to mind, Whilst a great technology, its not F1.

It will never be a "green sport" next they will have emissions regulations and catalyct converters...

It's not the right direction for the sport 🙁


Its not the right direction because the FIA and the teams have not really embraced it. If it were wide open such that the teams could design any system they chose then it would be a different matter.

Now its like DRS. A joke.


Yes it is Hybrid and it is F1! Why can people not grasp that this is good for the sport. Keep the noise and keep the spectacle but embrace technology.

Just because toyota were the first to mass produce a boring hybrid it does not mean that all hybrids are going to be Prius clones.

Personally I can not wait to buy a truly high performance hybrid, a low emmission, high mpg rocket with free road tax. It is the future of road cars and if F1 can push it further and quicker then get behind it and stop moaning.


Not only is it the noise from the start, but also skill of getting the car off the line which adds to the unpredictability of the start. Reading the article it would appear that the cars would all leave the line uniformly with constant acceleration...especially if the electric unit is standard part, as all the cars will have the same/very similar weights and tyres.

Hope this will not be the case.....


Yes, I agree - the problem with no wheelspin and lots of evenly-matched torquey engines will leave no space for drivers to make errors. Ok, there will still be the reaction time issue, but the problem with that it if we have a super-fast start, then all the cars behind will pile into anyone slow to react.

I am yet to be convinced about this - I suppose I'll always be doubtful until they actually start doing it.

rpaco (other rpaco)

"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."

I have seen this mentioned often and quoted by many, yet it is NOT in the published tech regs nor the Sporting regs. NOR is it in the revised regs for 2012 So where does it come from please?

Can anyone quote the reg article number?


Good point. I've read it many times, but no trace of this "100kph issue" anywhere in the Regs.


I thought KERS was only used above 100kph because until the cars reached that speed there wasn't enough downforce to cope with the added horsepower.

rpaco (other rpaco)

It may well be the case that they cannot effectively use the KERS until 100kph is reached but there is nothing in the regs that I can find that says they cannot. It is about 1 second to 100kph.


Most spectacular sounding car in F1 will be the safetycar.....


Already is - that thing sounds AWESOME!


What are they thinking?

Constant torque will mean only one thing - perfect getaways for every one of the cars on the grid. No stalls, no missed gears, no slipped clutch, just 24 cars pulling away silently in perfect synchronisation.

You may as well have a rolling start as bother with that idea!


The supposed 'lack of noise' from cars under electric power does not take full account of fact. You cannot extrapolate from electric road cars because they do not behave in the same way. The best comparison is an electric train. There is a lot of power involved in getting those things moving, and there is a definite sound produced. If you consider the power required to get a racing car accelerating quickly, the sound created will be greater than that of a train (multiplied 24 times). Indeed, listen to the guys behind the proposed electric racing car championship: they say that power going on in those cars will produce a noise equivalent to a jet engine. It's simple physics if you think about it, so let's forget the myths and stick to the facts. Plus, the engine will kick in at a predetermined speed which will be reached within 2-3 seconds at the most. Will people really notice the difference? Time will tell.

At the end of the day, people always moan and bitch about how changes to the rules will destroy the sport. It's been happening for decades and F1 is more popular now than it has ever been. Most of them tend to change (or forget) their opinion very quickly. So let's embrace it as a step into something new and exciting for once.


Check the data.

The cars will not have 3,000 hp electric engins of a train.


Try doubling that and you may be a bit closer... 3000hp would be about right for a train from the 60s, these days they need a fair bit more.

However, bear in mind that we are talking 24 electric motors working to the peak of performance rather than a similar number designed and built to cover hundreds of thousands of miles.

Plus, I would imagine the engines will still be screaming as the delay will be a fraction of a second - the main thing will be getting the wheels going without spinning. Once you are moving the engine will kick in, possibly as low as 10-15mph - after all, first gear still needs to be used!

It would be interesting to know more details though. Is launch control being allowed? Presumably either that or there must be some provision for the driver to control the amount of power delivered by the electric motor. If 160hp isn't enough to spin the wheels then they wouldn't be looking at this as they need to be close to the limits to get best performance. Also, unless the change-over is automated as well that is still a variable. Apply engine power too soon and you may still bog down or spin up the wheels. Too late and you lose maximum acceleration.

Zobra Wambleska

You're right, they'll have 3,840 hp. (160x24).

Zobra Wambleska

Thanks Galapago, good to be back. Try twitter again, joined just for you.


Hi mate, so long since the last time I read your comments! Welcome back. Don't you have a twitter account?


I think Jean Todt will only be happy when he has everything that is good about F1 destroyed. We need some one leading the sport who listens to the fans not the politicians, and this will eventually be his undoing.



