Formula E? It’s not the future, says Vettel

2013 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says he’s not convinced about the merits of the FIA’s all-electric racing series Formula E.

“I don’t like it at all,” said Vettel when asked about the championship today.

“I think it’s not the future, I think the people come here to feel Formula One and there’s not much to feel when a car goes by and you don’t even hear anything else but the wind.

“Maybe I’m very old fashioned, but I think Formula One needs to scream, needs to be loud, there needs to be the vibration.

“That’s what I remember from the first time I went to see Formula One in 1992 for free practice at Hockenheim, even though it was wet and the cars didn’t go out, but once they did their installation laps it was a great feeling just to be there and hear them coming through the forest and feel it through the ground. That’s why I’m not a big fan at all.”

The Mercedes drivers gave different views. Nico Rosberg said it was an “interesting” concept.

“I know there’s a lot of interest and it’s planned to be in the cities so it’s bringing the race to the people, not the people to the race,” he added, “and of course it’s a bit of the future, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. We need to wait and see.”

Lewis Hamilton said: “I agree with both of them.”

The first Formula E race will be held next September in Beijing, China, followed by further race in nine different cities.

Formula E car images

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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106 comments on “Formula E? It’s not the future, says Vettel”

  1. But the fact is it will be the future of racing.

    1. @diceman An interesting use of the word “fact”. Also a wrong one.

    2. @diceman
      And how is that a fact?

      1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        26th October 2013, 16:26

        Because the planets oil reservoirs will eventually run out, and petroleum powered Formula 1 cars will be of no use.

          1. Obviously hasn’t heard of water electrolysis > 2H2O + e- + catalyst –> H2 + O2 … That can be used as a combustible, compressible fuel

            The ignorance is painful.

        1. @jakehardyf1 has it right, and with many oil reserves being found still and with new tech to reach them @tophercheese21 is painfully wrong. The next 6-8 generations will know what oil is, not sure why many are still going on this rhetoric that the oil reserves are going to dry up in about 20 years or seem to sound like it when they say they’re going to run out. Sure they will run out, but not any time in the very near future.

        2. Hmm OK. Too bad we won’t be here in 3155 :(

      2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        26th October 2013, 16:32

        Formula E may not be the future of racing, but whatever will be the future of Motorsport will not be petroleum based.

        Who knows, in a couple of hundred years time Motorsport altogether could be made illegal because it’s essentially a waste of petrol in a world when oil supply will be critical.

        1. @tophercheese Couldn’t agree more, +10

        2. Jack (@jackisthestig)
          26th October 2013, 19:13

          I’ve just thought of a solution. Why not dig up all the tarmac run-off areas at F1 circuits and replace them with whatever crops are used to produce bio ethanol. All the ethanol sourced from F1 circuits can then be ring-fenced off only to be used to power F1 cars. If there is consistently lots of this supply left over then we could get rid of the maximum fuel flow rate and wind the turbos up to 1986 levels of boost.

        3. If in hundred years, we will still concern our self in shortage of petroleum, I hope we do indeed blow up our self before then.

      1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        26th October 2013, 16:48

        I thought Formula 1 cars run on petrol that is something like 98% similar to our road cars.

        I know the V8 Supercars here in Australia run on an Ethanol mixture, but as far as I’m aware, F1 cars don’t.

        1. @tophercheese21 they don’t, but I don’t think that was the point @davidnotcoulthard was trying to make. The switch to ethanol is an easy one.

        2. David not Coulthard (@)
          26th October 2013, 19:01

          Well yes but once fossil fuel runs out can’t we grow ethanol-producing plants, perhaps exclusively for F1, while all road cars use electric engines with gearboxes strong enough to work with the motor (which would render petrol city cars obsolete, though cars taken to far places will still be a different matter altogether)?

        3. Well, to and extent F1 cars DO run on an ethanol mixture too @tophercheese – as its now normal that gasoline has a couple of % added ethanol at the pump, the F1 fuel has it too.

      2. Wont Electric engines be much cheaper to run in the long term. One could recharge the battery maybe using solar. Ethanol requires large agricultural land to grow which otherwise could be used for growing food.

