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Why F1 could never go green

So. The big boys of Formula 1 are thinking of going green? For an industry driven by being on the edge and by its nature always looking beyond the next curve, perhaps the more relevant question is why they haven’t done it already?

Motorsport delivers cutting-edge technology, and the image it portrays, of visceral, fiercely thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing, attracts millions across the world. In many ways the image is the reality, but in other ways it isn’t. The rules are often emasculated for competitive and commercial reasons. The challenge now is that, over the last century, the sport has never seen the kind of disruptive innovation that we now face. Over that period, whatever happened, you could always be certain that it would be combustion engines, pistons and fumes driving the action.

Now all that “classic” technology is being replaced by silicon, chemistry and capacitors, and a handful of moving parts taking the place of thousands. And the mechanisms that govern motorsport are hopelessly outclassed when it comes to engaging with the new order.

Im the founder of TTXGP—The eGrandPrix, the worlds first and largest zero-carbon motorcycle grand prix. In our third year, we are now on four continents with teams from across the world. I work with some of the world’s most talented scientists and engineers from Europe, the US, China and India designing and innovating to the highest levels.

This has given me a rare inside view of the contradictory and often painful process whereby the regulators and vested interests have at times, through ignorance, apathy or darker intentions, had a toxic effect on innovation.

In this blog I’ll be giving readers my own pit-lane view of the trials and tribulations of creating a new technology-based industry.

The cradle of all sports are the rules. Own the rules, you own the game. In motorsport the regulators are governing bodies formed a century ago by gentlemens agreements, based in Europe, with an original mandate to codify the rules, legitimise records and arbitrate disputes. Life was simple, the sport was thrilling and everybody played. But then along came satellite TV and the rest is the reality as we now know it.

Sport has become a multi-faceted media platform subject to the whims of the promoters, manufacturers, sponsors and agents. Governing bodies have become enthralled by the beast and allow the regulation activity to become just another tool, subordinate to this larger agenda. With relatively modest baseline improvements in performance and no change in the core principles, the gig just rocks on.

But now, everything is different. Revolution is in the air. And if everything you have ever known to be true is made redundant by change, you fight as hard as possible to stop, shape or discredit it until your superiority can be reaffirmed in the next cycle.

Once you appreciate that the status quo inevitably protects those who have spent a century creating it, everything else makes sense, including why governing bodies have been painfully reluctant to embrace the green, future, agenda.

TTXGP was the first world championship ever to allow the rules to be shaped through a crowd-sourced wiki. We need to find answers to unknown questions fast. That means we need to think far beyond the traditional constraints.

Motorsport is a unique catalyst for technical advancement. Governing bodies could have a giant impact on the future of all of our transport needs by harnessing this power through an enlightened regulatory regime. But first they need to equip themselves with knowledge, a vision and a sense of urgency. Most of all they need to stop being enthralled by those who dominate today. History suggests the giants of today are likely to be the nostalgic memories of tomorrow.

A diplomat once observed that when a superpower shakes your hand, they tend to break your arm. The same could be said about UK Government policy to spark R&D. More on that next time.