WATCH | The future is electric and Formula 1 may be in for the shock of its life

Formula 1 grid before the start of 2020 Austrian GP (Clive Mason / Getty Images)
Formula 1 grid before the start of 2020 Austrian GP (Clive Mason / Getty Images)
Clive Mason

• Formula 1 is facing stiff competition in the form of Formula E.

• Formula E is an all-electric racing series that's been around since 2014.

• F1 used to be the pinnacle of motorsport, but has steadily been losing its aura.

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There has been a steady turnaround in how the broader public perceives vehicles. Whether this is with regards to the size of a car or how much fuel it uses, consumers have been reevaluating their buying options. And more and more buyers are opting for hybrid or full-electric vehicles; especially in Europe and other first-world parts of the globe.

In South Africa, for instance, the uptake is a lot slower, but alternative energy vehicles are filtering into our market - despite the ridiculous price tags.

Though this is all good and well, motorsport has always been an indication of the technologies road cars will be equipped with in future. And for the longest time Formula 1 filled that role, until Formula E came around…

Electric avenue

When Formula E came around in 2014, one always got the idea that one day it'll pick up steam. While a few teams competed in the opening years, it has now grown into one of the more popular racing codes in the world. Mercedes-AMG and BMW, for instance, pulled out of DTM and put their focus behind Formula E.

Jaguar, Porsche, and Mahindra are some of the other names who also have teams in the sport, while Rokit, title partner to the Williams F1 team until the end of 2019, is now fielding its own team in the sport. Automakers are withdrawing their involvement in motorsport codes that still push through with internal combustion engines and are investing in electric racing.

This leaves Formula 1 in a predicament, because if the attention is moving towards alternative energies, i.e. electrification, then even the hybridized 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is not good enough for a world that wants to do away with fossil fuel-powered cars. If that does become the case, teams might not continue their involvement in F1 once the new Concorde Agreement comes to an end at the end of 2025.

This is a question not even F1 can answer now because there are so many variables to consider before one can even attempt to give a logical answer to it.

Let's look at it this way: If, from 2026 onwards, F1 decides to adopt an all-electric powertrain, it will become a direct rival to Formula E. And with Formula E having been in action for 11 years, F1 will have its work cut out if it wants to keep its audience and fans and prove that it is the better racing series between it and Formula E.

In future, many cities will have distanced themselves from cars with internal combustion engines, which would make even hybrid vehicles pointless. If F1 continues its current trajectory, it will work its way out of relevance and become a racing series that is clinging on for dear life.

Formula 1 is in a catch-22 situation, but no one can predict how the future will play out for what once was the pinnacle of motorsport.

Considering Formula-E and electrification, how do you think F1's future will play out? Email us with your thoughts.

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