    3. Many people here are talking that we will run out of fuel by 2100 but you can produce fuel in a laboratorium: you just have to put more energy to make it than the energy you’ll get in return from the car. So we will never ‘run out of fuel’ because if you really wish, you can produce it …

      However I think Formula E could become something interesting, but not anytime soon, maybe by 2030 or something like that. Formula E cars will be much slower than F1 cars next year, if they can boost up these Formula E cars and become faster than F1 cars, why not :)

  2. It’s interesting, but I don’t think it’s the future either. Electric cars, basically.

    As an exercise, to put down a challenge like this, for the industry it is important and I’m glad FIA created a Championship to go along with it. It’s easier for promotion, instead of a bunch of guys working “in the shadows” at a university. I like to think it that way.

    As a replacement for motorsport’s top tier? not at all. Not even as a “motorsport”, it’d not be a series with huge crowds, I suppose. As a technical experience, it’s very interesting. I’d love to see the results.

  3. I agree that motor sports need the sound. That’s why I think Hydrogen ICE’s are the way forward.

    1. I didn’t know of such engines until I’ve read your comment, which I did after posting mine, and I think your idea is even better and represents a better solution for the future! It’s something I’ve envisaged for quite a while and I’d really like to see happening in a near future.

    2. @vettel1 one of the solutions, yeah. Hydrogen, really, should be the next step. Just it’s inmense heat power can’t be overlooked.

    3. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      26th October 2013, 16:39

      The only problem with hydrogen is that it is immensely expensive and difficult to deliver and store. Which is partly why the Honda Clarity costs around $300,000 to build.

      As technology progresses though, it certainly is something to keep in mind as production costs will certainly come down as companies find more efficient and lower costing ways of doing it.

      1. I can agree that hydrogen racing can be very intresting and from a technical side is can confirm. But I have to say that the costs will only rise when we would develop special racing fuel-cells. This will require much thicker layers of platinum, the exact thing the car manufacturers are trying to reduce. If you are intrested have a look a, we are extualy building a hydrogen racing car amd we hope to set the hydrogen lap record at the Nürburgring in the spring.

    4. I think saftey issues around ruptured fuel lines containing liquid hydrogen would be troublesome.

      1. @hohum there are many safety issues to take into consideration and many storage issues, but I think once they are solved Hydrogen is easily the most viable alternative to good ol’ petrol.

    5. I disagree with that. Motorsport does not need the sound @vettel1. Its just that we are all used to it.

      I heard the noise these electrical cars make – so far only on footage – and while its hardly comparable to the noise you get with combustion engines in motorracing, I would hesitate to call it

      a car goes by and you don’t even hear anything else but the wind.

      You hear the tyres, and the high pitched engine. It sounds rather like science fiction than brutal power. But on the other hand, far less people will have damaged ears from it!

      1. I can only link you to @mads : sure, F1 doesn’t need the noise @bascb but it’s one of it’s defining characteristics!

        1. It’s just a matter of time for Formula E to become very popular. Electric engines will replace the combustion ones of our street cars, so many people will be interested to see the technology evolving and it will very fast, we can see it today. Electric cars will evolve many times faster than the combustion did. Formula E is not just a sport, it will be the showcase of this great technology that is going to become soon. Besides, the cars can be even faster than Formula 1. Wait and see.

  4. I disagree with Vettel. It’s true that screaming engines have so far been one of the key trademarks of F1 and it might be hard to think of an F1 race without that special sound. However, it is not the most important part of the sport. The level of technology, the drivers’ skills, the engineers’ genius and the human effort are what makes F1 so special and those things wouldn’t disappear just because of silent engines.

    We need to think about the future. One day the world is going to run out of oil. I don’t think F1 or racing in general needs to end just because of that.

    1. @girts
      F1 cars in the future could just run on alcohol, or biofuel. Maybe a mix. Who knows. But Full electric isn’t the only “green” alternative to petrol.

    2. I suspect that by the time the oil runs out F1 will live on only in the home simulator as an online interactive activity complete with a very loud soundtrack.

