Ferrari’s electric supercar plan: A warning to F1?

2018 F1 season

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Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne has given the strongest indication yet the Italian manufacturer is planning to build an electric supercar.

Marchionne told reporters at the Detroit auto show his company’s road car range could soon include a battery-powered supercar.

“If there is an electric supercar to be built, then Ferrari will be the first,” said Marchionne, as reported by Bloomberg.

“People are amazed at what Tesla did with a supercar: I’m not trying to minimise what Elon [Musk, Tesla CEO] did but I think it’s doable by all of us.”

Start, Formula E, Morocco, 2018
Marchionne has indicated Ferrari could race in Formula E
Marchionne’s words have obvious implications given his recent remarks on Ferrari’s commitment to Formula One. Last year he threatened to pull Ferrari out of the sport if it does not agree with the future goals of Liberty Media, who bought F1 in 2016.

Sceptics responded to Marchionne by pointing to a shortage of alternative global motor sport championships for Ferrari to enter. Nothing else has the same worldwide popularity as F1. The World Endurance Championship has the global reach and relatively open technical regulations but has been hit by a series of manufacturer pull-outs. IndyCar does not race outside of North America and its regulations are likely to remain more restrictive than F1’s.

However Marchionne has expressed increasingly positive sentiments about Ferrari entering the FIA’s all-electric, global Formula E championship.

In 2016 he said Ferrari would not enter Formula E until certain aspects of its technical regulations were changed, such as the need to switch cars mid-race. That is set to change when the championship’s 2018-19 season begins later this year. Last year Marchionne admitted Ferrari “need to be involved in Formula E” in the future.

While Formula E’s fan base is also much smaller than Formula One’s, it has attracted the attention of more car manufacturers than any other championship. Nissan (in place of Renault), BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are all slated to join in the near future.

And Formula E would obviously make much more sense to Ferrari if it had an electric supercar in its range.

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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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55 comments on “Ferrari’s electric supercar plan: A warning to F1?”

  1. Ferrari will join FE only if they get an historical boost per race and can veto the fan boost as it suits them

    1. They would be likely to get more fan boost than any driver or team many times over.

      1. And still they would threaten to quit the sport (Formula E) if they didn’t get their way.
        Ferrari has been doing this for decades. I don’t understand why anyone takes them seriously at all.

    2. @johnmilk LOL. Good point, though.

    3. LOL @johnmilk Best comment so far this year!

    4. I would probably hate myself for this but yeah +1

      1. @redbullf1 you combination of username, profile picture is very confusing I must say
        Glad however you can see the wrongdoing if though you are an assumed fan, hats off to you

        1. Vettel fan since 2014, hope that explains me haha, @johnmilk

          1. Vettel has fans?

  2. Rimac has already made the electric hyper car, so yeah, Ferrari could be the first to make an electric super car. :D (coming from a long time Tifosi)

    1. Exactly, and Nio (aka NextEV) has an electric supercar too. Their NIO EP9 did the Nurnburgring in 6.45… Marchionne should know this, they even won the first FE championship with Piquet.

      1. I believe that, in at least some jurisdictions, the Nio EP9 is not officially a road legal vehicle, so it is contentious as to whether you could classify it as an “electric supercar” when it is bordering on being a track only special. There is certainly a lot of contention over their Nurburgring times too given the use of bespoke tyres just for that record attempt which would not be road legal.

        1. Shaun Robinson (@)
          19th January 2018, 13:21

          Nio EP9 isn’t road legal or even race legal. Doesn’t have the certification to be driven on the road and, to be honest, given the size of the thing you’d never want to take it out – its massive!

    2. That’s OK, if you had been a ferrarista then it’d be a signal of broken hearts.

    3. Exactly what I was thinking.

      If there is an electric supercar to be built, then Ferrari will be the first

      I think someone forgot to send Marchionne the memo.

  3. Random thoughts:
    I think electric cars are a completely separate realm from traditional combustion engine car industry. Thus, Ferrari’s prestige and heritage will not completely carry over to the electric car domain. If at all.
    To illustrate this – If Ferrari produced a motorcycle, I wouldn’t at all assume it’s any good, let alone great, and it wouldn’t have nearly the prestige factor the way a Ducati motorcycle has, or a Ferrari car. If we went further away from what Ferrari is, so e.g. if Ferrari produced a smartphone – it would almost be to the detriment of that product to call it a Ferrari.

