F1 to the Wrong Direction
January 2003

If you remember, in 1999 I wrote an article "F1 and Road Car" to point out that the link between Formula One and road car technology was far weaker than car makers wanted us to believe. 4 years have gone, today this not only has no improvement, but  it gets even worse.

What is the problem with our Formula One business? both FIA and the participating constructors seem miss the point in their recent debate. They argued whether F1 should be a "show" or a "sport". They discussed about cost reduction and rescue plans to the troubled teams. But they miss one important thing - F1 is pointing towards the wrong direction, a direction leading it to be far removed from the production car business. F1 technologies can no longer be applicable to road cars, because in the 21st century the first priority of our road car technologies is to bring super-low fuel consumption and clean emission or simply zero emission. We need to invest billions of dollars in development programs of hybrid, fuel-cell, hydrogen power, direct-injection, common-rail diesel, Valvetronic, CVT transmission and the like. We want to build a car drinking 1 litre of fuel per 100km. We don't need a 18,000rpm engine which destroys itself after 200km of running, which has no green technology at all, which drinks 1 litre of RON102 fuel per kilometer - even though the car weighs 450kg and carries 1 person only.

To align the development of road car and race car technology, F1 should consider introducing fuel consumption regulation, banning refill. Just like in the 80s it restricted the fuel tank size of turbocharged cars so that the drivers should always had fuel consumption in their mind. What about requiring the F1 cars to finish 200km distance with 50 litres of RON98 super unleaded fuel (from your regular gas station), an equivalent to 11.2mpg? and then tighten the tank size gradually to achieve higher efficiency every year?

What about introducing Euro IV emission regulations or ULEV standard to F1 racing? 

If F1 is raced under a different environment to road cars, its technology will be difficult or even impossible to be transferred to road use. Just like the funny NASCAR - they can turn to just one direction! 

Introducing environmental concern to racing is not necessarily boring. No, on the contrary to that, this will slow down the cars and make the racing more exciting. To road cars, F1 can help accelerating the development of green technology that eat no power. They can explore technologies in catalyst, electronics, combustion control, fuel system and engine breathing, helping our road cars to get more horsepower while meeting stricter government regulations. We will no longer afraid that newer emission regulations will kill our Skyline GT-R or RX-7, reducing power of our Evo or STi.

I have never doubted the power of Formula One R&D. Whenever FIA introduced a new regulation to slow down the cars, say, banning turbocharging and reducing engine capacity, F1 teams always found new solutions to make their cars faster again in just a couple of seasons. The question is whether we can make better use of such development power to help improving our road cars.

Last week FIA announced a reform in Formula One. The focus was on cost reduction. But one of the changes seems going to the right direction: from 2004, each engine must be able to complete one racing weekend, from practice, qualifying to racing. From 2005, this will extend to 2 races. Undoubtedly, F1 engine makers will have to make their engines stronger and more durable - just like our road cars.

That's not enough though. I hope to see more useful changes in the future.

Mark Wan

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