Formula One has used hybrid engines since the 2014 season, and the technology is supposed to play a key role in the reduction of the series’ carbon emissions in the near future. But with Honda leaving as an engine supplier, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is skeptical that the series is actually promoting the hybrid power units the way it should.
“I believe we are not telling the hybrid story well enough,” Wolff said earlier this week.
That’s not to say the hybrids are bad, which Wolff noted later:
With 50% thermal efficiency, and the complexity and technology that exists in these cars with the energy recovery with kinetic energy or exhaust gases, the batteries that we’re using and the technology within them, we are a pretty good showcase for hybrid technology.
It is Formula One, after all—you can expect that the technology will be top tier. The problem has been that the series isn’t using hybrids as a marketing tool or a key component of F1 tech. It’s all about the specs, which neglects the role cleaner tech is supposed to play in F1's future.
“The next generation of power units, whenever they come, will lend even more to sustainable energy recovery and sustainable propulsion systems in the future, Wolff said. But we haven’t really established the hybrid narrative that will make this level of growth seem important. In many cases, it seems like F1 does its damndest to distance itself from more sustainable forms of racing (like Formula E) so strongly that you’d think this was still the V12 era.
Right now, the current problem is that the hybrid engines are more expensive than their previous V8 ICE counterparts were. But it’s difficult to improve technology while also capping costs. So, in a lot of ways, the hybrid tech comes across as a negative story, something that’s driving power unit suppliers out of the series as opposed to being a positive thing that should be worth the investment.