This headline caught my attention. The reason is that I’ve done “the double” a couple of times with Shell and when I was in the pit lane at the Coco-Cola 600, the sound and power was stunning. Reminded me of the old days of Formula 1. In fact, it was nothing short of massively impressive.
Formula 1 decided that hybrid was the direction it wanted to go in and now NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski thinks that NASCAR should too.
Obviously, that’s a bit of a no-brainer since there’s already hybrids on the road, but there aren’t really hybrids in racing. The closest thing out there currently is in Formula 1, and for reasons I’ll explain, it’s not that popular with fans.
But that doesn’t mean that hybrids aren’t the future of racing. In fact, not only am I sure that hybrids are the future of NASCAR—I believe it’s essential to the success of the sport that we embrace hybrid technology as soon as possible.
I was keen to see what Brad thought about F1’s current situation with hybrids is. He reckons it is KERS and a smaller engine that has damaged F1’s current brand and spoke to some fans who said as much. Here’s Brad’s take:
“Back in March, I was at a fan event before the Las Vegas race, and noticed that there were a lot of international fans in attendance. I wound up talking to people from Germany, Ireland and Australia—where, incidentally, the Formula 1 race season was about to begin. I asked them why they were in Vegas instead of back home, heading to the Formula 1 race.
“We don’t go to F-1 races any more. We don’t like the cars,” they explained. “They don’t sound right. They’ve switched from big engines to small engines, and that made the cars too quiet. They sound like vacuum cleaners.”
That’s one of the factors of the kinetic energy recovery system—called KERS—that’s used by Formula 1 vehicles. KERS takes the energy from braking, charges it into a battery pack, and then returns it to the cars when they need extra power. The idea behind it was to reduce costs, but going to a smaller engine was a big mistake.”
Now, he has the KERS down and I think there is a component of the MGU-H that also plays a large role in this but let’s table that for a moment as F1 seems to be trying to move away from that in 2021. F1 did move to a smaller 1.6 liter turbo V6. Brad argues for something completely different in NASCAR.
“The NASCAR KERS system will supply the cars with a small extra reserve of electric energy—almost like having a nitrous button—that would give drivers a boost of power whenever they need it. When maxed out, that extra boost could last a full lap or two, and it could be used in two different ways: either as a substitute for gas power, or to complement it.
In addition, to make sure that drivers have to use the KERS system, the new NASCAR hybrid would have a 10-gallon fuel tank—basically, half of its current size. This would make the cars harder to drive, which I think as a race car driver, is never a bad thing. Race cars should be hard to drive. Without having the fuel to spare, racers also would be forced to use the electric system throughout races, both in critical and non-critical situations. It’s not hard to imagine what it would do to teams’ strategies throughout each race.
In terms of the racing, I think it would be incredible. Today, our cars have a max of about 750 horsepower. Potentially, a hybrid would have almost 1,000 horsepower with the KERS system and the V8 combined. They would get up to speed immediately.”
How do you think NASCAR fans would react? Would they care if there is still a roaring V8? Would F1 fans have cared if the V8 was retained but the KERS was used any time the driver wanted and the fuel load was less (which would require refueling…which the FIA is not keen on).
I’ll link his blog at the bottom so go check it out. He lays out a few scenarios and explains his thinking. If what I read about NASCAR’s waning viewers, I wonder if this would help or hurt.
For me, there seems to be two sides. In F1, they say that hybrids are what all the fans want, the manufacturers want and the inevitable future of mobility and it’s only logical and by the way, fans also don’t want grid girls and don’t care about the “noise” of the engine. The reaction to every one of those things that I have seen has been overwhelmingly negative. Young and old fans alike. Would hybrids bring a throng of young fans to NASCAR? What do you think?
Hat Tip: Brad Keselowski