Todt confirms electric engines will not be introduced in 2014


For the past year Pitpass has been telling readers that the proposed changes to Formula One's engine regulations will not be introduced as they stand. Now we have the proof.

The criticism began to rain in soon after Formula One's governing body, the FIA, announced in December 2010 that from 2013 the current V8s would switch to four-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbocharged engines which will run on electric power in the pit lane.

First F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone told business editor Christian Sylt that the new engine "doesn't sound anything like Formula One." Then, in June last year, Sylt revealed ( that F1's circuits had formed a joint decision for the first time to leave the sport if the engine regulations came into effect. They were concerned that the new engines would sound so different to the current V8s that fewer spectators would attend the races. The following month the FIA decided to delay the introduction of the new engines to 2014 and changed their specification to 1.6 litre, turbocharged V6s. The circuits and Ecclestone had won but that still left the thorny issue of the electric power in the pit lane which remained in the regulations.

Ecclestone began piling on the pressure first by saying that he "may have to sue the FIA" because the decision to introduce the new engines allegedly breached his contract with the governing body. The fatal blow came in August last year when Ecclestone said that that using engines with electric power in the pit lane "could kill people because they won't hear them coming." From that moment the plan was doomed and this was confirmed when Ecclestone revealed that "there's no way that it will be electric in the pitlane."

Former Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore could see the writing on the wall and he isn't even actively involved with in F1 at the moment. "No noise is not very exciting for the people. Formula One is not the place to have electric engines. Maybe in 50 years," he said.

With Ecclestone against it, electric power was never going to be introduced in 2014 but nevertheless it remained in the regulations which led some naysayers to claim that he had been blustering. Sylt having known Ecclestone since the F1 boss personally hired him in 2003, is well aware of when to take his comments at face value and when he may be being mischievous. On the subject of using electric power in the pit lane Ecclestone has always been deadly serious.

Last month Ecclestone reminded Sylt that "electric in the pitlane will not happen." He even told him that he thinks electric power does not even have a rosy future in road cars due to the limited capacity of batteries. Instead, he said "what will happen, I believe is that everything will be like the Lexus - hybrid."

Given Ecclestone's emphatic stance it was inevitable that the FIA would eventually have to admit that using electric power in the pit lane will be scrapped from the 2014 regulations. That day came on Wednesday when the governing body's president Jean Todt said "I have accepted to delay it. It has to go through the World Council, but it will be delayed for around three years."

Where does this leave us? Well, there has been talk for nearly two years of electric power being introduced to F1 in 2013 or 2014 and lo-and-behold, it has been delayed for three years. It reminds us of another FIA development which got a lot of people talking but hasn't come to fruition. This is the radical rear wing which was split in the middle in order to improve overtaking. It was due to be introduced to F1 cars in 2008 but was put back a year and quietly dropped after that. These kind of products, which are announced to the general public but are never actually released nor officially cancelled, are known in the IT industry as 'vaporware' and electric power in F1 could be heading in that direction.

The bottom line is that in future when Ecclestone and Todt produce prognostications about F1 there is no point in being quick to criticise the F1 boss. He isn't infallible but as he has shown with the example of electric power in the pit lane, if anyone knows where F1 is going, it is him.

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Published: 08/11/2012
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