Ross Brawn Embraces Ignorance As The Future of Formula One
In an interview with the BBC prior to the 2021 British Grand Prix Ross Brawn, the Managing Director of Formula 1, admitted that replacing carbon fuels with electric powertrains will “be a huge challenge”. Roughly translated this means, Formula 1 is not giving up on oil money and residual oil sponsorship anytime soon. Brawn did concede Formula could adopt hydrogen as a source of fuel in a bid to lower the sport’s emissions. Roughly translated Mr. Brawn is saying that F1 wants to retain Middle Eastern sponsorship money because countries such as the United Arab Emirates are investing in hydrogen production. Formula 1 is the perfect ambassadorial platform to promote hydrogen that no one uses.
Mr. Brawn’s desire to use hydrogen as the fuel of the future will allow Formula 1 to retain hybrid powerplants. Essentially a piston-driven engine and an electrical kinetic recovery system. But Mr. Brawn knows that the production of hydrogen emits as much CO2 as oil extraction. And Mr. Ross knows that hydrogen storage and distribution is expensive as much as it is potentially volatile. Hydrogen fuel is emissions-free when it is pumped into an F1 car. But the value-chain to get the fuel into the F1 car is anything but zero emissions.
The BBC article points out that current F1 engines have a thermal efficiency of about 50%. As opposed to road car engines that have a thermal efficiency of around 30%. But the reporter fails, or rather deliberately omits the fact that electric vehicle powertrains have a thermal efficiency of 80%. Mr. Brawn is fully aware of this fact, yet he concludes, “there is no electric solution today“.
Yes, Mr. Brawn, there is no electric solution today, but there will be tomorrow and in many years from now. You know that Mr. Brawn, but you are thinking of future revenue streams. Which is fine and totally expected, that is his day job. But you, Mr. Brawn, can not deny the future by feigning ignorance. Formula 1 could continue to run hybrid powertrains for maybe another 30 years. But fully electric Formula 1 cars are an inevitability simply because the electric vehicle technology curve will surpass the combustion engine. Mr. Brawn’s statistical mind will know this to be true.
Brawn believes that going fully electric will lose the noise a Formula 1 car generates. It is a spectacle in and of itself. And he is 100% correct. The old naturally aspirated engines, nothing can replace the sound those cars generated. It’s a wall of sound that hits you like a bomb blast, and it’s so loud you can’t hear yourself talk. So why not engineer a solution for a future electric F1 car? Why not develop an audio solution to retain the aural spectacle that you are so fond of? Mr. Brawn.
Mr. Brawn did say this, “We can’t have a sport which is seen as a dinosaur and out of step. We will always be mindful of that,”. It already is Mr. Ross Brawn, it already is.