Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has warned against Formula 1 and Formula E “converging in one direction”, as he insisted both categories need to have a clear identity to be viable.
F1’s introduction of hybrid engines in 2014 was recognised as a move towards road car relevance – and some, including F1’s newly-appointed sporting boss Ross Brawn, have suggested that the continuation of that policy may logically lead to an electric formula.
Electric open-wheeler competition is currently the domain of Formula E, and Abiteboul, who works for a manufacturer involved in both F1 and FE, believes convergence between the two series “would not be sustainable”.
“It is a very difficult balancing exercise and you need to look at F1, obviously, in its wider context of FE and endurance racing,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
“We need to make sure that every single category stands out for something very clear – and [that] there is a clear USP [unique selling point] for a manufacturer to go in one versus another.
“In Renault we are in a particular position to be at the same time in F1 and FE. We see the huge difference between the two formulas.
“What I feel would not be good is if everything was converging in one direction – because then there is no point in having different formulas, so that would not be sustainable.”
“Constructive dialogue” over road relevance
With F1 stakeholders due expected to begin discussions over what F1’s engine formula will be past 2020, FIA president Jean Todt made his position clear, saying that the sport needed to maintain stability.
Todt warned that a return to louder, less eco-friendly engines of old would lead to “three out of four” manufacturers leaving F1.
For Renault’s part, Abiteboul insisted the manufacturer was “open-minded” in terms of F1’s future direction.
“The financial equation needs to stack up but we don’t have, as I speak today, one strong opinion about an engine architecture over another,” he said.
“Going backwards could be difficult but we are open-minded so I don’t want to start making threats.”
He also said that F1 needed to comprehensively examine and discuss the question of whether the series should aim to be road relevant in the future.
“I completely accept that there should be a debate there,” he added. “I don’t think there is one good answer to that. The only thing that we need to bear in mind that we need to have a holistic approach, a comprehensive assessment of the situation.
“And it could maybe be that F1 doesn’t need to be road relevant, but then it needs to be ready to lose the financial support coming from people who believe that F1 needs to be road relevant – that is not just car makers, it is petroleum suppliers.
“We are talking to a number of partners like Microsoft, who are there for other reasons – because F1 is going in a direction that they believe is relevant not necessarily for the road, but for society.
“All of that we need to take into account.”