Maybe drivers who typically start poorly (hate to say it, but Webber would be one) would approve.

Why try and appease both the greens and the F1 fans at the same time with a token gesture like part-time electric running? It might increase average MPG from what, 3.5 to 4.6 and reduce CO2 by 2.05%... but if you were a greenie, it's not as if you'd suddenly change your mind and give F1 a thumbs up. On the flip side, one can see where this poll is going already F1 fans will slam it. So you're effectively introducing a measure which will have a net negative effect.


It may not sound spectacular as the lights go out, but it'll still be amazing seeing the cars accelerate with such little noise. It would appear to almost defy physics, which could still be a spectacle.

Then, the petrol power really kicks in, you would experience another rush as the engine sound ensues.

Strange I know, but this concept interests me more than DRS


any concept interests me more than DRS.


I always scratched my head over the hand wringing about the sound of proposed engine changes these last few months. But the start is one area that I can agree with this sentiment. Not even with the actual start itself, but rather the engines revving in anticipation of the start. All of those ponies waiting to be let loose when the lights go out adds to the excitement for me.

I am intrigued however by the idea of using the everything available from zero rev's ability of an electric motor. Maybe a blending of how the power from the two different drive trains is put to the ground at the start would be ideal.


Absolutely shocking idea. One of the most spectacular things in F1 is the start where the engine noise/revs build as the red lights come on and the tension reaches a crescendo!

To do away this would be nothing short of a tragedy.


I feel that they should stay away from gimmicks.

I'm very into electric cars and plugins and I think they are very exciting, but I want to see the technology play out naturally. Introduce the hybrid component to F1 and then let the teams use it where it's naturally advantageous to use. I believe the reason why the pitlane and start idea are being proposed is that there is no way to know the car is using electricity to propel it from the outside. I think the thinking must be that if they go 100% electric at some points then the viewers will become aware of what's going on because of the lack of sound. I'd much prefer that they put a light on the outside of the car which came on when KERS was being used. Think of it as a real world version of the TV graphic. It would show when it's being used and how much battery charge is left. I suggest that it shows when the KERS button is pressed and when it's recharged from braking.

I don't like the idea of the starts. 120KW is a lot less than 750HP and the sound of the starts is quite important in the drama of the whole thing. It may well be that the electric motor is not suited to starts without traction control. The characteristic of electrics that everyone raves about is the torque at zero rpm. This is actually in many ways a major liability when your engineering a car. If you go for a racing start you'd apply huge force through the gearbox and driveshaft instantly and that would likely do that some serious damage. They use KERS now in about 3rd gear I think to stop it shooting them off the circuit with massive wheelspin. I'm not a technical expert, but I assume that's all about the instant torque. I assume that if they applied the whole shebang at the start the wheels would just spin and the car wouldn't go anywhere. ....So I think they would need throttle control of the electric motor. That's an entirely different setup form my understanding of how KERS works now. They would have to have the throttle pedal control the electric motor and then half way down the straight press a button, start the engine and remap the throttle to the petrol engine. That seems a bit over complicated and potentially a recipe for disaster.

How would it work? ...You have your foot fully on the throttle, then kick on the engine , but keep your foot fully pressed down? ...or you have to take your foot off the throttle, wait for the petrol engine to start and then gradually apply power?

....Hm. Anyway it's an interesting thing to think about. What I want to see is a bigger electric motor and bigger batteries being introduced, but F1 needs to be very careful with the rules governing the batteries. There could easily be a very major battery related fire at some point if the teams are allowed to use any chemistry they want.

Sorry for the long post. I don't like the idea of electric starts, but find the idea interesting to discuss.


F1 cars dont have starter motors, so I doubt the driver would start it. The engine would be started just like it is now and kick in (no idea how) after the first few seconds.

If you ask me (and has been said in the previous comments) it could still be dramatic - by the engine going full out after it reaches a given speed (and the noise explodes with all the cars reving like crazy.

Just a thought anyway


Ah nevermind, forget my comment. I just realized they will have starter motors. DOH!


The thing I don't understand is why the ERS is limited in terms of power/torque/time.

Surely if they want to promote F1 as the pinnacle they should allow development of the ERS system and reduce the amount of fuel available. Then the cleverer engineers can get the most out of the system/batteries to get more power available for longer during the lap. This can only help move development of hybrid road car systems foward.

Two things usually generate big moves foward in technology. Competition is one, war is the other. Surely everyone running the same system removes the competitive element and therefore the whole system becomes pointless?


