When it comes to technology in motorsports, a universal truth is, you give manufacturers something approaching carte blanche and you’ve got yourself an arms race, with the inevitable consequences that brings.
Spiraling budgets and the law of diminishing returns have sent countless manufacturers scurrying, and put many series into enforced reboot mode over the years. Latest example? The FIA World Endurance Championship, which is working hard to define a next-gen LMP1 package that maintains some level of tech relevance, while knocking a zero off the previously eye-watering spends from the likes of Audi, Porsche and last-factory-standing Toyota.
With that in mind, RACER’s annual Technology Issue is taking a look at how other series are juggling with cost control, the on-track product and how to throw participating manufacturers enough technological bones to keep them onboard in the longer term.
Formula E is about to embark on its fifth season of racing. It’s got a new Gen2 car, a battery that can finally go a full race distance, and a roster of factories that other series can only dream about. The trick now is keeping them all happy. FE boss Alejandro Agag has ruled out an all-wheel-drive future, despite its centrality to the development of electric tech, but could be willing to allow manufacturers to develop their own fast-charging solutions and, with strict caveats, battery technology. Will this be enough to keep them happy? Time will tell.
Formula 1 is looking to a 2021 reboot, with the emphasis on improving the racing and the visuals of the cars. Where does technology, such as a next iteration of turbo-hybrid power units, fit? It’s still too early to say, but talk of dropping the MGU-H, the unit that harvests energy from exhaust gases and a key area of R&D for F1’s existing manufacturers, might be a clue.
As FE’s Agag points out, auto makers aren’t always the best people to be making decisions on their own behalf, but it will be a brave move by F1’s rule-makers and commercial rights holder if they do remove a genuinely relevant piece of tech from the table. Tough call…
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