    Now, I wonder where on that continuum would an electric Ferrari be located. One I am sure of: if Tesla decided to compete in Formula E, that would be the Ferrari of Formula E, not the team from Maranello, who would have as much to prove in FE as a team like Haas has to in F1.

    1. An electric Ferrari would not be part of their cars it would be classified under their merchandising wing with all the overpriced aftershaves and tat made in China then having the Prancing Horse logo slapped on the side.

      God awful idea, Marchionne should be careful people have been killed for far less.

      1st electric supercars??? There’s loads of awful electric supercars turning up all over the place. The only electric Ferraris should remain the radio control toy ones. If everyone else moves to electric there will be thousands of years worth of fuel to be burnt exclusively by Ferrari. Emissions would be reduced so much worldwide a few thousand Ferraris can burn fuel all they want from glorious V12 engines. If everyone has to go electric I will be very happy for Ferrari to be the last for once.

      1. YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!!!

        1. Old man yells at cloud!

      2. Those glorious V12 engines now have to be type approved to 68db in the EU (down from an already low of 74db), which is quieter than a Formula E car.
        Reason? Supercar owners were taking things to the extremes with their straight through pipe modifications. Their Narcissistic behaviour eventually brought the *wrong kind* of attention.

    2. @damon, why would Tesla be “the Ferrari of Formula E”? Tesla’s marketing strategy is aligned in a very different direction to that of Ferrari – Musk has, so far, marketed his cars as luxury GT cars and hasn’t been marketing a car so much as a lifestyle and aesthetic (in the case of the Model X, there have been those who have criticised parts of the design as being clearly designed with the intention of looking good rather than being practical).

      Musk’s strategy is flashy showmanship, as the hardware behind the cars themselves is nothing particularly special – for example, the batteries are more or less bought off the shelf from Panasonic – and, in some ways, it’s questionable whether the company really is as innovative as they portray themselves (in terms of patents for battery technology, for example, Tesla has registered 55 patents, as against 762 for Toyota and 661 for GM over the same 5 year period).

      1. You missed the point, anon.
        “why would Tesla be “the Ferrari of Formula E”?”
        Because Tesla is a renowned electric car producer, a leader in the field, recognised for the highest quality, design and innovation. Something Ferrari is known for in the car world. The specific style of their cars is something completely else. You could compare Tesla to a Mercedes of electric cars, it would be the same. Whereas Ferrari is no-one in the electric car industry.

        in some ways, it’s questionable whether the company really is as innovative as they portray themselves (in terms of patents for battery technology, for example, Tesla has registered 55 patents, as against 762 for Toyota and 661 for GM over the same 5 year period).

        Who was more innovative: The guy who designes 40 different kinds of a horse carriage or the guy who invented the steam engine to get rid of the horse?

        1. Tell me, @damon, where does Tesla figure in this?

          Who was more innovative: The guy who designes 40 different kinds of a horse carriage or the guy who invented the steam engine to get rid of the horse?

          Tesla (the company) certainly did not invent the electric engine (they were raced in the early 1900 already!) nor was it the first to build a modern day electric car. If anything, he would be the one who first made customers happy to buy one.

          Oh and if you compare electric to the steam engine, are you suggesting that the electrical cars will be replaced by something better, lighter, more flexible too – since steam engines proved to be bulky and complicated to operate, they were replaced by combustion engines before soon!

        2. @damon, although reviews have indicated that they’ve improved in that sector, build quality was something that Tesla was routinely and heavily criticised for in the past.

          As for the comments about patents, I stated that they were about battery technology – something that is rather important for the ongoing development of an electric car. With your rather crude analogy, you show that you’ve completely misunderstood the point – this is a direct comparison of developments within the same technological field (battery chemistry, recharging systems and so forth), and in the field of ongoing developments into electric vehicles, Tesla really aren’t that innovative.

          If anything, until quite recently it would have been Tesla that was in the position of using old fashioned technology, since their older models used batteries that were based on expired patents for laptop batteries (even Musk admitted that those batteries were not cutting edge).