The article omits the most important thing and, as such, is just scaremongering. Teams can combine the electric motor with engine power at the start, thus retaining the noise. It's highly irresponsible not to have mentioned this in the article.


You are missing the point. Engineers say that the most efficient launch would be electric, nowhere does the article say that engine starts are not allowed. But F1 engineers will choose what works best. I also indicate that the option of electric starts is likely to be written out in the rules before 2014 starts.


Efficiency isn't the main objective in a start. As an example, ion-drive isan extremely efficient propulsion system, yet it is incredibly slow to accelerate.

The aim in an F1 start is obviously to accelerate as quickly as possible - an electric motor's efficiency doesn't really come into it. It's acceleration that's needed and that'd come from the engine rather than an electric motor.


I think James means the most 'effective' start i.e. the most advantageous (quickest). Though of course I can't speak for him.


So it will be ... 5 lights and the F1 cars are off.. to a slow start, 5 seconds later and we each 100km/h and the engine kicks in and which point the then take less time to do 100-200 than 0-100.

I feel a big FIA fail coming on.

Also the electric in the pit lane. Just wondering what will happen when a driver wants to make the most of the in lap due to importance of it so uses slightly too much K/ERS. He then runs out of electricity as he leaves the pit box.

Why can't they develop this system if its so important?

RIP Formula 1. May God Have Mercy On It's Soul.


The point is that there is a belief that using the electric motor will result in a faster start. Simple. They aren't going to do something that is slower. The very first bit of starting a car where the wheels aren't spinning is the hardest bit to get right as you can't match enging speed to wheel speed. Electric motors can work from zero, petrol engines can't.

I would suspect the time delay between the car starting to move and the petrol engine kicking in will be in the order of tenths of a second and it could become even more exciting if the driver has to control the change-over rather than it being done automatically.

The engine will still be revving away ready to kick in as soon as the wheels are moving fast enough. I doubt many people will notice the difference and it certainly won't be as many on here are talking with a delay of several seconds with no sound at all...


Electric motors won't be slow to start up - that's sort of the point. They have loads of torque. Ever tried electric go-karts?


I agree. A powerful electric motor absolutely hauls - and just as well as an internal combustion engine does. Not that I am condoning the idea of all-electric F1 starts! But lets get that out in the open... the engineers are simply stating the all-electric is the way to go simply based on performance... nothing else. They are not passing comment on spectacle, or emotion, or profitability. Just on the optimal solution given the tools on hand.

It seems highly unlikely that this idea of all-electric starts will get off the ground. Although there is rampant Todt and FIA bashing going on here in this website, the FIA can be relied on to do the right thing when enough pressure is put to bear on them. There has been ample evidence of this this season (yes I am aware that some of those were simply reversals of their own howlers). Plus, this decision on the all-electric starts is not needed just yet. The idea is being floated around to see what the consensus is. To me, this is the smart way to do it and it will all be sorted out with plenty of time to spare.

Finally, on the pit-lane silence question. I think this idea of electric-only in the pitlane is extremely dangerous. Some have commented above that pit crews simply "look before you step", or some such. This is an opinion based purely on optimism and not the real world. Pit crews in all forms of motorsport, such as Indycar, NASCAR, V8 Supercar etc, and plenty of other codes, get run down all the time just simply based on an innocent mistake or being in the wrong place at the wrong time - and these guys even have the benefit of a loud engine to give them warning! What is going to happen when you can't hear the cars at all? Human error is what it is, there is no way getting around it. Mark my words, it would be catastrophic.


Polls like this are a bit nonsensical. Why? Because people are being asked to compare something they are familiar with and something that they are non familiar with. Its no surprise that the thing with which they're familiar is favored.

I've attended some 10 GPs beginning in 1993. The sound is amazing. But to me its not the sounds during the race. Its during practice when you can hear one single engine wind its way up and down the rev band, as the driver makes his way around the track with the lightning-quick gear changes. 20+ cars doing this just sounds like noise. But my favorite sound of all occurs on Saturday morning, walking around the track to the grand stands. If you happen to walk within earshot of the pits, you will hear the teams revving the engines. When you hear them go from what seems to be 4K RPM to 15K RPM in 2 seconds, you realize you're dealing with something special.

This "debate" to me seems to be full of noise and fury signifying nothing. Maybe its because I remember the distinct differences between Ferrari V12 and the Renault V10s.


People disliked launch control because it made the starts too predictable. Renault had the best system and could be guaranteed to make a few places every GP.

This electric idea seems the same, the acceleration of the line will be governed by how good your electric motor is and every GP will start in the same way with the same cars making up and losing placed.

