Formula 1 Open to Going Electric, But Formula E Would Protest

F1's technical director Ross Brawn says the sport could go electric when the tech matures, but Formula E wants to keep electric racing to itself.

Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg Test for first time
KONTROLAB—LightRocket via Getty Images

Formula 1's technical director Ross Brawn revealed that the racing series could eventually go all-electric, but that he would wait until the technology advances enough to make the racing exciting. However, it could prove challenging since Formula E has exclusivity in the electric racing realm within FIA.

"I think Formula 1 will evolve in the direction that has the right balance of sport, relevance, and engagement with the fans," stated Brawn in a video on F1 Fan Voice. "If in five years' time or ten years' time there is a need, desire, or wish to have a different type of power unit in Formula 1, then we will do it. There is nothing to stop us having electric Formula 1 cars in the future."

Brawn does not believe that electric vehicle powertrain technology has matured enough to surpass the entertainment value offered by the high-revving internal combustion engines offered by Formula 1.

"At the moment, they don't deliver the spectacle, and with all due respect, if you go to a Formula E race, it is a pretty junior category of motor racing. It's a great event in terms of all of the stuff that is going on around it, but the race itself is pretty tame when you compare it to a Formula 1 event. The cars are not particularly fast, you don't have the personalities involved, but they are doing a fabulous job at putting on an event and making it a street party."

"I don't see Formula 1 being locked into internal combustion engines forever, but who knows where we are in ten years."

In response, CEO of Formula E Alejandro Agag argued that Formula 1 could not pursue all-electric power due to outstanding agreements with the FIA.

"Ross said that Formula 1 could go electric in 10 years—and basically, they can't. Formula E has an exclusive [license] with the FIA for 25 seasons, and we've only done four," stated Agag in an interview with Autosport. "So the earliest Formula 1 could go electric is 2039, if we don't renew our agreement with the FIA then, but I don't see any reason why we shouldn't renew for longer."

"If they want to talk to me then of course that's a different question—I'm always open to talk to people. But without talking to me there is no way they can do anything fully electric."

Both Brawn and Agag could be satisfied by using ideas suggested in April regarding the future of Formula 1's power units, specifically those involving deregulation of electric energy usage and engine configuration. There is no reason Formula 1 cannot take full advantage of rapidly-maturing electric propulsion technology and showy, traditional internal combustion to attain the better attributes of each style of powertrain.