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'Formula E could be on course for victory in its battle with F1'

Mike Rutherford thinks there can only be one winner out of Formula One and Formula E

Formula E opinion

If you’re based in Britain – or enjoy easy access to it – you don’t know how lucky you were in July 2021. Credit where it’s due; when in the right mood, Blighty knows how to put on a show, and over three epic July weekends the UK staged three of the greatest shows on earth. These were the glorious Goodwood Festival of Speed, the born-again British Grand Prix, and the lively London E-Prix. Think of them as quintessentially British, world-class occasions for petrol-heads, hybrid-heads, and electric-heads. In that order. 

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But can this trio continue to perform annually on the world stage that’s watched by untold millions? In the short to medium term, yes. But predicting further ahead, I fear one member of the threesome may be in danger of disappearing up its own you-know-what.

At first glance, the most likely to fall offstage is Goodwood; it has a politically incorrect and huge appetite for old-fashioned petrol, diesel and oil. Wrongly, these old-school products are almost being dumped in the same league of shame that’s rightly occupied by true evils such as illegal drugs. But all the while the 11th Duke of Richmond and his family are committed custodians of Goodwood and its Festival, the event is secure. It’s unique. And it’s more about old petrol cars than the new petrol versions soon be banned from our showrooms. That’s why FoS is safe.

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Formula E and its future E-Prix meetings I also have confidence in. They’re coming from a comparatively low starting point, and have much room to grow as EVs eventually become the norm. Within a decade FE will have carved out an important niche as being to the growing army of pure-EV owners what Formula 1 is today to the shrinking, retreating platoons of bruised and bloodied drivers of petrol models. Why are they so brutally bludgeoned and beaten? Because they’ve lost the good fight. From 2030, they’ll be robbed of their right to buy new cars running on unleaded. 

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So where will that leave the annual British GP and other F1 events? Not quite up the creek without a paddle, but the F1 industry is traditionally petroleum (more lately petrol-electric hybrid) based and is therefore in uncertain waters. The leading teams and suppliers such as Mercedes, Honda, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault/Alpine have their long-term futures in road cars that are 100 per cent electric, so surely it’s almost inevitable that their F1 cars will eventually have to be fuelled solely by electricity?

Guess they’ll need to turn F1 into F1E, or something equally contentious. The FE boys won’t be happy, because they got in first with pure-electric race cars from the likes of Audi and Jaguar, who happen to make more and more pure-electric road cars. So the logic and consistency are there. At this early stage it looks as though F1 hasn’t won, while FE could be on course for victory. FE has already established itself at the right and proper time as the world’s No.1 electric-car racing series. Therefore F1/F1E could become superfluous, and fade away into a shadow of its former self. Just like the once colossal World Rally Championship did. Sadly, if WRC can go backwards in such a dramatic fashion, so might F1.

What do you think to the future of Formula E and Formula One? Let us know in the comments...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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