Bob McMurray: Total change of direction for F1
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It is a subject that dominates the minds of those in ultimate charge of Formula 1 and buzzes around the boardrooms of manufacturers involved in the sport.
It also involves all who drive motorised vehicles, the companies that supply the fuel and governments around the world.
Ultimately the problem will affect us all, as will the solution when that is found.
The problem is how do the motorised vehicles of today transition to those pollution-free, autonomous mass-transit modes of transport that exist solidly in the minds of the free thinkers and dreamers who insist they are the way of the future?
Unavoidable for the roads of the far future, perhaps, but crystallising it for Formula 1, it all boils down to figuring out what is the sport's future. Motorsport is already being affected and Formula 1, in particular, is faced with a total change of direction.
The sport depends almost entirely on the involvement of major carmakers, be they engine suppliers or team owners. And if those carmakers decide a combustion engine, or any derivative of it, is no longer the right thing to have ... then what of the sport?
Does that mean they will leave Formula 1 or will they insist that if they are to remain involved, Formula 1 must change to a hairy-chested version of the current, fully electric Formula E?
Despite the good intentions and election speak coming from governments around the world, exclusively electric-powered vehicles making up more than 50 per cent of all vehicles on the roads is still a decent way into the future.
It is the international legislation being introduced and the carmakers in Europe, Japan and the US who will force the technology to make it happen.
Frankly, I think it would perhaps be better if the large carmakers pulled out of the sport completely.
Of course, it would cause huge disruption and the ride for the sport would be bumpy with the loss of millions of dollars worth of publicity and investment, the loss of jobs and the big money paid to the drivers would disappear overnight.
Teams could be forced to close and sponsors would flee "stage right" in droves.
Formula 1 would be knocked on to the bones of its backside, no doubt about that.
The cost of competing is, for the teams, prohibitive, and many in the sport are already calling for an increase in the standard parts list Formula 1 cars have to fit.
Not, in F1 CEO Chase Carey's words "looking to dumb the cars down" but to "improve the overall economics of the business".
Who can possibly question that sentiment with the massively expensive power units of today costing a team something north of $30 million a season while at the same time being irrelevant in practical terms to actual road cars.
It was not so long ago, in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, even into the 1990s that the Cosworth engine company ruled supreme and a Cosworth engine was for sale to pretty much any team that had the money, a tiny fraction of today's costs.
Mated with the Hewland gearbox, it meant many of the top teams, mainly British, ran the same engine and drive train.
This was a period when Formula 1 gained huge traction with the public and the fans and built the core of support it has today.
With constant evolution it was by no means a "one-make" formula, but it was possible to have exciting racing on a limited budget by today's standards. It would be a massive understatement to say that times have changed -- but if there were no huge corporations making racing engines that vacuum would be filled in an instant by specialist independent race engine builders.
The question remains, does Formula 1 need to be relevant to road cars -- at all and, if so, why?
Racing is the core business of Formula 1 racing teams, and the notion that the sport should be the leader in technology in terms of power units is long gone.
The annual advances in that sector are so rapid that the sport cannot hope to lead, nor follow, so don't even try.
A new engine formula that combines some hybrid element is inevitable but whatever that formula is, it must have all the elements that keep the core value of the sport intact.