      1. are you sure a loud soundtrack will not be frowned upon as well @hohum :-P

  5. I like the noise of racing cars.
    But the Formula E is something they had to look in to.
    These cars are no slouches either.
    Who knows if in 20years we are still allowed to race the normal racing cars?
    We need to be prepared for a ban on high fuel consuming racing imo.
    It might sound weird, but it just might happen one day.

  6. I think other technologies are better and, in the future, more viable than purely electric cars. I’m talking about hydrogen cells. I think that that’s the way to go in terms of the future of cars in general, and something which would be nice if F1 pioneered and developed extensively (as it’s supposed to be the pinacle of motorsport and automotive technology). Of course there are still some problems associated with it, especially how it can be stored, since it’s a very explosive gas, but It’s only a matter of time when those problems can be overcome.

    1. I think in 2 or 3 decades all energy issues will be solved.
      Cold fusion? Thorium? Solar energy? Algae generated fuels?
      I think the question is: what will excite people then?
      Horseracing is still exciting, but it’s a small thing from the past. F1 will become obsolete in area we now even can’t imagine.
      Google now have bought the first quantum computers. Singularity will come.
      So what’s gonna excite us?

      1. @verstappen
        The only thing left that has the the lung shaking, primal excitement is rock’n’roll.

    2. Hydrogen cells can be interesting indeed, but my guess is that they will be used to generate electric energy in plants away from the cities, than the energy will be transmited to the cities, cars…
      Electric cars are here to stay for at least 50, 60 years. So many of us will be able to see the technology evolving, which will be very exciting.

  7. Lewis Hamilton said: “I agree with both of them.”

    But… they give different opinions?

    1. @andae23
      Maybe he agrees with Vettel that it isn’t the future for F1 because of the lack of noise, but that he agrees with Nico that it is going to be interesting to see.

      1. @mads Then he should have specified that, no? :P

        You can also read it like he thinks that he “doesn’t like” the concept “at all”, but he thinks the concept is “interesting” as well.

        1. @andae23
          Yeah that is another interpretation. Who knows. Maybe… he just needed a bathroom real fast, so he just gave the quickest answer he could. : )

    2. I’d expect such a comment from Kimi ^^ But I think @mads is right :)

    3. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      26th October 2013, 18:14

      He should be a Lib Dem MP.

  8. Most fascinating statement of the whole season: Lewis Hamilton said: “I agree with both of them.”

  9. Heavy-metal batteries and extreme pollution in their mining and production is indeed no the future. Just the flavor of the week…

    1. Agreed. People also forget to ask where the electricity comes from to re-charge an electric car. It’s a bit of an eye-opener when you look at the whole-life implications of building, running and disposing of an electric car. Not quite as green as the pressure groups would have you believe.

      1. The recharging electrical source really is the bigger issue, especially when you have the expected 100 million cars needing to be charged 20 years from now. Burning more coal to fuel electric cars would seem to defeat the purpose. Fortunately the technological gains in electrical energy production, electric car and battery efficiency, as well as internal combustion engines and their fuel sources continue to grow by leaps and bounds. The financial incentive is there in all those particular fields for the greatest returns on ingenuity and practical implementation.

        1. In the near future, there will be many plants to generate electric energy from turbines using ethanol. It’s the same idea behind hybrid cars, trains, etc. The eficiency is way better, besides, ethanol is renewable and cleaner. Make no mistake, the car industry knows already it’s the next best thing. Electric cars will be cheaper to produce, batteries will evolve very fast. (think about the cellular phones), they will be safer, cheaper and will store a lot of energy. We are facing a change in the world right now and I think it’s very cool that we can see it.

  10. I agree with him of why F1 needs combustion engines – but at the same time they aren’t sustainable and in the long run obsolete. Formula E is trying something new so I’m all for it – it’s definitely ahead of its time. Sooner or later manufacturers will jump on the electric car wagon and then they will become interested in having a dedicated series to compete against other manufacturers – just like motorsport came about in the first place.

    1. @tmf42
      Combustion engines can run on a lot of things which aren’t sucked out of a big hole in the ground remember.

      1. @mads – true. But bio-fuel is not a sustainable solution with an ever growing population. Hydrogen maybe but the problems with production make it difficult – that’s why the trend goes to electric cars since the production can be diversified and doesn’t rely on a narrow supply source.

