Formula 1 and all other forms of motorsport which rely on the internal combustion engine are destined for the museum – and soon – according to Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris convention on climate change.
Figueres is now co-chair of the new advisory board for Formula E, along with Alain Prost, four times world F1 champion. She sees her role as being to challenge and to spur the series on to transform the automotive and transport world to decarbonise.
Speaking at the launch of the new title sponsorship by tech giant ABB of the Formula E electric racing series in London today, Figures challenged both Formula E boss Alejandro Agag and ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer to bring about the “museum to the combustion engine” and to put a date on when it would happen.
“We have a lot to thank it (IC engine) for, it got us where we are today,” she said, but noted,”I challenge you to put a date on it (when the IC engine would be history).
“We are now in a race to the future, to decarbonise the world. It is unstoppable, it’s just a question of when.”
Asked by this site after the event whether this meant that Formula 1 as the pinnacle of motorsport would have to become electric or become obsolete, she agreed.
The Costa Rican, who has been Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since 2010, suggested that racing involving internal combustion engines would have a future as an entertainment, a retro series, given that there are many beautiful cars from the last 100 years that people would want to see – and hear – race.
But as a global sporting business and as a technology leader for the automotive industry there was no question of a long term for a series which uses hybrid or any other form of fossil fuel power units.
Speaking to Popular Science Editor Joe Brown at the end of 2017, F1 managing director motorsports Ross Brawn was asked about F1 having an electric future and responded, ““I don’t see it in the next five to 10 years. I can’t see that.
“We have some tough questions to ask ourselves.”
For the short term, he added, the new owners’ view is that what F1 needs is that “The show has to be the number-one priority. The racing, the drivers, the history, the noise, the smell, the atmosphere.”
Mercedes is reputed to be building a new V6 hybrid engine for this new F1 season, with 1,000hp from just 1.6 litres. But Mercedes is also entering Formula E and F1 team boss Toto Wolff says, “The reason for us joining is that our road cars are gonna go electric — that’s a fact.”
There is an hourglass running on Formula 1’s future as a fossil fuel powered series. As governments increasingly set dates to call time on sales of petrol and diesel engined cars, the waist aperture of that hourglass opens up.
The question, as Figures says, is how long?
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