F1 heading for the ‘museum to the combustion engine’ – climate change leader
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Jan 2018   |  4:40 pm GMT  |  447 comments

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.

Ross Brawn

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?

What do you think of these suggestions? Leave your comments in the section below

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A woman like Figueres is a very good reason why we will stick with Formula 1, thank you very much.

I’ve driven electric cars including both current Teslas models and I have to say they do absolutely nothing to excite the soul. Formula E, ditto.

We will (eventually) be forced to give up the Internal Combustion Engine but until petrol is completely unavailable I will continue to enjoy my Ferrari 575M and the glorious sound of its 5750cc, 515hp V12 on the autobahns and when driving through the tunnels above Monte Carlo.

A Tesla Model S might be as quick from a standing start, (as long as it’s travelling in a straight line) but anyone who seriously suggests its a substitute simply does not get it at all.


The self charging hybrid – based on a tiny very efficient turbo IC engine recharging the battery – looks to me like a solution with real legs for road use

Not very exciting for racing but may be the next step at some point


Waste of time, the planet has evolved through hot and cold periods for millions of years and will continue to do so for millions more, I doubt if humans can stop the process!


Whatever you think about Global Warming, the question is the lifespan of the IC engine. Wolf has stated the obvious in saying that Mercedes road cars are all going electric. So then the question is, what technology benefit will Mercedes get from continuing in F1 with IC engines, if their cars are electric powered?


Problem is Li-Ion has only 140-240 watt/hours of energy per kg vs 12,788 for gasoline. Li-Ion cells can only operate at very low duty cycles, you can’t operate them at 100% for long, they heat up and have a never above 70 Celsius else the electrolyte goes exothermic, and we’ve seen the youtube video’s of cells exploding. So your left with over populating to reduce load, making cars far too heavy than they need to be, the 2% a year improvement is just not real, it’s being achieved with reducing the packaging overheads since 2002, not actual chemistry or fundamental improvements. Meanwhile combustion has improved by huge amounts since 2002 and still improving, we’re now achieving over 60-% thermal efficiency with pressure gain combustion, using acoustic compression with high efficiency mechanical efficiency.


These activists are working hard to advance their agenda. In the US, under the Obama Administration that endorsed the Paris deal, the fuel economy standard was doubled and opponents were seized as part of attempts to use social engineering to replace family cars and trucks with the tiny cars (sub-2000cc engines) and electric power. Durability was sacrificed for more complex parts in order to appease the new standards.

The activists have made it clear they want to push electric cars over all. They need all sorts of social engineering policies to advance their agenda.


As click bait goes this one has really got people going. But as many like to point out , when they say F1 is becoming boring , there are other racing series. No road racing in Europe. No IOM TT, most car racing based on road cars will be electric. Le Mans will be whisper quiet and as for two wheel speed thrills well there may not be any. So not just F1 under attack.


We are a long, long way off producing a powerstore that can beat hydrocarbons for energy density. Doing away with fossil fuels does not need to mean an end to using hydrocarbons or internal combustion engines.
In fact, if those countries that make most of their wealth from fossil fuels switched to creating sustainable carbon neutral hydrocarbon fuels we could probably get away from all this electric car nonsense.
FYI, an interesting project: http://soletair.fi/
It is also interesting that most of the major oil exporting countries have substantial renewable energy potential.


She’s right, but I’m not sure about the timescale. F1’s hybrid power plants seem to have been intended as a segue into an all-electric series, but it feels now like it probably happened a decade too soon. Luckily, the FIA have Formula E as a barometer.

Like many traditional motorsport fans, I don’t have a great deal of enthusiasm for Formula E, but it’s clearly found an audience and it’s a great testbed for the technology. I suspect once FE speeds increase past a certain point, and they can do an entire race in one car, the FIA will start seriously looking at phasing ICEs out of F1. Of course, if EV technology were to make a leap that meant it had a genuine competitive advantage over ICEs, we’d see ICEs phased out of F1 in no time at all.


