Tech Draft: Is it time for F1 to sustainably return to its roots?

Formula 1 has evolved over the years, with gimmicks coming and going, but isn’t it time to employ modern technology to bring it back to its simplistic roots while remaining sustainable? Tech Draft discusses.

This week the FIA once again reduced the amount of energy available to each car for the Formula E London E-Prix this weekend at the ExCel Arena circuit.

Apparently, the rationale behind the FIA’s decision to do so, was that lowering the amount of energy available to each car would induce the need to lift and coast more, which they feel would be conducive to a better race.

Moreover, the FIA has gone on the record affirming that lifting and coasting should be integral to Formula E competition.

Concerningly, it is the very essence of what the FIA is doing in this instance, and the real fear that Formula 1 could be exposed to this type of sporting contamination as well, or rather further exposed, because it’s not as though the sporting fabric of F1 has not already been debased to a degree already.

Too many gimmicks in modern Formula 1

Gimmicks that have infected the fundamental sporting core of F1 have come and gone over the years, the reintroduction in 1994 and scrapping at the end of 2009 of in-race refueling is an example.

But even today we are subjected to artificially induced competition with the smoke and mirrors of tricks such as DRS, and controlled single make tyres that are designed to purposely degrade so that optimum performance is only available in a very small window of opportunity so that the drivers are unable to run flat out all race long.

If the ability of the 2022 F1 cars to follow each other in close proximity has improved and promulgated overtaking opportunities as a consequence to such an extent that the new technical regulations are heralded as a resounding success, as they often have been in the media, then why is it necessary to continue using these artificial means to achieve anything except contaminate the purity of a sport conceived out of the simplistic desire to reward the driver of a car that can be the one to cross the finish line before anyone else?

The very foundations of F1, which has always been a flat-out thoroughbred sprint race, are contraindicated when concocted means are used, regardless of what their intent might be, whilst other categories of motorsport, such as WEC et al. exist and were founded on the pursuit of other intents, such as endurance, economy, and parity racing.

Return of a dinosaur that is sustainable

At this year’s British Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel demonstrated to the world that his treasured Williams FW14B, almost a dinosaur in comparison to his current 2022 F1 car, the AMR22, can run on sustainable synthetic fuel, and proved that not only can a 1990’s relic such as this still perform at a comparable performance level to that which it did in its hey day, but it also sounded just as magnificent as it always did.

When it has been proven that such a remnant from the past, such as the FW14B, can be run in the modern day in the environmentally friendly and sustainable way that was demonstrated, then why are F1 and the FIA so adamant on the continuance of the pursuit of such complicated, expensive, and less emotively inspiring technology as the current F1 power units, regardless of how commendable that pursuit might be?

Furthermore, why isn’t modern technology employed to return F1 to the simplistic basis on which it was founded, and which the fans have embraced as the sport grew?

In an era where the ability for F1 teams to spend operational funds and access to performance development resources are ever more limited, imagine an F1 World Championship powered by much cheaper to develop and operate synthetically and sustainably fueled screaming 3.0 Litre V10 engines (not power units!), free of the modern V6 turbo-charged drone and DRS, with free choice tyres from multiple suppliers that last as long as a team demands.

Why not embrace what technology is now available, simplify things, and take F1 back to what it was founded on, and simplify things by returning it to a spectacle of a simple sprint race to the chequered flag?

Hopefully the upcoming power unit regulations for 2026 where the overly complicated and expensive MGU-H is expected to be gone would be a step towards a more simplistic approach.