No more excitement when someone bogs down and has to make up places, no more lightening starts by someone unexpected. It will just be a dull formality into the first corner.

The noise is just a red herring and I doubt they could cut the engine completely as they would need a starter motor that they don't want to carry for the entire race due to weight. (Yes I know an idling engine is relatively quiet).


These same new regs also stipulate that the driver must be able to start the car by himself whilst seated in the car, so they will have starter motors on them.

completely agree with the rest of your post.


The whole starter motor thing is actually a fascinating development. For so long various things have been governed by the cars not having a starter motor, but it could now all change. Just think of all the times in the past a driver has had a spin, or minor crash and stalled the engine causing them to be out of the race. The drivers were forced to stay in there cars waiting for a martial to push them. oh!

....I was going to say that a driver can restart the car after an incident, but I have just realised something potentially highly cool! A driver could have an incident where he goes off circuit and then he could get out of his car, push it to a different position then get in his car and start it up and get back into the race. Surely it would be a rare occurrence, but it might be possible with the new rules.

Also the drivers potentially don't have to leave the cars idling on the grid as the other cars form up behind them. If your worried about your car overheating as you wait, then simply turn it off for a few mins.

One possible danger of a pit stop could be that the mechanics don't know that the car is about to leave the pit box. At the moment you have to rev the engine to a certain rpm before you can get it to move. This is a great accidental safety feature which tells the mechanics to jump out of the way. With an electric take off this all goes away.

...lots of interesting potential changes. 🙂


I hate the mandated starter idea, but you are right, seeing Alonso push his Ferrari out of a gravel trap would be classic!


Why does electric keep coming up. Ignoring the sound debate if F1 wants to be seen to be green then it should work towards truely alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen rather than using the proposals as they are, the recovery is a lossy tech and fully electric cars power still mostly come from fossil fuels. Alternative fuels would actually be road relevant then.


if they really wanted to appear green they would limit the amount of crap the teams are allowed to bring to all the races. this would cut the greenhouse emissions of F1 dramatically. WAAAAYYYYY more than any regulations on the actual racing would.


Surely with only 160kw they wouldn't be on electric motor for very long. Plus you've got the strategy. Use all kers off start line or hold it back for later in the lap.

Even so I can't say i'm keen on the idea, even without taking sound into account the unpredictability of bad/good starts is definately a feature of the race that would be lost.

The first corner is already not as lairy or entertaining as it once was, all cars getting away at same speed would make it even more pedestrian.


I'm all for green technologies, BUT I do not want a quiet, controlled start. I want noisy, screaming engines and unpredictable scrambles off the line.

If I wanted everyone quietly starting at the same controlled pace I would buy a train set.

This is one step too far.




Can i ask what is possibly a daft question. Are the cars running electro hydraulic steering and braking. Or is it an engine driven pump/pumps. I understand this to a fuel saving idea for road cars. There seems to now be a wealth if electrical energy stored in the car. The potential for energy recovery still outweighs the allowed expenditure each lap?

Also if its electric pit stops us this discharge in addition to the allowed expenditure throughout a normal lap?


The brakes are not boosed in any way (pretty amazing performance!!), as for the steering I imagine there would be various types used.


This is a fantastic idea.....at the same time they could introduce those handsets that you get with scaletrix sets to the crowd so they can control the start......Joke!

Electric starts in my opinion bad idea,but in the pits maybe a greener safer option.


I want to see electric cars racing in their own series - it's a proven way to push development of the technology (remember what racing did for the foundations of the modern motor industry), but I don't think electric motors for the start-line are the answer in F1.

As Dino said above, you might as well have rolling starts!


Wow, a high dollar slot car race.


F1 should embrace electic power as the technology they develop could have benefits to us all, however dont ruin the start, the most exciting bit of most races. If we are going to have electric power why not something like the following

1) Qualifying outlap and inlap (or all of Q1)

2) Or in free practice 1 (or a new FP 4). Time set should be within a certain percentage of pole or recieve a penalty.

3) out lap after pitstop.

So many options but NOT AT THE START

you could go on


Gee,Its starting to look like I was wise not to invest in the Austin race. With the heat and humidity for that date is going to be appalling. Now electric starts and V6 engines

The powers that be are doing their best at turning off the American crowd that they want to capture.

Been going and watching F1 races since 84 and I think next year will be my last for the sport is becoming very diluted.



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.


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?


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.


ANother example of over-thinking.

Why all the stupid restrictions?

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


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.


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.



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!


These ticket prices ought to decrease substantially in that case...


Electric starts? No thanks.


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...


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


Indy car racing is looking better and better.


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.


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 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.


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


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.


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


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.


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



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.


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!

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