F1 Looks to Lighter, Simpler, and Noisier Engines

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As Formula 1 sets its sights on adopting fully sustainable fuels by 2026, rather than embracing an all-electric path, discussions are already underway regarding the future power units for the series. Stefano Domenicali, the CEO of Formula 1, has expressed his desire to reduce car weight, highlighting the hybrid power units as an area where significant mass could be shed, particularly due to the heavy battery cells they currently contain.

In an exclusive interview with Motorrsport.com, Domenicali outlined his vision for Formula 1 to explore alternative power unit approaches once the sustainable fuel regulations have firmly established. He emphasized the importance of lightweight designs, stating, “If we can effectively research and produce sustainable fuel, we can contemplate the next generation of power units, prioritizing lightness.”

He continued, “We aim for a competitive engine, boasting high horsepower and an impressive sound. The resounding desire from 99.9% of people is to once again hear the distinctive Formula 1 roar on the track, and that’s something we’re seriously considering.”

While Formula 1 will continue with turbo-hybrid power units from 2026, Domenicali believes that potential shifts in the automotive market’s direction over the next decade could allow the sport to refocus its approach as well. He remarked, “Currently, we find ourselves in a transitional phase, where major manufacturers must develop both hybrid and electric technologies as part of their sales portfolio.”

“However,” Domenicali added, “if we excel in the production of sustainable fuels, we may be able to introduce simplified engines in the coming years, reducing their impact on weight. It’s a topic that we will soon start to explore.”

Domenicali also noted that Formula 1 has a fundamental drive to minimize the weight of every component, a characteristic ingrained in the sport’s DNA. However, he acknowledged that car weight has increased over the years, partly due to efforts to enhance safety. Discussing this aspect, he stated, “It is an incredibly important issue. The weight of the cars has grown over time, and no one questions the advancements made in terms of safety.”

He continued, “However, the development of new technologies and the subsequent integration of batteries has contributed to the weight issue. As Formula 1, we must evaluate what we can expedite in terms of development, and that’s where the significance of sustainable fuels comes into play. The perception and market dynamics in this area are changing, and I firmly believe that the decision to pursue this path was a commendable one.”

Domenicali emphasized that Formula 1 does not seek to engage in technological warfare against full electric mobility, as it acknowledges the relevance and future market of electric technologies. Nevertheless, he believes that Formula 1 can play a pivotal role in accelerating the availability of affordable sustainable fuel, which would greatly benefit mobility on a global scale, encompassing commercial vehicles, aviation, and the vast number of cars worldwide, estimated to be around 1.5 billion.

“The challenge before Formula 1 is immensely significant, and I am confident it will help align the visions of all the teams,” Domenicali concluded.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about sustainable fuels

What is Formula 1’s approach to power units and fuels?

Formula 1 is committed to using fully sustainable fuels starting from 2026, rather than pursuing an all-electric route. They aim to develop power units that are lightweight, simpler, and emit the iconic Formula 1 sound on the track.

Why does Formula 1 want to reduce car weight?

Formula 1 recognizes the importance of reducing car weight to enhance performance and competitiveness. They are particularly focused on reducing the weight of hybrid power units, which currently incorporate heavy battery cells.

What changes are anticipated for power units in the future?

Once the sustainable fuel regulations are established, Formula 1 envisions exploring new approaches for power units. They aim to prioritize lightness and seek engines that are competitive, powerful, and emit a thrilling sound, meeting the desires of fans.

How does Formula 1 plan to achieve lightweight power units?

Formula 1 plans to invest in the study and production of sustainable fuels. By successfully developing sustainable fuel technology, they believe it will be possible to have lighter power units in the future, minimizing their impact on overall weight.

Is Formula 1 considering a shift in focus due to market changes?

Formula 1 acknowledges potential changes in the automotive market and believes it may allow them to shift their focus in the coming years. While major manufacturers currently develop hybrid and electric technologies, Formula 1 aims to accelerate the development of sustainable fuels to reduce complexity and weight in future power units.

How does Formula 1’s approach align with sustainability goals?

Formula 1 aims to contribute to sustainability by adopting fully sustainable fuels and promoting their availability at an affordable price. They believe that by utilizing sustainable fuel technology, not only will they benefit Formula 1, but it will also have a positive impact on other sectors such as commercial vehicles, aviation, and global transportation.

More about sustainable fuels

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