With the “Super-Bowled” statement from Liberty Media being flogged around perpetually, armchair technophiles cringing at the word ‘entertainment’ and the usual divide between fans who want to see technological innovation continue its usurping of the loud, fully-fledged oil guzzlers of old, it’s time to look ahead and piece together what Formula 1 will be in the future.
There is an obvious scope of inaccuracy when trying to predict the future, but growing themes in the automotive industry, the depletion of oil globally and the rise of driverless technologies means that there are some general variables that are going to directly and dramatically affect the Motorsport landscape. Formula 1 will have to make a big decision before long and the wheels are already in motion under the ownership of Liberty Media.
It’s hard to imagine that there will be a generation born within the next couple of decades who will grow up without witnessing human beings driving automobiles. The roads will be automated as ecologically sound vessels take a new generation of passengers around. Artificial Intelligence and car connectivity are likely to shape the automotive landscape. The art of driving will become an activity of the past.
Formula 1 at the moment does have an identity issue as its interests diverge from the wider automotive industry. Where Formula 1 used to be a frontier for Manufacturers in their pursuit of a technological edge, the depletion of natural resources has led to a massive push for electric vehicles on the production line.
With the hybrid power-units, Formula 1 has made an attempt to remain technologically relevant, but at the cost of a declining viewership who yearn for more entertaining races and in some corners, a return to roaring fossil-fuelled engines.
This hybrid technology has already missed its window for mainstream manufacturing, with companies like Tesla already pushing the range and longevity of electric vehicles to new heights. The question for Formula 1 is, does it want to start organising itself in the present to cater its future self as something gladiatorial?
In a future in which driving isn’t commonplace in day-to-day life, a sport that pits drivers controlling naturally aspirated V10’s would surely be a drastic, exciting spectacle and more importantly, signify an era in which car-control was a thing.
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Look to the present day and what Liberty Media and Ross Brawn are planning. Brawn wants to simplify the sport and has admitted that a smaller emphasis on technology will lead to a higher potential for entertaining racing.
“We need to reduce the scope of the technology because there is too big a gap between the bigger and smaller teams.”
– Ross Brawn
— BBC Radio 5 live (@bbc5live) January 24, 2017
Chase Carey’s Super-Bowl comment has made the rounds and injected fear into F1 purists who believe his statements could see mid-race ads and Lady Gaga strutting on the finish straight in sausage meat stiletto’s at halfway point.
This is knee-jerkish, and Carey has reiterated what he meant since, emphasising that the Super Bowl shift towards entertainment is one that concerns the promotion of the sport as opposed to the severe tinkering that was assumed.
Will the sport survive as an attempt to remain on the technological frontier? Or are we slowly learning that this window has already closed? Entertainment has connotations of gimmicks and reactive changes, but isn’t that what fans have been complaining about in recent years already?
As unimaginable as it is in the present, Formula 1 has to start moulding itself with half-an-eye on the driverless horizon of the future.