Paddy Lowe: The future of Formula 1 is electric

Hybrid power is a stepping-stone to going full electric, and Formula 1 cars will continue to look increasingly unconventional compared to their mass-produced counterparts, suggested Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer at Williams Martini Racing, at an event in Barcelona earlier this month.

“You can’t stop innovation. Formula 1 will develop away from the traditional road cars. However, innovative technology will be transferable to mainstream industries,” said Lowe, suggesting that despite the increasing chasm, Formula 1 will always remain relevant to the outside world.

The new formula introduced in 2014 already proved that hybrid power can be not only efficient but beneficial for a greener planet.

Lowe said that it took fully 100 years for the road car engines to reach 30% thermal efficiency. Hybrid power engines, on the other hand, already had 45% thermal efficiently when they were introduced in Formula 1 and reached 50% in only five years.

“It’s a measure of what can be done in Formula 1 when you have the resources and motivation to get there and win the race,” adds Lowe.

With increased efficiency of hybrid power units, however, one can argue that Formula 1 is losing its entertainment value, as the sport used to be one of the most spectacular on the planet due to the captivating noise of the machines.

“When we go full electric — we already have Formula E doing that — it doesn’t have any noise at all and the entertainment factor looks questionable. So I don’t know,” Lowe said. “Is Formula 1 a sport, entertainment or business?”

The answer remains open. However, despite the slow realization that the sport will never return to its glorious sound days of V10 engines, Lowe became philosophical.

“Horse racing is an interesting example,” he continued. “None of us go to work on a horse. And yet, we go to horse races, because we love watching them race as we always used to do. I can imagine we’ll get to a point where people will go to Formula 1 races to see cars that have even less resemblance to the cars they drive around. They are already highly specialized vehicles and at some time we’ll have to abandon our references to road cars completely and concentrate on something completely truly awesome.”

It will be entertainment of a different kind, and in some respect, it’s something to look forward to!

Top Image: Paddy Lowe of Williams Martini Racing. © Williams Martini Racing Content Pool

Guennadi Moukine

Motorsport Technology Editor.