As the automotive world goes electric, Formula 1 has a choice in front of it: Shift to electric cars and potentially compete with the FIA’s Formula E, or resist following the path most of its OEM partners’ consumer-facing vehicles are taking. CEO Stefano Domenicali’s mind is set, and he recently said there would never be an electric car on the grid at an F1 Grand Prix.
Speaking with Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Domenicali said the sport “will never go electric” but noted that F1 would achieve its goal of carbon neutrality through sustainable synthetic fuels, known as e-fuel. The sport is working with partners to develop the fuels, slated to be used from 2026.
It’s unclear what impact the fuels will have on performance, sound, and competition, but expect the sort of big changes F1 went through when the hybrid era started almost a decade ago. The racing series moved from V8s to turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 power units with hybrid energy recovery systems in 2014, which used far less fuel.
Formula 1’s Saudi Arabian partner, Aramco, is a significant player in the effort. It’s also worth noting that Porsche already has an e-fuel manufacturing facility in Chile, though the automaker’s future on the grid is uncertain.
Formula 1’s vision is that its e-fuel could grow to power road cars in the future. Domenicali said synthetic fuels can help achieve zero emissions without having to “throw away the entire fleet of vehicles that already exists.”
Domenicali’s e-fuel plan puts F1 at odds with some prominent automakers on the grid. Renault, owner of the Alpine F1 team, will stop selling gas-powered cars starting in 2030, and Mercedes-Benz will do the same. The old saying of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” might become a little outdated in the new era, where fans see e-fuel-powered cars racing and then see a lot full of EVs at their local dealer.