Is VW's talks with F1, a sign of a brighter future for the sport?
The automotive giant could be paving the way for other manufacturers to come.
The current state of the most well-known series of motor racing, whilst not being a crisis, is not exactly one of stability and prosperity. We are seeing one team dominating the sport, and many others are struggling to just stay in it. With the current formula, both big manufacturers and sponsors just don’t seem that interested.
The big problem is relevance, arguably F1 went hybrid a couple of years too late, and most of the global interest currently, is in fully electric and hydrogen cars, hence the stacked grids in Formula E, filled with big names from the Automotive world. What F1 needs is to find a way to interest those with the money, as well as keeping the fans happy. Because when you do that, you get a grid full of teams who can compete on near the same level, due to them all having similar budgets and resources.
In theory the budget cap would fix a lot of that, however a small independent team will struggle to beat a fully works manufacturer on the same budget, simply because one is already making cars, so can do more for less. So, how do you get the big names in? Find a futuristic way to power your cars, which is better for the environment, keeps the fans happy, and has a tonne of road relevance, indeed more than any other alternative in my opinion. I give you biofuels!
Biofuels are just like normal fuels, in that they can combust in the engine and allow the car to move, but are made from plants, so in theory are carbon neutral, there are some alterations to be made to the engine, but on the whole, it is pretty similar, especially compared to going electric. That is why it could be much more useful for car manufacturers, as going electric and building an electric infrastructure around the world is a monumental task, but the world is set up for using fuels to power our cars, so that is an ideal way of saving car companies money.
F1 had announced the plans to move the sport in this direction a year or two ago, and until recently we had not heard much of a rush to get onboard, although they do have some years before the new engine regulations come into force. However, the story, which was broken by the BBC this week, detailing a clear interest by the VW group, who own Audi and Porsche, in the technological path that F1 is taking, suggests that it could be beginning now.
Being able to get either Audi or Porsche into F1, would be huge for the sport, neither has much history in the series, so they could grow the prestige of F1 even further. In terms of if I think it will happen, yes, I think so, as long as F1 commits to 100% biofuels for their 2025 engine regulations, as that would spark real interest around the world. If they say it will only be 50% or 70%, then it won’t get to the headlines, and in front of the people who could make it happen.
That is the problem currently, there is still the hype around electrification, and don’t get me wrong, electric cars have a big place in the world, and I am excited to see what they can do with that technology. What I am saying is that, for F1 to get combustion engines back into the good news section of the automotive world, it needs to go big, being half assed about it will not work.
If they can do it right, I doubt that VW will be the only interested party, names like Toyota and BMW surely would be interested, then with the sports growth in the US, maybe GM or Ford could see what the fuss is about. The most ironic thing would be if Honda, just after turning their back on the sport again, change their mind quite quickly, we saw the mistake they made of leaving after 2008.
Circling back around to the information we got from VW, apparently, they have been in talks with teams like McLaren, Williams, and Red Bull about being an engine partner, if the rules are to their fancy. So, if they do join the sport, don’t expect it will be as their own team, as much as we all want that to happen.
I have spent most of the article talking about OEM’s joining and how it is benefiting them, but the small teams like Haas and Williams will also gain. They rely on companies wanting to advertise in the sport, and if the sport gains back reputation, we could see a sponsor boom we haven’t seen since the tobacco companies were kicked out.
So much of the future of the sport is unclear, things can change so easily, as 2020 showed us, but this could just be a little ray of hope on the horizon, because everyone wants to see more teams having a chance to win in F1, and biofuels could well be the answer!