With NASCAR’s Brad Keselowski advocating for a hybrid solution to that series as we mentioned here, he likened the concept to the current Formula 1 hybrid power unit regulations. Those regulations are in the throws of being rewritten for 2021 and according to Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, the teams are close to agreeing with the FIA and owners on the new format.
“We have given up on some of the standpoints,” he said. “We have accepted to lose the MGU-H.
“We think that the technology is a step backwards, but in terms of achieving a compromise for the benefit of the spectacle, the ‘H’ going, the revs going up, the fuel limitations going, I think we will have a louder engine, we will not be limited by fuel.
“It’s not the most sustainable message we’re sending out, but we can understand from a spectacle standpoint it is something you need to consider and accept. On most of the topics we have found an agreement.
“There’s a discussion on dyno limitations, we don’t want to continue to outgrow each other with more infrastructure.
“On the engine regulations we’re pretty close on being able to tick the box.”
The sticking point is that the teams are still set to continue developing the current hybrid power units that include the MGU-H and Wolff would like to see an engine freeze in order to stop double spending on the current power unit as well as the future power unit.
“The only major thing which we need to solve is that we are still spending a lot on engine development,” said Wolff.
“What we need to avoid is double spending over the next years, continuing to develop the current engine, and then also doing the new one.”
This isn’t a new concept as the last engine format, the V8, was frozen ahead of the current hybrid power unit.
When Ideology Meets Racing
Much like Brad Keselowski’s thoughts on road relevance, inevitability of road cars moving to electric power units and the reduction of fuel consumption, Wolff says that Mercedes were unyielding on the concept of unlimited fuel flow. Currently the fuel flow is restricted and this, coupled with the hybrid technology makes the current F1 engine one of the most efficient on the planet. That’s a dream to some and a nightmare to others—it depends on why you watch racing and what appeals to you. Wolff said:
“I had a bit of a moment in the Strategy Group [meeting], one where I need to speak to my anger management psychologist, when we talked about getting rid of fuel flow limitations, all fuel flow allowances, and just open it up,” he said.
“We cannot close our eyes to what’s happening in the world. Hybrid energy recovery systems have been on road cars, and they need to happen in F1 in my opinion.
“But equally we have to understand what the fan is interested in.
“It needs the technology message, but it needs to be at the level where we recognise that spectacle is important, and shocking your senses with an engine sound is maybe something that we can improve.”
Some commented on the recent NASCAR hybrid story we posted and asked a simple question…why? Why does racing need to be road relevant and in the case of Wolff’s comment, they are on road cars but why does he feel they have to be in F1?
The speculative assumption is that if this debate made him angry to the point of needing to channel his anger management, then one might assume that the Mercedes board will not pay for the concept of simply going racing unless there is a direct-to-road R&D component they can justify the marketing and development costs. I’m just speculating of course.
Toto’s comment about the messaging behind the move to hybrid is an interesting one as this was the narrative since 2014 as to why fans didn’t get on board with the hybrid power unit—we just didn’t explain it to them well enough.
Much like all ideologies and initiatives, there are differing sides and F1 has gone all-in assuming that everyone shares Toto’s view of “what’s happening in the world”. There are those who strongly agree with Toto and those who strongly disagree.
FIA president Jean Todt admitted recently that F1 had gone too far in moving toward a hybrid power unit concept and it had seriously impacted F1’s fans and not in a good way (I’m paraphrasing here). If that’s the case, then those who strongly agree with Toto either aren’t watching F1 or if they are, they weren’t avid enough to sustain the trajectory of the sport toward an even more advanced hybrid power unit in 2021 or even an all-electric solution.
Rather, the voices of dissent were global, avid and very vocal about their displeasure with the direction F1 is heading. Some businesses are willing to forgo profitability in order to make a statement or stake a position. That’s their choice, of course, but F1 seems to be one business that has felt the impact of staking a position and seem to be tacking in the hot wind of fan disapproval and are trying to find common ground to appease the dissenters while appealing to the hybrid and EVO endorsers.
It will be interesting to see if “sound” is enough to appease the disgruntled masses (and it isn’t lost on me that he chose to use the word “Sound” instead of “Noise” which the teams and series started using back in 2014 much to my protestation). I suspect it may not be if the fuel flow is still restricted meaning the cars cannot push flat out in what is supposed to be the world’s most advanced sprint race. We’ll have to wait and see.
Hat Tip: Autosport