How important are green issues to Formula One and
Well, rather than talking about green technology,
we should be talking about modern technology. That’s fundamental
to all our thinking on this issue. You can’t have a
full-on green formula where you say, for example: “Here’s
50 litres of petrol and you have to do 180 miles with it.
Go and do the best you can.” That wouldn’t be
the sort of racing people want to see. Focusing on engines,
at the moment you are allowed 2.4 litres, and the more power
you get out of that the better off you are.
There’s an enormous amount of money being spent trying
to get more and more power. It can be done in many ways,
but by far the fastest way is to increase the revs. In terms
of anything to do with the big wide world, that’s completely
pointless. Whereas if you had a formula in which the more
power you could get from a given quantity of fuel, the better
off you would be – or, put another way, you limit the
power of the cars by fuel, or by energy, rather than by capacity – that
would be rational, because that’s what all manufacturers
are trying to do with their road cars.
We’re talking about fuel flow at the moment, but there
are some very clever people out there working on fascinating
things to do with heat recovery, using exhaust gases, etc,
so we reckon it’s up to them. At a rough schedule I
would, say, introduce this in 2011, having stopped development
on the existing engines. That gives us plenty of time.
What would be the cost implications of
If the money spent in
F1 is spent on basic research that’s
relevant it’s less likely to be a problem. At the moment
there are six manufacturers in F1 and the ones that are finishing
sixth best are going to need a good reason to stay in. Developing
energy-efficient technology helps justify their involvement.
If you went to any of the people outside the motor industry
and offered them even a fraction of the money that’s
currently spent on F1 engine development, they would be able
to up their rate of progress enormously. At the moment they
are working in the hundreds-of-thousands- of-Euros-type budget,
rather than the millions.
With bigger budgets we could get the most spectacular leaps.
And if we do, in the amount of energy that can be stored
in a 20kg device and recovered, even if it’s from only
10 per cent of what they are spending on engines, it would
be massively worthwhile. It would come into road cars and
have a huge effect.
What would be the focus of the technological development?
the moment hybrid technology is relatively primitive. Most
energy is lost to heat, and they can’t charge
the battery quickly. The problem with current hybrids is
that the batteries are very heavy, they take up a lot of
room and they can only store energy at a very limited rate.
In a conventional car, when you lift off you are still driving
the engine and all the energy is going in heat.
Hybrids disconnect the engine and charge the battery, but
still an enormous amount of energy is wasted. Even so, a
hybrid road car like a Toyota Prius does 60mpg. It’s
nothing special on the open road, because it has to schlep
around batteries and extra weight. That’s where F1
comes in, because it will help drive development of making
something very efficient and very light. The more energy
you can store, the greater the advantage for the teams that
work out how to do it best. And of course, that’s exactly
what you want for a road car.
Avoiding wasting energy is fundamental to all modern research
by the big car companies. Manufacturers are trying to develop
super-capacitors and flywheel technology, too. There’s
a very good reason to believe that before long you’ll
be able to store all the energy from a two-ton car at 100
km/h [62mph] as it stops at the traffic lights. Almost all
of that energy can be stored and re-used for acceleration,
or, in a high performance car, to add to the performance.
That’s what we’re talking about in F1: having
energy stored in a 20kg device and giving the drivers a push-to-pass
button that will use the stored energy for an overtaking
boost. All the research will go into storing max energy in
minimum weight plus being able to absorb it and store and
re-use it as quickly as possible – perhaps for a burst
of energy down the straight.
With present technology we can probably store enough energy
for 60bhp over nine seconds and it would take all lap to
store that much. An F1 car, when it’s braking on the
limit, dissipates 2500bhp through the brakes. You can claim
back only a small proportion of that, but if you say that
now we could take 100bhp to use for six seconds, we’d
soon get more than that. If Toyota and BMW and Mercedes dedicate
more research to it, then the effort and momentum would be
completely different. The motivation of all the engineers
would be different. At the moment we’re struggling
to get 200 extra rpm out of engines and instead they will
be working on a new area of research.
Flywheel technology is another area that could produce great
dividends for energy re-use. Benetton, McLaren and Williams
were all looking at these systems about 10 years ago, but
we brought in a rule to stop it, because of the cost and
because we were alarmed about the possibility of having 4-500kj
of energy suddenly let loose. Since then there has been an
enormous amount of work on containment systems and that problem
no longer exists. As long as it doesn’t dissipate its
energy explosively, it’s okay. If you let it go all
at once it’s like dynamite, but there are systems now
to stop this happening.
For me this area doesn’t even warrant discussion.
It’s so obviously good for F1: it’s exactly what
the road cars need and it would give us a push-to-pass button.
Must F1 and motorsport become more environmentally
aware to avoid being outlawed by governments?
it would be prudent, although I don’t think
motorsport would ever be outlawed as such, because it’s
just another way of entertaining using fuel. So before outlawing
motorsport you would have to stop people using yachts and
running private planes for pleasure. There’s no end
Where motor racing could be vulnerable is if there’s
an oil crisis of some sort, then there could be a major problem
because politicians like something symbolic, particularly
something like F1, to show that they are serious about economising
on fuel. They might try to stop F1 for six months, for example,
which would be completely stupid, but if we are working absolutely
on the cutting edge of fuel efficiency and economy, it gives
the friends that we have among politicians a very strong
argument to protect racing.
It’s a bit like the way we used motorsport effectively
to subsidise Euro NCAP, which we did before it became fashionable.
The idea was that if we had a serious accident, Euro NCAP
would give us a lot of friends politically, because we could
demonstrate that we were doing far more good than harm even
if we had a really bad accident. In order to get politicians
on your side you’ve got to give them an argument. That
was the idea.
Is there time pressure for motorsport to become
I think we should be doing it now. If the
teams and the GPMA do not agree, we’ll go ahead anyway. We’ll
draw up our own rules for the box for 2009, unless someone
produces an overwhelming reason not to. We would prefer to
do it in discussion with the manufacturers, but we don’t
have to. Provided we give two years notice we can bring in
any technical regulation for 2009 we like, under the Concorde
Agreement. And after ’09, that becomes 18 months notice.
Unless and until we sign up to another Concorde Agreement,
we are free to do what we like and of course teams and manufacturers
are free to enter or not enter. But it would be difficult
for manufacturers to go off and insist on running to the
existing type of regulations if there’s an F1 world
championship with modern technology available.
What has been the teams’ response
to these ideas?
Some of them are talking to the experts
on these storage devices. All the big car companies have
people working on
these systems. They’re already on buses and trains,
so it’s a coming technology.
Could more manufacturers be encouraged to enter
a more environmentally aware motorsport world?
The fact that we are putting a stop to €200m F1
engine budgets makes it more likely that we will gain a manufacturer
or two, than to lose one.