        1. @tmf42
          Yes right now it is impossible to supply enough biofuel to the worlds cars, but there is no need to choose one over the other.
          In 20 years time I am sure there will be electric cars that can cover most peoples needs in terms of power and range. Then there would be probably be biofuel enough to supply the sportier models. From the Merc AMGs, up to Lambo’s and that lot. And then F1 on biofuel would make sense.
          But we can only guess what happens. My point is simply, there is no guarantee that F1 cars need to go full electric.

          1. @mads – agree, and I don’t think that the combustion engine will go away from motor sports anytime soon. Just saying that Formula E as an alternative effort in parallel to F1 isn’t a bad idea. The 2 aren’t rivals but supplementing each other for the various needs of manufacturers. However F1 was the ultimate series for road car manufacturers – if in the future it goes towards electric cars then F1 will lose more of it’s relevance and the sport and fans just need to cope with that.

          2. @tmf42
            Ah, yes absolutely. I completely agree.

    2. I just hope the FIA are not planning to gouge more money out of F1 to finance FE, one thing I am sure of is that FE will not be financially viable as long as there is fuel for ICE motorsport.

  11. As long as there are wheels, a driver and varying bits of technology designed to make the wheels go around faster, there is racing.

    1. @bullmello, I look forward to the Electric dragster with a monster electric motor and a 1/4 mile power-cable.

      1. @hohum – LOL
        Solar panels, or wireless!
        Don’t do too many burnouts.

  12. I think neither hydrogen nor electric are the future. Instead, methane gas, which can be used in a slightly modified petrol engine, is the future (it is reality for road cars in quite a few countries already). This can be produced using CO2 and electricity produced from renewable sources (or nuclear).

    1. How much power per kilo can methane gas produce? I’ve read somewhere that hydrogen can produce as much as five times more power per kilo than petrol, and I don’t know what are the figures for methane. And it would depend on the source of energy used to form the methane gas from the carbon dioxide. But here’s a question. If all around the globe is a huge push for reducing CO2 levels, where would you get the CO2 from to produce methane in a few years? You certainly won’t start using petrol engines again to get your CO2.

      1. CO2 will be captured from the remaining coal and gas power plants.

        Mind that I am talking far future.

        Energy density of hydrogen is best indeed with 142 MJ/kg, however, it is very hard to store hydrogen as it slips through almost everything due to very small size of the molecules. This is probably especially true if you want to store it at high pressures, which is what you need to do to have enough energy for a race.

        Methane is next-best in the list of common combustibles with 56 MJ/kg, which compares with 46 MJ/kg for petrol.

        A lithium battery only stores (at best) 1 MJ/kg; ethanol (which could also be produced from renewable energy) would be 19.9 MJ/kg.

        1. Realistically, you would need quite highly pressurised fuel tanks to contain the hydrogen supply (probably in liquid state). Since the temperatures would also need to be very low, cooling requirements would likely increase drastically.

          So storing it is the biggest problem as @mike-dee said, but once that’s resolved it’s the best combustible fuel by far! I would be excited by the possibility though (and this is ultra futuristic, well beyond our lifetimes I would say) of having hydrogen fusion reactor engines – similar to the fission reactor engines in submarines, but of course fusing hydrogen to helium instead of fissioning uranium.

          That is major sci-fi stuff currently though ;)

          1. Nuclear fusion power plants coming to you 50 years (and have been coming to you in 50 years for 40 years already). So I think we can see fusion-powered F1 cars in the 3013 season only!

          2. @mike-dee by which time, Bernie Ecclestone may be having slight back problems and be only able to attend the sole remaining European GP ;)

      2. But because coal and gas stations are also fossil fuel power stations, in the far future they won’t be sustainable as well. And I firmly believe that, by that time, the inconveniences or difficulties surrounding the use of hydrogen as fuel cars will have been overcome, enabling the use of its enormous energetic potencial.

    2. @mike-dee, methane can also be produced in cattle, I look fwd. to the 750 cow/bull-power F1 car of the future.

