If Brawn and Symonds sound vague on the engine direction, take that as a positive. F1’s core business is grand prix racing, but it’s always going to be an optional extra for manufacturers. By being open and collaborative on what the industry needs, it’s possible to ensure there’s a genuine relevance.
F1 remains enduringly appealing to road-car manufacturers for a good reason, which is exactly why those such as Honda and Renault have usually returned a few years after leaving. And as well as what might be termed the well-established manufacturers, F1 should also aspire to lure in the newer companies – the disruptors, such as Tesla – in the long term.
As for the distant prognosis, anyone who claims they can be sure what the world will look like two decades down the line is either lying or overestimating their own prescience. As Symonds points out, “we need some game-changers in the technologies to see which one is going to win out in the end” when it comes to F1’s next next-generation engine. It’s easy to point to hydrogen fuel cell technology as the solution, and it’s promising, but there’s still a long way to go.
“After a century or so of the current technology, we know fairly well the implications of it,” says Brawn. “But electrification isn’t fully mature yet, and there’s a huge number of challenges to be met: the materials that are used, the generation of the electricity, the recycling of materials. Therefore having some parallel activities is sensible.