Former Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel has distinguished himself as one of the series’ most vocal social advocates in recent months, and now he’s taking F1 to task for its “useless” hybrid powertrain regulations.
In an interview that included Motorsport Italy, a journalist asked Vettel if he felt there was a conflict between his current push for environmental change and his being an F1 driver, which kicked off the conversation.
“Sure,” he agreed, “and I think it’s valid because Formula 1 is not green. I think we live in a time where we have innovations and possibilities to arguably make Formula 1 green as well, and not lose any of the spectacle, of the excitement, of the speed, of the challenge, of the passion.”
His full quote is below:
If anything, we have so many clever people and engineering power here, we could come up with solutions. But the current regulations, I think they’re very exciting, the engine is super efficient, but it’s useless.
It’s not going to be an engine formula that you will buy on the road in two years when you decide to buy a new car, for example.
Therefore, you can argue, what is the relevance? I think there are certain things that people are talking about for the future of the sport in terms of regulations, that could shift the change and shift into more relevant changes.
And I feel if they come, that’s a good thing for Formula 1, and it’s also a vital thing.
But if they don’t come, I think I’m not so optimistic. If they don’t come, I think that Formula 1 will disappear. And probably rightly so.
We are at the stage where we know we’ve done mistakes, and we have no time to keep doing mistakes.
Vettel isn’t wrong here; F1's current regulations are fine when it comes to racing, but when it comes to the transfer of technology between F1 and road cars, the series isn’t exactly turning over any new stones. The series has been hovering in that gray area between exciting on-track competition and off-track relevance for years, and while upcoming regulations are encouraging the development of carbon capture technologies, there’s still no guarantee those technologies will even make it to the track.
And Vettel is arguing that’s the wrong direction, anyway. F1, he says, is too wrapped up in the combustion engine phase when it should instead be pursuing the development of fast-tracking synthetic fuels.
As it is now, we have an engine in place next year and we’re going to have a content of only 10 percent of e-fuels in the car which from a technology point of view is not a revolution. You can already buy that fuel in the pump for several years as a customer around the world. So it’s not a novelty.
I don’t think it matches the sort of ambitions that Formula 1 has to be a technological leader. So we react, rather than being proactive and lead the way. For synthetic fuels I feel we have the same opportunity. But I am afraid we might react as well, rather than lead the way because the engines will be frozen by ‘22.
There is some talk that something might change before, but frozen until at least ‘25 probably more looking like 2026, so that means another five years of no progress. I think that will put our sport under huge pressure, because I feel in those five years there will be a lot of change hopefully applied around the world, and putting things under pressure that haven’t applied any change.
Again, Vettel has a point: some of the world’s biggest brains have joined the series, often with transformative effect on the automotive landscape. It would make sense to once again turn those minds loose on sorting out the green energy situation rather than putting a hold on tech development for competition’s sake — not when there are bigger problems afoot.