  13. I’m not a big fan of this whole electric car thing, but it’s good to know that, once we’ve used up all the world’s natural resources, there’s at least one alternative to the current formula. I just hope that electric cars are F1’s last resort and that the boffins can come up with a more interesting alternative. Hydrogen power, maybe.

    If F1 cars go from being 200mph+ monsters to cars which can barely do 140 before spluttering to a halt at a quarter Grand Prix distance, then it’ll hardly the pinnacle of motorsport any more. But at least it’s better than nothing.

    1. Electric cars can go 200mph+! Just see for yourself!

      1. But they can’t shake my insides.

        Electric racing is like going to a rock concert that’s been muted. The band is still jumping around, the light show is still dazzling and the crowd is still cheering. But there’s no sound waves.

  14. David not Coulthard (@)
    26th October 2013, 16:30

    I think the future should be more gimmick-free than Vote to Pass

    1. that’s 1 thing that puts me off, because that would be an end to competition in motorsport.

    2. @davidnotcoulthard
      I agree completely.
      I was really interested in FE, especially as it covers the F1 winter break, but after hearing about that fan-boost, I am not going to bother.
      F1 is bad enough with it’s DRS. I am not going to invest time in another racing series when they turn it into that sort of X-factor.

    3. Vote to pass has put me right off the championship, which is a shame because it looks like the series will have a few merits including cool cities and lots of different manufactures getting involved with the making of the cars. However the artificial nature of a popularity concept to decide whether or not a driver gets extra KERS just seems a step beyond what is an acceptable performance differentiator in motorsport for me.

      1. I guess it’s equally true that “you can’t put young heads on old shoulders”.

  15. Want some vibrations? Lets bring Formula N(uclear) just like submarines..that goes future by far.

    1. I had a very similar idea! It’s far in the future though.

  16. If “Lack of Noise” is the only deterrent that turns away fans from Formula E then it is an easier problem to solve. FIA can mandate that the cars running on the track should generate a certain Minimum decibels of sounds during racing. Of course they can very well switch off during tests :)

    I guess Bang & Olufsen or DynAudio will be happy to solve this problem for Formula E with their indigenous speakers.

  17. If this doesn’t go the way of A1GP or Superleague Formula, I’ll be amazed.

    1. A1GP or Superleague Formula were not ‘sponsored’ by the FIA. I expect Formula E to last long, but it could have radical changes at some point.

  18. The noise factor is purely psychological, it’s what we’re used to. If we had grown with quiet cars, we would probably prefer that. Future generations may well say “What? Cars in the past were awfully loud? How annoying that must have been!”.

    I think the time will come when an electric car kicks a gasoline car’s butt. Higher reliability, lighter, smaller and thus more aerodynamic, a small motor on each wheel for unparalleled balance and control, a lower center of gravity, safer because of the lack of flammable fuel… Electric is the future.

    1. @ironcito
      I think the love of the noise is a lot more primal then that.
      I think we are simply hardwired in the top of our heads to fear something loud.
      A lions roar for instance.
      So the association we make in our heads that something loud is something powerful is simply something we have had since even before we became humans.
      The gorilla with the loudest roar is also pretty damn terrifying if you are a small squeaky teenager monkey.

      1. @mads haha, maybe. But relating power to size is arguably more primal than sound, yet nobody likes to watch 18-wheelers racing, even though they would probably create a minor earthquake as they pass.

        I guess it’s down to an opinion, but I don’t think that the lack of sound will prevent electric vehicle racing from becoming popular. People will eventually get used to that, and they will appreciate other things, such as being able to hear more subtle noises like tires screeching.

        1. nobody likes to watch 18-wheelers racing, even though they would probably create a minor earthquake as they pass.

          Americans will watch anything race – as long as they go in a circle.

    2. Valid point @ironcito, if an electric car is faster, Formula E would be the pinnacle of motorsport, not F1 :)

    3. David not Coulthard (@)
      27th October 2013, 7:18

      I think the time will come when an electric car kicks a gasoline car’s butt. Higher reliability, lighter, smaller and thus more aerodynamic, a small motor on each wheel for unparalleled balance and control, a lower center of gravity, safer because of the lack of flammable fuel… Electric is the future.

      I think electric cars only need a gearbox to do so. So close, yet so far.

