Whatever the color of the car, from Fernando Alonso’s red Ferrari to Michael Schumacher’s silver Mercedes, Formula One is picking up speed toward a greener future.
While the lifting of a ban on ‘team orders’ made the headlines, the more momentous news emerging from a meeting of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) in Monaco last week was to do with future engine rules.
The FIA announced that from 2013, engines would be reduced from the current 2.4-liter V8s to four-cylinder 1.6-liter turbocharged units with a rev limit of 12,000rpm and linked to hybrid kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS).
The switch, it said, underlined “a commitment to improving sustainability and addressing the needs of the automotive industry.”
It also re-positions the sport in a much more environmentally-friendly arena with the engines, whose development cost has been put at around $150 million, consuming at least 35 percent less fuel.
“Formula One has had a hard look at itself and said ‘We’ve got to be more relevant’,” Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes, whose cars are already painted green, told Reuters in an interview at the weekend.
“I think with this new engine technology we become much, much more relevant.
“I think it’s a fantastic time. I think it’s great that Formula One is now going to be a driver and a leader in terms of environmental technology,” added the Malaysian aviation entrepreneur.
“Thirty-five percent less fuel is amazing. Imagine what that would do to the world if the technology being used in Formula One can be brought to all cars and reduce fuel consumption by 35 percent.”
Those thinking that their regular 1,600cc family runabout has as much, if not more, poke should think again.
According to independent engine maker Cosworth, the combination of the turbo engine and hybrid systems will produce more than 700bhp and deliver the same speeds as at present.
With low drag setup, lap times could even be quicker. And all with far less of a thirst for fuel.
Put in ordinary motoring terms, the 35 percent saving should translate into a reduction of 85-90 liters of fuel per car per race.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.