Formula 1 CEO and President Stefano Domenicali has been settling into his new job in charge of one of the world’s most prestigious motorsports. He’s already been making a bit of a splash, suggesting potential improvements to the calendar including Saturday sprint races, a return to South Africa and a second race in the United States of America.
Now he’s spoken out about his feelings regarding F1’s hybrid power units, which have often been maligned for being too complex, too costly and just not sounding good enough. There’s also the lingering question of whether hybrid power units fit Formula 1’s sustainability goals and whether they’re even relevant to a road car landscape that is seemingly edging more and more towards fully-electric power.
Domenicali has not only been highly positive about the current hybrid power units (which have been a part of the Formula 1 regulations since 2014), but he also thinks that F1’s use of hybrid technology can prove that it still has a place in road cars going into the future.
“Sustainability can be seen on a CO2 dimension, or [with] a lot of other things related to it, but let’s focus on the emissions or technology… I think Formula 1 has a great future to showcase that there is not only electrification in the automotive world. I think that hybridisation is a great path, and will have a great future,” the former Ferrari boss said to Sky Sports F1 about how he views F1’s implementation of hybrid power.
“Formula 1 has to use this to make sure the OEMs will invest, in order to show that there is this way of being sustainable in a different way. That is something that I want to focus the attention of the teams and the OEMs on for the future, with a big attention on cost. The mistake that was done in the past was related to putting only technology at the head of the priority and not the cost.“
Whilst Domenicali sings the praises of F1’s hybrid power units a lot, he is keenly aware of the issues with keeping hybrid powertrains relevant to road cars. He is also very much aware of the high cost of the hybrid units and is trying to find a more cost-effective solution for the engine regulation changes in the near future. These new regulations are due to come into place in 2026, following an engine freeze at the end of 2021 as agreed in an important FIA meeting this week.
“We have to make sure the hybrid technology that will be used has relevance for the road cars, but will also start from a very different investment and cost base,” he said. “It’s not possible that a power unit in Formula 1 can cost what it’s costing today. I think there is a big margin on that.“
“One of the big objectives we have is that we’d like to involve teams and OEMs to try to anticipate the new engine even earlier than what is expected in the new regulations, and make sure that these kinds of things will be part of the agenda. I’m sure we can do it.“
F1 currently has four power unit suppliers (Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Ferrari and Honda), although this could drop to three at the end of 2021 as Honda will be pulling out of the sport with no guarantee as to whether Red Bull will be able to take over Honda’s F1 powertrain project.