Bob McMurray: Resounding ‘no’ for a silent F1
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In an interview with Formula 1 website F1 Fan Voice, Formula 1’s director of motorsports, Ross Brawn, is quoted as saying: “I don’t see Formula 1 necessarily being locked into internal combustion engines forever. Who knows where we are in 10 years.
“Ten years ago I don’t think many people would [be] able to predict where the world is now and therefore I don’t know where we’re going to be in 10 years.
But Formula 1 will move in the right direction.
“There’s nothing to stop us having electric Formula 1 cars in future. At the moment they don’t deliver the spectacle.”
The last sentence in that quote will be as true in 10, 20 or 50 years as the spectacle of Formula 1 clearly involves noise and if the multiple fan surveys since the introduction of the power units in 2014 are to be believed, the more of it the better.
Formula E batteries will be improved, the reliability issues solved and all manner of improvements made but Formula E will still be just that.
An electric-powered silent formula (apart from the annoying slot-car whine of the straight-cut gears whirring around in the transmission) is as exciting and stimulating as a toy slot car.
Exciting to drive, no doubt. Highly skilled drivers competing with all the determination of any other top racing driver? Of course.
But electric cars as Formula 1 cars? Please no, never, no way, ever.
Thankfully the founder and CEO of Formula E, Alejandro Agag, quashed the Brawn notion immediately by pointing out that Formula E has an exclusive licence with the FIA for 25 seasons.
I simply cannot imagine a Formula 1 race at, for example, Monza, Silverstone or Spa happening in virtual silence.
We have become immune to the comparative lack of sound compared to previous years, although even that deficiency is being addressed for the future, but to have no noise at all would surely signal the death throes of the sport.
I am no disbeliever of the global warming theory, which is, day by day, becoming much more than theory, but the “green” image of plug-in, electric-powered cars is seriously being questioned with the environmental impact of the mining, production and then recycling of the lithium ion batteries, quite apart from all the power stations that will apparently have to be built to enable most countries’ cars to operate.
Unlike in New Zealand, most worldwide power stations, in the main, burn fossil fuel to produce the electricity.
At one time the development of hydrogen-powered engines — first developed in 1804 — either by fuel cell or direct fuel for an internal combustion engine, was seen as the way of the future.
The production of hydrogen is either through electrolysis, which involves passing electricity through water, or majorly from fossil fuel reforming, once again using electricity.
And that electricity will come from; yes you guessed it, those power stations again.
Huge logistic problems remain but simply, a hydrogen fuel cell powers an electric motor, which then powers the wheels of a car with water being the only emission from the exhaust pipe.
Instead of having a battery to power the car there is a hydrogen fuel cell.
Using a hydrogen fuel cell, as opposed to using the gas in an internal combustion engine, does not solve the noise problem so I think it best that Formula 1 continues to use the minimal fossil fuel it does at present but with an increasing thermal efficiency, meaning less fuel used for each “bang” of the engine.
Sustainable biofuel, obtained from waste and by-products, combined with a percentage of “regular” petrol, is now used in many series including our own Toyota Racing Series and that seems to work well. So let’s have no more silly talk of electric Formula 1 cars.