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Brawn envisages all-electric F1


While FIA president Jean Todt has already broken the hearts of those fans - and some drivers - hankering for a return to V8s, V10s and even V12s, insisting that the sport will not be going backwards, Ross Brawn, the sport's technical boss, is unlikely to make many friends with his prediction that F1 will be all-electric, possibly within the next decade.

As the sport finds a way to improve the spectacle, and particularly the sound, of the current V6 hybrid formula, Brawn claims that the sport must follow the direction the motor industry appears to be taking.

"I think we have to respect what Formula E is doing and what it's achieving," he tells F1's Fan Voice. "But if you look at the magnitude of the two they are not really comparable; the amount of fans we have and the appeal of Formula One, Formula E is still very junior in that respect.

"I think Formula One will evolve in the direction that has the right balance of sport, relevance and engagement with the fans," he continued. "If in five years' time or ten years' time there is a need, desire or wish to have a different type of power unit in Formula One then we will do it. There is nothing to stop us having electric Formula One cars in the future.

"At the moment they don't deliver the spectacle, and with all due respect if you go to a Formula E race it is a pretty junior category of motor racing," he said of the sport's first ever all-electric series which has just concluded its fourth season. "It's a great event in terms of all of the stuff that is going on around it, but the race itself is pretty tame when you compare it to a Formula One event.

"The cars are not particularly fast, you don't have the personalities involved but they are doing a fabulous job at putting on an event and making it a street party.

"Formula One is different to that," he adds, "Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, the speeds we do, the calibre of drivers we have and the teams we have, and if that moves in five or ten years' time to a different power source then we will do it if that is most appealing and achieves what we want to achieve. I don't see Formula One being locked into internal combustion engines forever, but who knows where we are in ten years."

Fact is, a number of former F1 drivers have found a home in Formula E, and all four champions - Nelson Piquet Jr, Sebastian Buemi, Lucas di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne - have all raced in F1, albeit with little success.

Furthermore, the fifth season, which gets underway in Saudi Arabia in December, will feature a new Gen2 car with double the current energy storage capacity, meaning it can complete a whole race. With 250kW of power, it is anticipated the Gen2 car will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 2.8-seconds and reach a top speed of 280km/h (175 mph).

"Ten years ago I don't think many people would be able to predict where the world is now," admits Brawn, "and therefore I don't know where we will be in ten years, but Formula One will move in the right direction."

Echoing those calls of fans who want a return to 'the good old days', Brawn admits that he too misses the sound and fury of the old F1, but that there is no going back.

"There is a part of me which would love that to happen," he admits. "I do love the old engines but I don't see how we could make that step back without such a radical revolution that would really polarise Formula One and split it apart.

"The manufacturers we have in Formula One at the moment are committed to the engines we have now, and should we have a revolution? I don't think so. I'd love to have those engines but it's not going to happen, so we need to evolve the engines we have now and learn the lessons from introducing these engines to see how we can take them in a direction that is a bit more appealing to the fans."

Season five will see BMW join Audi, Jaguar and Nissan, which replaces Renault, in Formula E, while Porsche and Mercedes are due to enter the fray in season six.

At a time Ferrari has yet to agree to the planned post-2020 engine regulations - assuming they are ever presented - asking the Maranello manufacturer to go all-electric will surely be a step too far.

It's also worth noting that Liberty Global - John Malone's other company - is a significant shareholder in Formula E.


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1. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 12/08/2018 18:56

"Why is there a need or desire for F1 to have anything to do with cars that people drive? I mean, SUVs are outselling almost all other new cars and SUVs have nothing in common with a Formula 1 car at all aside from four wheels and a seat. In fact, Ford, one of the big auto companies will make the Mustang and a version of the Fiesta for the US as their only cars for that market. Nissan make the GTR and the Leaf, the rest are SUV or utility vehicles.
Let racers be racers so we can enjoy the noise, and speed of the cars and the skills of the drivers and the teams. Forget about making F1 relevant to the auto industry because it isn't and hasn't been relevant for years.

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 12/08/2018 9:01

"Given the current situation, I don't really understand is why today's Luddite style of F1 need exist at all when Formula E is fully-developed. There is already rather better racing in FE than in F1, despite the limitations of the tracks, and no reason to believe that that will change.

As Lapps suggests, F1 needs to dump the restrictive rules, and encourage, not ban innovation. That's what defines the "pinnacle". At present F1 is stuck in the foothills, from both Sporting and Technical perspectives.
I'd be prepared to lay money on the emergence of much lighter, more energy-dense batteries within a decade, at which point the Internal Combustion Engine will have no advantages over electric power.

