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Ben Sulayem: F1 engine most efficient in the world, what about brakes, tyres?

Ben Sulayem: F1 engine most efficient in the world, what about brakes, tyres?

Ben Sulayem: F1 engine most efficient in the world, what about brakes, tyres?

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA President, insisted having the most efficient engine in the world is not enough in Formula 1‘s sustainability drive, as there are other elements to be tackled.

F1 has been pushing towards becoming more sustainable in recent years, their 2030 Net Zero initiative set in motion not to mention the road down the hybrid power units they started back in 2014, these units now boasting a 50% thermal efficiency unmatched by any other engine in the world.

Ben Sulayem, in an interview exclusive to GrandPrix247 and AFP, over the course of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix was asked about F1’s progress in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) areas.

He began: “Where do we start? We start first of all, if we see our engine, because people who refer about the sustainability, they go to the engine. Have you ever heard about tyres? Did you hear about brakes?

“We are proud that our engine is the most efficient engine in the world by far, but then we have to work on brakes we have to work on tyres consumption. That is science, that is common sense, that’s fact, that’s technology, and you have to work on our fuel. We have to be bold,” he explained.

One of the areas for which F1 has been under attack was their expanded global presence and the impact of travelling and transport of their equipment around the world, but Ben Sulayem is happy with the work done with FOM (Formula One Management) on organizing the sport’s calendar.

The FIA President hailed the work done with FOM is setting the F1 calendar in a more sustainable manner, he said: “I thank FOM, for the coordination together about the calendar.

“If you look at the calendar three years ago, and you see it last year, and this year, and you see it next year, there is an improvement. You have two sides: you have the logistics, and we have also the sport itself. The logistic is what follows.”

FIA and FOM are also currently working on finalizing F1’s 2026 regulations, as while the power unit was finalized, the aero part is yet to be and raising questions.

Ben Sulayem said: The [2026] PU is very good when you look at it. What is our aim? Minimum 75% improvement that doesn’t come from the engine itself, doesn’t come from the hybrid itself, it comes from the aerodynamics.

“The aerodynamics, and the new technology makes a difference. But you know what? It is our responsibility. And we shouldn’t stop, ‘Oh, we have an improvement of 10% or 50%’. That’s not enough. It’s an ongoing thing with the FIA, and with our partners.”

Electrification, heavy F1 cars, the sound

FIA wants shift of focus to electrical power

Ben Sulayem insisted electrification was not the target, but a means to reach F1’s sustainability targets and then pointed out the elephant in the room: Heavy F1 Cars.

He continued: “When they say electrification, I mean, it’s not about electrification [as a target], it’s about reaching our goal, our target, if we reach it by hybrid electrification, or a very efficient ICE [Internal Combustion Engine] engine. It’s where were go, not how we go. How we go is a method.

“And also one of the things that is really a handicap is the weight of the cars,” he pointed out. “More weight is more rubber less easy for drivers to control and an accident becomes more risky. So this [weight], we have to also take care of when it comes to the new specification and regulations, and the regulations will have this in mind.”

The Emirati the touched on a talking point that emerged ever since the Turbo-Hybrid engines were launched in 2014, the sound of the engines, which has been a far cry from the screaming noise the previous generation of naturally aspirated V8s delivered, not to mention the V10s and V12s from before.

“You we need better sound,” Ben Sulayem said. “I want to have sound, this is Formula One. FIA would like to have that [noise] again, so we consult with the teams, we consult with engine builders, the PU manufacturers to go forward.”

It’s about the new generation

The head of F1’s governing body urged that complacency be avoided as the sport should continued pushing for more sustainability, efficiency as science is improving massively.

“Are we doing enough?” he questioned. “If we say we are doing enough, then we start failing? We need more and we are suggesting ideas: ‘What’s the environment in the in the garages that we have to look into?’ There are so many things. We finish something, but we don’t sit and say, ‘Oh, that’s good’.

“With the environment, Technology is moving rapidly and ideas come that you would never have thought really mattered before.

“I will talk broadly, I’m not talking about the Formula One championship I’m talking in general. Some of the [car] manufacturers now are easing off electrification. Why? Because they found another method of reaching their goal.

“It’s not just electrification [that is the solution],” he insisted, pointing out questions raised by the use of Lithium batteries used in electric mobility and their disposal.

Ben Sulayem concluded by calling for FOM, the teams, and the FIA to work together to find ways to improve F1 in the future.

He said: “As long as we accept, and we believe that this is a responsibility of all of us, we are on the right track. We have to think of a new generation, it’s not only about us.”

(Interview conducted by Agnes Carlier in Shanghai)