To force F1 to conform to environmental concerns is like the tail wagging the dog, in reverse. (The tail being Formula1.) It is but a tiny part of the universe. Let Figures have her say , but don’t let her dictate. If she were in command , things like horse racing would not exist today, it’s an anachronism, as well, but a popular one.
Let’s keep jousting ( figuretivly speaking) alive, we’ll all feel better for it. Leave great sport alone, let’s address the environment from other more relevant vantage points. Valiant history should be revered not made a negative example of; by doing so we diminish the sacrifice and vast effort from which previous participants gave us all so much vicarious pleasure. Don’t condem the past, celebrate what it can do to dramatically lift the future excitement for its loyal adherents and their progeny . Motor racing was and is a real life drama for which there will be no alternative or possible substitute. F1 racing is true grit. It is a valuable environment in and of it’s own right. It has more than earned a guaranteed stable future, by virtue of it’s glorious past. Amen.


Climate change started with the industrial revolution. Personally l don’t give a damn about it. All l want is naturally aspirated V10s screaming around the track.


F1 is a major polluter, not from the racing but from the movement of all the cars, kit teams, buildings etc around the world. Also by the travelling of the fans and officials concession holders etc. Some of this may be less concerning if the road transport hanges to electric, but the main disaster will still be air travel. We have single seat aeroplanes that can now stay up on solar power however the massive amount of air cargo and team transport will not be going electric for the forseeable future.
In the meantime we have one year of free F1 left in the UK. The obvious thing would be to increase the tv audience not shrink it even more than hitherto. Bernies deals, which Liberty choose to continue have reduced the UK audience to a fraction of that of the BBC glory days, removing the incentive for team sponsors.
It is not just the prize money that needs sorting, but the whole financial model for teams, tv and circuits. By the time that is done FE could become interesting, with major new teams and sponsors. They would need to start using proper circuits though and stop this silly business of identical narrow tunnels which could be anywhere.
But then Liberty will make a massive loss, as they are still paying off Bernie’s unbelievable loans given away to the previous shareholders, why they (Liberty) paid that much or indeed anything at all for F1 is a mystery.


A lot of nonsense about if and how the electricity can be produced.

Even if it does not quite deliver 100% of what it says it will be a huge step forward.
And just a question how many people on this site has seen the preparation and effort needed to start and operate one of the early cars? You practically needed to be a bloody engineer. Also they were very unreliable noisy and dangerous, but guess what they made it.
The new tech being developed for powering cars is not what it could be but like the first ICEs, it will improve with development. And racing as usual will be a big part of that.


JohnH. Electric cars have been around for nearly as long as petrol cars.


Yes they have, but until recently the tech has not been available for them to be allowed to work. But now we can produce electricity and store it in ways never possible before.
So we can now start to use a much more efficient motor to transport us around.


Yes they have, and up until recently they could not compete. The technology of the time was not up to the task of challenging the ICE, things have changed.


For Sebee, Tarun, Redline, & all others who are of the belief that F1 is entertainment first & foremost. Please take a long walk off a short pier.
Yes, F1 is entertaining, but F1 is the pinnacle of automotive engineering excellence.
Try telling 1000 people in Woking that they work in the entertainment industry.
If you disagree with me, then please remove the F1 bits from your car, you know, seat belts, rack & pinion, disc brakes, electronic fuel injection, ECU, computer controlled suspension & driveline, DSG boxes etc.


These are all parts that have been developed for motorSPORT. Sport being for entertainment. The things you have listed are bi-products of a sport that people enter to entertain themselves by way of competition.


If no crowd turned up for a band, they wouldn’t play.
If no crowd turned up for a movie, they wouldn’t show it.
If no crowd turned up for a race, they would still race.
F1 is entertaining, yes, but it is not entertainment!!!


@ Spud…Wrong.