  19. Andrew Simmons
    26th October 2013, 17:30

    Its already more interesting than Formula 1, and more road relevant.

    Reliable electrical engine units? CHECK
    Long distance capability IE millage? CHECK
    18inch alloy wheels? CHECK
    Tyres which work in BOTH wet AND dry? CHECK

    Already, its more interesting than Formula 1. Tyres which last a race but can be raced in wet AND dry? Thats revolutionary.

    1. Long distance capability IE millage? CHECK

      Since they have to change car halfway through the race, I think you should consider unchecking that one.

      1. Also the reliability is unknown for FE, while F1 engines have got hugely more reliable in recent years.

        1. @david-a
          That is true as well.

    2. Tyres which last a race but can be raced in wet AND dry? Thats revolutionary.

      I’ve got revolutionary tyres on my car! :O

      1. Ahah! Nice!

      2. it’s a case of ” back to the future” for those of us with a long enough memory.

  20. Whatever be the future of the cars ,i just hope they dont have tyres with the Pirelli logo.

  21. It’s not just the speed also. Look at F1s decades long attempt to slow the cars down. They could go much faster than 200mph if the rules allowed it. 140mph is no slouch for Formula E and I’m sure this will get faster over time.

  22. Fikri Harish (@)
    26th October 2013, 19:29

    Try not to put words in people’s mouth next time around Seb.
    The roaring sound of a V10 is sublime I admit, but to dismiss Formula E just because it’s quiet is rather insulting.

    I hate e-books. Always have been and always will be but 10 years ago I was smart enough to admit that it is indeed the future and that paperbacks are quite finished.

    Formula E still needs quite a bit of work and I still think 2014 is a bit premature for it to start but I actually believe that it is indeed the future.

  23. I like how un-PR Vettel is when answering this question!

  24. I have to agree with Vettel.

    Electric cars are just politically correct cash-grabs in terms of racing. Besides, before Electricity powers all of F1, I would think they’d try bio-fuels like diesel first. Who knows, maybe some new technology like the Hydrogen ICE’s will emerge first.

    It’s not like Electricity is the only alternative to oil. It certainly isn’t the greatest, maybe the worst choice they could make considering other options available, even today.

  25. Like it or not, oil is over. Electric cars are the way of the future, as they are proving in motorcycle racing. The TTZero bikes at the Isle of Man crossed the 100mph barrier within five years of existence. And the electric cars racing up Pikes Peak showed that the power and speed are there.

    Electric cars aren’t necessarily limited by batteries. External power (a la Nikola Tesla) through the track would mean no need for batteries, and no fuel reduces the risk of fire.

    Electric cars may not be as fast as internal combustion cars (just as electric bikes aren’t) but it’s still real racing.

    1. One must remember also that the reason they are slower is because their “fuel source” – batteries – is woefully inefficient in terms of MJ/kg when compared to hydrocarbons. The engines themselves in the electric motors are actually much better than internal combustion engines!

  26. “That’s what I remember from the first time I went to see Formula One in 1992 for free practice at Hockenheim, even though it was wet and the cars didn’t go out, but once they did their installation laps it was a great feeling just to be there and hear them coming through the forest and feel it through the ground. That’s why I’m not a big fan at all.”

    Fast forward to 2014 – no V10 /V12 or even V8. Steering wheel has been replaced by steering tablet (any resemblance to a wheel is pure coincidence). No more forest there.

    Fast forward to 2034 – Full electric engines with “re fuel” like the game Wipeout (just imagining something cool).

  27. Unfortunately, alternative energies (possibly electricity) will most likely be the future of motor racing; unless man comes up with a way to produce petroleum from alternate resources.

    Formula E, however, is a racing series that will last 2 to 3 years, no longer. It is an interesting idea rife with spectacularly bad ideas- one being the spectator interaction with the actual racing. Formula E is essentially run by people who don’t understand what motor racing is all about. Whoever came up with this unbelievably stupid and potentially catastrophic idea will meet his or her deserved demise: a financially troubled future and lawsuits from all directions. Formula E will either negatively provoke huge laughs or huge sobs, or both. I know what I will be doing.

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