          1. And that;s exacly the reason Tesla builds a super factory for battery’s. Yes the Tesla battery is build around aprox 16000 small of the shelf battery’s, but the design and usability are great.
            Compare Tesla with Apple, not much innovation there now, but very good marketing and design.
            People love Apple and are eager to pay the exuberant prices for the hardware made by others ( like Samsung)
            and build by Foxcon in China.

    3. I don’t think diferent power plant makes electric and traditional cars markets any different. Ferrari doesn’t sell petrol powered super cars. Ferrari sells sporty cars with huge brand value. Whether that ferrari is electric, hybrid, turbo or naturally aspirated makes no difference. It’s a ferrari. If ferrari can make electric sportscar then they’ll definitely make it. Sooner or later they’ll make a suv as well. And at some point we’ll see self driving ferraris as well. Thinking anything else is like thinking cars will never take off because horse carriages are so good.

      Electric cars are getting better all the time. Everybody will be making more electric cars in the future. That transition from traditional to electric is a step every auto maker needs to make. New brands like tesla will pop up like they always do when there is a shakeup in the markets but all old brands will need to jump in at some point.

      But not today. Electric cars tend to have the same issues as hybrids. They make very poor race engines. They weigh massively more, the complexity increase from petrol engine is massive and the battery is still holding electric cars and electric racing back. Not to mention the costs which are also higher. But at some point we will start seeing electric cars becoming competitive. Not just on lap times but on all areas. It all relies on nothing else except battery tech as electric motors are already very good. It all depends how good can batteries become.

      1. And at some point we’ll see self driving ferraris as well.

        Can only hope they self-drive like maniacs, terrify passengers and collect staggering speeding fines. Will there be a Fangio mode? A Giles mode? A Schumi?

      2. Electric the moment are like mobile phones in the early 80’s, maybe worse.

        Infrastructure will take decades to be half decent as well. No one will pay for infrastructure until the cars sell but cars will not sell without infrastructure. Batteries will also cause huge environmental issues for the raw materials and how will the huge surge in electricity be accounted for? Powerstations will pollute and more so with the increased energy requirement, solar power etc is simply not enough. Electric cars came before petrol but petrol was where everyone went as it’s simply better.

    4. Well, Tesla has 0 racing pedigree. Ferrari has a track record of building supercars…

      I am certain anything with 4 wheels Ferrari can make special and sell it well.

      So can Tesla, but that is a different story.

      1. Tesla does not even have a history of profit. They are ran off huge US government subsidies whilst loosing hand over fist. They are a con or at best marketing company ran by a man with little to no technical knowledge who made Billions from an online payment scheme, not a car guy not a visionary, as much to cars as Trump to politics, a short term anomaly soon to be forgotten.

        1. And yet Tesla cars score higher in customer satisfaction surveys than any other car maker, and they get no subsidies that other car makers can’t get either, and they have states forbidding direct sales of cars just to thwart them. This irrational hatred of Tesla says more about you than about the company, which has only 1 problem: it can’t ramp up production fast enough to keep up with demand.

          1. Tesla are a marketing firm. Percentage satisfaction figures? They sell nearly no cars, people that by them would say they are good as they have been duped by the con man Musk. The wheels could fall off and their few hundred customers will still say they are great. Roman are interesting but Tesla are truly abysmal buying off the shelf parts talking waffle, they are a marketing firm playing with government money, the idiot incharge also talks about Mars colonies, he’s a crazy billionaire with a great talent to make some people belive complete rubbish.

          2. @Markp
            Tesla getting goverment money? Tesla has got 500 million from the goverment. Ford has got 50 billion and ford 26 billion! 1 billion = 1000 million just in case fox news has different definition for that too… I’d like to see ford or gm try to build a rocket that can land back on earth after being used…

          3. @markp

            What different is people buying in to Tesla Bull compared to Ferrari Bull? Both companies make cars that people love to buy and own.

            Tesla would sell more cars if they could make more of them…

            Ferrari would also sell more cars if they chose to make more.

            As such there is more demand than production, I consider that an objective marketing success.

            How good is the product? That is debatable, but people putting their money where their mouth is say it is good enough.

          4. Tesla rocket? They can’t do anything they say. Ford funding is proving up a failed business that was once great and which many workers rely on. Tesla will never achieve that, Ford used to make profits Tesla never have never will. They are a cult stock ran by a manipulative marketeer.

            Difference with Ferrari is they stand on their own feet and generate their own profits, they are also overblown with marketing but with far more substance.