@ Mick….No one denies that the engineering is superb…it is exactly that but you are quite wrong to disassociate F1 from being a form of entertainment in which F1 engineers are part of that greater nominative event. As for your F1 bits removal suggestion you do know of course that ‘seat belts, rack and pinion steering, disc brakes and electronic fuel injection were all invented/created before F1 was a reality?


My point is, F1 is entertaining, but not entertainment.
& electronic fuel injection prior to 1950. . . . I seriously doubt it, but please show me I’m wrong if there is proof.


Honestly…the reality is that F1 teams are too bloated. There should be a cap on number of employees to control costs. And many of the things you name did not originate in F1 as well.


Yes, I got a bit carried away, but the development of these & many other things would be nowhere near what is available today if F1 was firstly part of the Entertainment industry.


Errr… I think you’re a bit confused as well as disrespectful.

Firstly, as an engineer I wholly share your opinion about F1 being the pinnacle of automotive engineering excellence, and fully support the presence of the manufacturers. I do however wish the rules were more balanced technically, as well as being structured so as to allow more competitive racing. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Secondly, I fully understand that not everyone shares my opinion or views of what the sports focus should be. If I feel its worth it, I will debate it with them, otherwise I will ignore it. Slinging insults, as you have done, is rather childish, and usually the preserve of those who are unable to properly articulate the merits of their views.


Dear Redline,
I have re-read my post & I see no insult or disrespect. This just shows how people can view things differently, as no insult or disrespect was intended.
I too am an Engineer, & have caused influence to racing outcomes (club up to V8 Supercar) through my words & actions, but I feel you have misunderstood my meaning that F1 should not be firstly considered as entertainment.
I also agree with you that a large re-write of the rule book is long overdue.
Here’s to 2018.


@ Mick – sorry, I must have misunderstood the “Please take a long walk off a short pier” bit … 😉

In any case, hope 2018 brings us an interesting and exciting season!


As an engineer, don’t you think engineers are out of control in F1? They’ve been let off the leash and it’s time to put them back on it, ASAP.


@Sebee … well, I think being an F1 engineer right now is incredibly frustrating, because the rules are so prescriptive and limiting. Big changes, or finding an area in the rules which allow them to be creative is a very rare occurrence. The scope of innovation is on a nano-level rather than macro. Most of the engineering is in fact optimization to the nth degree, which is what leads to the ridiculous aerodynamic developments we’ve arrived at.

IMO the rules should be changed to allow the engineers more creative freedom to come up with real innovation, rather than thousands of CFD iterations on winglet cascades, or flexing slotted floors.


@ Redline…as an engineer myself i agree totally with what you’ve said although i haven’t been involved on a day to day basis for a very very long time. As Andy Cowell said when taliking about his ‘new’ engine for the Mercedes . It’s a matter of finding nanoseconds in many areas. Imagine what the costs were in this case?


I call bullshit on this one. Energy is required, but electricity is only one form of energy.
Yes, it is currently one of the cleanest forms we currently have, but it is still mostly converted from nuclear fission & coal . . . both of which have negative implications.
There is nothing worse than the idiot driving a Toyota Prius, because they want to save the planet.
Formula E may be entertaining, & provide a rapid development curve for EV manufacture, but is not hugely relevant to daily life around the globe because of the limitations of the technology away from any Metropolis.
I challenge anyone to drive from GP to GP (Austin to Sao Paulo, Shanghai to Barcelona, Spa to Abu Dhabi) in an EV, & not miss the race. . . or die.
In Britain & Europe, fine. The USA is catching up, thanks in no small part to Elon Musk, but even Australia can only connect Sydney & Canberra with an EV.
& good luck trying to get your self drive car to dodge Kangaroos!!!
As to the question at hand of ‘How long?’, I say 2050.


They have been racing solar powered cars from Darwin to Adelaide for 30 years now, with an average speed exceeding 90 km/h.


@ martin W. remind me next time you see someone using one for these to do the daily shopping!!!!!


