Formula E will have the 'road relevance' to overtake F1, says Filippi

Sylvain Filippi, MD, Envision Racing, speaks to guests during the annual Reuters IMPACT summit in London, Britain October 4, 2022. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One is enjoying a boom in popularity but electric Formula E will ultimately be the main focus of manufacturers and sponsors seeking road relevance and green credentials, Envision Racing team boss Sylvain Filippi predicted on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Reuters IMPACT conference in London, Filippi said internal combustion engine-based championships like Formula One would struggle to argue relevance as electric car ownership rises.

The European Commission wants a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035, making it impossible to sell combustion engine cars from then. Britain has said it will ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030.

Formula One's new power unit from 2026 will be a high-revving 1.6 litre V6 engine, with a significantly greater electric element and using 100% sustainable fuels.

"It’s going to be quite difficult to live with a road map that's clearly completely mis-aligned with what’s on the road," Filippi told Reuters.

"I think at some point the road relevance question will become very binary.

"Are you road relevant or are you not? You can’t really be in-between post-2030. There’s still a bit of time but it comes quick.

"All the money’s going to go into Formula E because that’s the only thing that’s acceptable ... a lot of brands will not really be able to sponsor internal combustion sport."

For now Formula One's marketing pull and viewing figures are far stronger, with glamorous new races in the United States drawing fresh sponsors and a Netflix docu-series "Drive to Survive" turbo-charging fan interest.

Formula One has also set a target of having a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 but Formula E has exclusive rights until 2039 as the only full-electric championship approved by the FIA motorsport governing body.

German marques Audi and Mercedes have recently left Formula E, however, with the former set to debut in Formula One with their own engine from 2026.

Mercedes own only a third of their once-dominant Formula One team, reducing it from 60% in 2020 with petrochemicals giant Ineos taking a one third share and team boss Toto Wolff also owning the same amount.

City-centre based Formula E is, meanwhile, expanding to India and Brazil next season, after Indonesia in 2022, when a new faster, smaller and lighter 'Gen3" car makes its race debut.

The series may also introduce rapid charging pitstops, that Filippi said could take around 30 seconds, for a car with front and rear powertrains producing 600kw of power compared to a previous 250kw.

"That’s almost a 1,000 horsepower car, almost the same as a Formula One car. We can do the 0-60 in way under two seconds and we’re not even using slick tyres. The potential is just immense," said Filippi.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Mark Potter)

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