            Tesla have virtually no skill just piggy back others work or pick off the shelf parts, electric cars are not a realistic proposition for the nextv50 years plus due to infrastructure and battery technology. When the time comes the real makers will take electric cars over. When 1st to market you need to make hay why the sun shines, Tesla are not, 1970’s build quality, inept production, propped up by government, hugely loss making and technically limp. Cult status offbof a very clever/ con man founder.

    5. I disagree about brand values @damon and concur with @socksolid on this. People buy into the Ferrari brand whether it be a car or a wristwatch. Just last week, I sold, on eBay a Ferrari branded animatronics teddy bear for £100 which cost around £10, 20 years ago. If Ferrari brought out a motorbike it would be sold off the charts, likewise an electric car, and who knows? Even a teddy bear. I most certainly would not trust Tesla with a similar investment I would trust with Ferrari if that makes sense, and yet I have experience with neither.

  4. Maybe the precise timing could be viewed as a supplement to the threat of Ferrari pulling out of F1, but outside of that isn’t it just a logical step? The ICE is surely on its way out in road cars (the only question seems to be how quickly that will happen), so it would hardly be a surprise to see supercar manufacturers increasingly producing electric cars; F1 will also surely have to follow suit in the not-too-distant future (one reason I find the noise arguments around the current power units so ridiculous).

  5. Just before I begin, this comment is not to be taken too seriously!

    Has the idea of Ferrari setting up its own global formula racing series ever been considered? They could have it named after themselves (Formula Ferrari or something), run a spec series with regulations designed entirely to their liking, faster than F1, and more competitive than F1. They’d be free to sign all the commercial deals they want and have races wherever suits their marketing. They could turn each race event into a Ferrari Festival if they wanted to.

    1. Pretty sure they already have done a Ferrari cup thing in the past – see Porsche Carrera cup like. It would cost them quite a bit more than F1 and they would get far less coverage from it.

      1. I think there are many Ferrari formulas.

      2. @bascb @jureo they have done it using road cars, yes

        Of course it would cost a lot more than F1, but in the long run they could get a huge following for something like that

        1. I doubt there really will be any huge following for that @strontium. If there would be, they would still be doing it.

  6. Think the writing is on the wall, Liberty Media better get to grips with the declining fan base of F1, me included if it carries on much longer in the same way.

  7. I have mentioned this before as well when Ferrari made its usual threats to leave F1. The thing that makes their threat credible is precisely this: Rise of electric.

    A threat by any manufacturer to give preference to Formula E over Formula 1 is a credible one, even if it is a supercar maker like Ferrari.

    Formula 1 right engine regulations are obviously gonna undergo a major overhaul in the mid-2020s where it starts incorporating electric. It’s obvious that manufacturers hence don’t want to invest more into the existing IC engine as IC engines are gonna die out quite soon.

    It makes fiscal sense to just stretch out the existing regulations with minor changes until the time is right for an electric revolution of F1.

  8. Ferrari is just keeping an open mind about the future, I love the idea of hybrids but the future is electric.

    “People are amazed at what Tesla did with a supercar: I’m not trying to minimize what Elon [Musk, Tesla CEO] did but I think it’s doable by all of us.”

    I like that quote by Marchionne, it’s amazing how tech lovers who have no clue about cars idolize Musk. The cult like frenzy around Tesla just shows that those people are living in a bubble if they think no other maker can build attractive and efficient EVs. Tesla is doing a great job but people gotta chill.

    1. but I think it’s doable by all of us.”

      Is not about being doable.. it’s about doing it. Tesla already did, Ferrari did not.

      And there are already a lot of Electric supercars.. it’s a bad sign Marchionne only looks at Tesla in stead of the plethora of other electric supercars.. ( look above for some examples)

  9. In the predictions post a couple of months I predicted either a merger or a victory for formula E in the next 7 years vs Formula 1 as the pinnacle of motorsport. This statement from Ferrari makes the most sense.

    I’ve just been over here in China to a NIO demonstration/ track day and was really, really impressed by the professionalism but also how impressive that car was. The problem lies on the energy part of the car but am sure battery technology will have a very impressive evolution in the upcoming years, mainly by the electronic Giants here in Asia, as well as Tesla.

