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F1 Hybrid Regulations Went ‘Too Far,’ Says FIA President

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Jean Todt

Jean Todt, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
Photo: Vinod Divakaran

FIA president Jean Todt says that while Formula One is meant to be a combination of sport and R&D for manufacturers, the current hybrid regulations probably went too far in the direction of the latter.

Since 2014, which marked the start of the current hybrid V6 era in F1, the regulations have received a lot of criticism. The engines were first too quiet (they have since been artificially loudened), then too slow (they are now faster than even the old V10s), too complex, and too costly, largely because of the hybrid components, particularly the MGU-H, which converts heat energy from the exhaust into electricity.

It is that component that has been left out of the new regulations set for 2021, which for some teams appears to be a step backward. Mercedes, for instance, has invested enormous amount into developing the MGU-H, which remains the single most unique piece of hardware in F1 and also the one with the most potential for improvement.

But Todt was keen to emphasize that F1 needs to be more than just “a laboratory for the manufacturers.” “It’s a beautiful piece of art, of technology, but I hear well that it’s maybe not what the fans are expecting,” he said about the MGU-H. “It’s not something that is absolutely needed to have a good championship.”

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Though he acknowledged that development of the MGU-H is already proving beneficial to manufacturers with regards to road cars, Todt added: “Saying that, if you think that is has been maybe a bit too far, you must be prepared to go a bit backwards. At the end of the day I’m sure that over the years the engine will be even more efficient without MGU-H.”

The main argument for removing the MGU-H is that the cost and complexity it adds to building a F1 engine has deterred many manufacturers from entering the series. Honda was the only one to join after the start of the hybrid era and has struggled from not having the same amount of preparation and prior R&D as the existing manufacturers.

Some companies, such as Aston Martin and Porsche, are known to be keeping a close watch on F1’s 2021 regulations, and may join the sport should the MGU-H be omitted. “We are close to respecting the deadline we have to publish the engine regulations for 2021,” said Todt, “and I hope that it may create some interest for some new manufacturers.”

He did close, however, by admitting that this interest could lead nowhere: “There is interest, but between interest and commitment, there’s a big difference.”

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