“Yes, it is currently one of the cleanest forms we currently have, but it is still mostly converted from nuclear fission & coal”
So how is it clean, exactly?


Electricity is almost perfectly clean, only leaving a very small carbon deposit whenever is arcs.
The conversion of one or more energy forms into electricity is the dirty problem.


Yes!! Finally someone talking some sense!

F1 SHOULD be a museum to the combustion engine; that’s the perfect vision for its future.

We invented digital cameras and Photoshop but does that stop the Louvre being amazing? Or is it not the very reason that the Louvre, or the Sistine Chapel are global treasures?

F1’s position in the world is destined to be the opposite of road relevant. Instead, it should be a living, competitive and blindingly-vibrant tribute to a period of history that has shaped the world beyond recognition. An era punctuated by accidental visionaries and dare-devil pilots, operating on passion and in exchange for nothing more than a chance of victory. That is what the (so very often overused) DNA of the sport is.

The sooner everyone interested in F1 understands that the above vision is THE ONLY way the sport doesn’t end up dying completely (eventually), then the sooner we can progress and enjoy it again.

F1 is no longer the hub for car manufacturer innovation. That ship has sailed folks. If that’s what you want, go electric but please don’t stop me and a few billion other grease-monkeys that love speed, noise, smells and heroics, enjoying a proper car race every fortnight.

I’ll drive a Prius and everything, just let F1 be, ffs.


I love the sound of that, honestly!! I just hope there are enough billionaires with the same enthusiasm to sustain the sport if and when manufactures pull out and other forms of power begin to surpass the ICE. I think you’ve nailed what the ‘DNA’ of the sport actually is. Road relevance isnt a part of what’s driven the sport, it’s a bi-product. I personally would be happy with independent engine tuners and chassis’ developers battling it out within a sustainable format. I’ve tried to watch FE with an open mind but as futuristic as it looks and for all its aggressive marketing it’s still second rate and…well…..just a bit crap!


Great post!

Also, I’m still not convinced that battery tech can ever be good enough for F1 speeds.. there’s a limit to what can be achieved!


My first thought on this is why do we immediately couple IC engines with fossil fuels? Surely the next step would be IC engines running on renewable fuels (ethanol from sugar cane works in Mexico) so we still have sights, sounds smells but without the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels.
My second thought is that, as in the past with developments of things like disc brakes, racing improves the breed – energy recovery systems are starting to come into road cars, the improved combusiton efficiencies now coming out of F1 engine development are the biggest improvements seen in decades.
It will be a long time before IC engines disappear from our roads and it will be a long time before IC engines disappear from motor sport.


@ Peter Venn…just a small note to your post…the invention of the disc brake had nothing to do with motor racing nor F1 either! It was invented by Fred Lancaster in 1902!!!!


What about Hydrogen powered internal combustion engines for the future of F1?


kvyat has got himself a development drivers position at ferrari. imagine when he proves faster than both ferrari drivers.


One comment concerns me in the article for competitiveness in 2018: ‘Mercedes is reputed to be building a new V6 hybrid engine for this new F1 season, with 1,000hp from just 1.6 litres.’ They already have the best engine, and they are adding even more to it. This could mean a boring year of racing.
Electricity and a combination of other non-traditional technologies will rule racing. But with most of the cars being driverless in the future, the sport might become less interesting as spectators are not doing any driving themselves. The sport has to be interesting for me to watch. ‘Interesting’ is the key word for me.


Schumacher Karting Track set to close! It’s sad, but at the same time I feel like autonomous driving in the near future is going to help this hobby.

It’s a shame, go visit this place and take in a bit of history! Has anyone been recently? Did they already move all the F1 cars and memorabilia to that new Motorworld place in Cologne?

> (from grand prix.com – forgive I mention this, but when it’s a full copy/paste like this I feel it’s only fair to give source)

Michael Schumacher’s famous kart circuit in Kerpen looks set to close.