    Just look at the incredibly positive reception Formula E has been receiving worldwide. Yes, certain cities are having some difficulties due to bureaucracy or usual political party issues, but its been a long while since we have seen Motorsport being well received- beyond the traditional venues- in city landscapes.

    As autonomy and battery technology evolves I imagine the performance of Formula E cars to surpass combustion formula 1 cars in the next 7 years.

    Formula 1 needs to be the pinnacle of Motorsport. The Best Drivers, The best cars, The best circuits, the best show and value for audiences and positive exposure for sponsors and venues.

    Currently, However, we do question if this is true. Audiences and the general public are impressed with these record breaking Electric cars. They buy into its environmental friendly message. They perceive it as the future. Hybrids are a good stop gap but are the present and hardly “steal” headlines. The major cities are much, much more open to Formula E than Formula 1 , politicians specially because of its positive message.

    Every major manufacturer is seriously looking, or developing viable Electronic cars. The current manufacturer participation in Formula E is incredible. The current crop of drivers in there is mostly of Platinum and Gold Drivers. The time were it was a racing series of B List racers is long gone.

    On the other hand, Formula 1 , while it did attract one of the most exciting drivers in recent years with Charles Leclerc, is signing drivers that some question of their worth in the pinnacle of motorsport. There is a real danger the public perception of Formula 1 as the place of the best of the best to change. And imagine if the Formula E camp wins in events such as the Race of Champions, or at one offs such as Lemans, or even Macau Grand Prix. These take a dent in the credibility of Formula 1, and its future.

    The future is Electric. One can talk about of the hypocrisy of the waste of the batteries or how electric power is generated, but its where the industry is heading- and with it Motorsport. Formula 1 needs to take notice and create the right steps to continue to create amongst audiences the perception that it is the pinnacle of motorsport: the best drivers, the best cars, the most cutting edge technology , the best circuits and the best show. Its “1” has to stand for all this.

    1. AS for the “Noise” situation, I was having a talk with a NIO engineer and we sort of agreed that there will be a new element added into electric motorsport in the future: Sound Design. Its not about “fake” or “real”, but what a certain “Brand” should sound like. Its not about the noise as “loud pollution” but as part of the show, as an indication of what car brand it is, what the driver is doing- on the power, reducing, using boost, etc- An Audi Electric car should have a distinct sound, a BMW its own Sound, a Tesla, Ferrari, etc. Not in a saudosistic way, but as part of the Brand identity.

      Formula E could take notice to this.

  10. I don’t necessarily think that this spells the end for Ferrari in F1 and it doesn’t mean Ferrari are jumping to FE. Ferrari creating an electric car means that Ferrari are creating an electric car. They are creating a road car for the future. Yes, Ferrari road car and Ferrari racing are highly interlinked and the benefits of increased electricfication will benefit the motorsport division as well but it doesn’t mean that there will be no non-hybrid/petrol Ferrari race cars. I feel that no matter what Ferrari do fans/media will always say the worst will happen.

  11. I don’t think Ferrari will like the rule that they are not in control of chassis and bodywork design in FE, Just painting the cars red and putting a prancing horse decal on it will not make it a “Ferrari”

  12. Marchionne needs to spend less time meddling with Ferrari and more time fixing Fiat and Maserati; Alfa seems to be doing alright, traditional reliability issues notwithstanding. I’ve never been comfortable with him as CEO, he’s the least charismatic Italian I’ve ever seen.

    So long as it’s just a low production hypercar I’m not too bothered (the LaFerrari was similarly out of place in my opinion, I choose to ignore it), but if electric cars start creeping into their core sectors I’ll really start getting worried. The only car I think could get away with hybridization is the FF (whatever it’s called now) as it’s already quite heavy and more of a cruiser/daily driver car, even then I think full EV is a step too far.

  13. Yep… wake up everyone – its all going to be electric…. so you could be looking at one of the last F1 piston seasons .. Ferrari know this…

  14. This is all about California, doubtless a significant market for Ferrari, if only for virtue-signalling overpaid Hollywood stars. Their emissions directorate CARB voted unanimously in March 2017 to require automakers to average 54.5 mpg for new cars in 2025.

    Where California goes, a number of other states follow, ergo Ferrari have to build the fastest milk float in the west.

    Where will this nonsense end?

    1. What’s virtue signaling?

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