Science, Engineering and technology never rests and at some time in the not-too-distant future the best solution to going very fast on 4 wheels won't involve burning hydrocarbons.
If I'm still around, I'll be as excited by human ingenuity's ability to triumph over and\or exploit the rules of Ms Physics, as I am today by the sound of a racing engine hitting 20,000 RPM. I appreciate this may appear a somewhat ascetic view, but I get my more "human" buzz from the competition between drivers. This mixture of the intellectual challenge, and intensely human competition is the basis of why F1 has been so important to me over the years. Sportsmanship and technology -- such a thrilling combination!

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3. Posted by Schnauzers, 11/08/2018 17:45

"Paul C and Lapps are right. But anyway, why not run supporting races to Championship races for various eras of F1 cars, driven by CURRENT drivers, prepared by CURRENT teams to test the CURRENT public's reaction/choice?"

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4. Posted by Uffen, 11/08/2018 14:17

"Once more the manufacturers are credited (i.e. blamed) with messing up F1.
Ross thinks F1 should follow the path of the motor industry? So, enclosed wheels, driver-overriding electronic controls (driver aids galore, leading to autonomous operation), tailpipe emissions controls (for smog mitigation), engine shut down at idle (on the starting grid), enclosed cockpits with climate control, fully automatic transmissions, and on and on.
No, Ross, we watch F1 to escape street cars and their nanny technologies. We want raw racing with noise and smells, and drivers exerting full control over their machines. Give your head a shake. "

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5. Posted by Chris Roper, 11/08/2018 11:50 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 11/08/2018 12:06)

"I think he is not being far sighted enough.

With all of the FIA's push for Safety and reduced Carbon Footprint, the fact that Organisers and Circuits are dropping by the wayside due to hosting costs, combined with Liberty constantly pushing for more Big City Exposure, I think Ross should be looking much deeper into the technology than electric motors.

Given that Liberty are more interested in TV coverage, advertising revenue and Spin Off products than they are in the actual formula, why should F1 try to compete with FormulaE or any other series for that matter, F1 is just a brand.

Already these days more fans watch F1 on TV or Streaming services than attend races a nd Liberty are hoping to attract even more fans with its own streaming options and new TV deals. As a result the organisers are hosting Pop concerts and fairground attractions to get people to attend the circuits and F1 is becoming another supporting event to the pop star of the day.

If Ross were thinking outside the box he would realise that the teams already own the most advanced simulators on the planet. Liberty could Book Stadiums in any Cities they choose and hold a Mega media event with Live Music Concerts interspersed with Virtual F1 races all shown on big screen displays and Streamed live around the world.

Zero carbon Footprint, no expensive Circuits vastly reduced team costs but all of the Hipe, TV spectacular and Driver skill that F1 currently demands.

p.s. I am not advocating the above, but I do see it as a possible future if current trends continue."

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6. Posted by Paul C, 11/08/2018 6:19

"The day Ross Brawn converts Formula E to Formula 1 is the day I'll start looking for Vintage F1 events. Formula 1 without engine sound becomes moving wallpaper for a beautiful people party."

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7. Posted by Tardis40, 11/08/2018 0:56

"Let's put steam turbines in them powered by small nuclear reactors. Then they can make a couple of pit stops to take on water."

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8. Posted by Hadoken, 11/08/2018 0:26

"He's not wrong. It won't be long until Formula E surpasses Formula 1 technically, then it will be the pinnacle of motorsport.

In 5/10 years time, Formula E cars will be faster than F1 cars. People get are getting way too hung up on the sound of the engine, like that's all that matters."

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9. Posted by ESTMPRFT, 10/08/2018 20:11

"One thinks things can't get much worse and then..."

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10. Posted by F One, 10/08/2018 19:28

"Brawn's going senile."

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11. Posted by elsiebc, 10/08/2018 17:37 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 11/08/2018 12:06)

Yes, open up the PU options to whatever they want to run, like in the old days. Remove the size/cylinder constraints as well as the "fuel" source. Maybe electric isn't the future but fuel cells. Just require no "refueling" so that whatever one runs has to go the distance and with whatever weight penalties that entails. Racing can't be a true testbed when you specify all the aspects of the engine.
Those of us who love the sounds and smells will convert if we see a truly superior format in a head to head, open contest. "

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12. Posted by rtw1951, 10/08/2018 15:16

"Please, someone electrify Mr. Brawn. PLEASE!"

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13. Posted by Lapps, 10/08/2018 14:57

"It is simple to address this.
Permit Teams to enter electric cars NOW, with the proviso that current regulations regarding weight, dimensions and aerodynamics apply.
So if there is a change it is on merit. If they don’t measure up (and they won’t) they won’t exist. "

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14. Posted by mzso, 10/08/2018 14:17

"Bring EVs, bring them now!"

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15. Posted by Jet Jockey, 10/08/2018 13:24

"I think he's lost the plot! He needs to go back to retirement from F1!

He is the last person that I thought would think like this and had hoped that he would solve F1's issues but it doesn't seem like it.

All electric F1? Bye, bye from me if that happens."

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