The site, about 30 kilometres from Cologne, has been earmarked for coal mining by the German company RWE from 2020.

“There will be no new kart track,” Michael’s brother Ralf, who like the seven time world champion began his racing career in Kerpen, told Kolner Express newspaper.

“The joint search with RWE has not led to a new location.

“It’s a shame,” the former Williams and Toyota driver added. “Here, tradition and successful youth promotion are dying at the same time.”

Michael Schumacher owns two thirds of the track, and his manager Sabine Kehm commented: “The family is up to date with developments.”


Oh…also gone will be Michael Schumacher Strasse!


What I took from the article:

Mercedes a few weeks ago: “Oh we can’t change the engine formula and have us building new engines. Oh cost, effort! Noooo!”

Mercedes this week: “We’ll be building a new V6 hybrid engine for this new F1 season, with 1,000hp from just 1.6 litres. No cost, effort too big!”


When batteries can charge up from zero to 100% in five minutes or less, I will THINK about switching. Personally I think it would be easier for the industry to make Hydrogen as common and cheap as fuel. Increasing the combustion ratio to diesel levels would extract more out of the combustion cycle efficiency-wise and Hydrogen is RENEWABLE. Personally I don’t think that building all those energy sources from what are basically semi precious metals is a good idea environmentally either plus they have got to be limited quantities available to begin with. My son will be adjusting his valves way, way after I’ve gone….


Maybe when an all electric F1 car can do a full race distance on a single charge and be quicker than one equipped with an IC engine over that distance we should take note. Until then, forget it.


The more we see the impacts of climate change, the more ridiculous the deniers arguments become.
“Climate change fools”, “climate change would continue if all power stations shut down and all humans migrated to Jupiter”, ” carbon has always existed on earth. it was never introduced to earth by internal combustion engines”, “it is far from a proven fact that the climate is changing outside of normal variance or that mankind has affected”, “if they were really interested in cleaning city air, they would seed clouds to make it rain over cities to wash city air clean of pollutants….instead they are talking nonsense”.

Some are “talking nonsense”.


I do not deny that the climate is changing, but i doubt the influence of carbon of being the big cause of it. Climates always changed, that is a fact. That the changes are more visable now, because we gather/have more info, is also a fact. But is it changing more then 100 years ago? 500 years ago? Earth has been warmer (Dino’s) and colder (Ice ages) what caused that? Dino’s burning fuel? Mammoths going electric? And there is nothing wrong with wanting to reduce carbon (or NOx, or any pollution) I want that to, but people like Figueres want it for the wrong reason and with the wrong plan. You can call me a fool, but please come with facts, hey with the right facts i will even come to your side.


I thought the idea was to ban ICEs running Fossil fuels (Diesels/Petrol/Gasoline) , not ICEs thenselves. ICEs running Bio-fuels should be OK. So, Seebee, V10s running Bio-fuel I presume should be OK with you?
Bio-fuel using vats rather than fields. I find the use of fields to grow crops for bio-fuel disagreeable when they should be growing crops for food for people (or animals which we depend on). It seems a bit coincidental that food prices go up at the same time as farmers start swicthing to grow bio-fuel crops instead of human food crops.


I think until road cars are around 30-40% of the market all electric, ICE racing in F1 is safe. It’s going to take many years, 20 years would be an aggressive estimate, as the costs need to be reduced and first world countries need to be revolutionised in terms of infrastructure. On top of this you have the technological challenges of rapidly charging these cars. it isn’t as simple as plugging it into the mains at home overnight as not everyone can park right outside their house close enough to an electric point. Maybe removable batteries could solve this, but then that is again addition costs and technological advances to make the batteries light enough to remove. I believe the issue of range will largely be solved within the next 5 or so years. Some of the latest electric cars already have a range not that far off a standard petrol car.

So I think 20 years is a reasonable estimate even at the rapid pace the industry is pushing for it.

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