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Branson warns of Formula 1's funeral

2015-06-28 08:49

HEADING FOR THE TITLE: Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi (inset) at speed on the street track in Battersea Park, London. He's in line for the Formula E drivers' title; his team took the Formula E title. Image: AP

ALAN BALDWIN

LONDON, England – Battery-car racing will overtake Formula 1 in popularity within five years though there will still be room for the latter for a few years after that.

That’s the belief of British entrepreneur Richard Branson after the final round on Saturday (June 27 2015) of the Formula E series held in Battersea Park, London.

He was announcing a partnership between his Virgin Racing Formula E team and Citroen's DS brand and added to his claim about e-racing said he was willing to bet all new cars would be battery driven by 2035.

'CLEAN ENERGY' THE FUTURE

"I think there's still going to be room for F1for another few more years," Branson told reporters ahead of the London ePrix on Saturday (June 27 2015), but there will come a time when Formula E will overtake Formula 1.

"Four or five years from now you'll find Formula E overtaking F1 as far as number of people. As time goes on clean-energy businesses are going to power ahead of others."

Branson has experience of both series, the 64-year-old sponsoring F1title-winners Brawn GP in 2009 and in 2010 entering with the Virgin Racing team which is now Manor Marussia.

His prediction is likely to be met with scorn in the F1 community, however, with the glamour sport measuring a global television audience of hundreds of millions and top drivers ranking among the best-known and wealthiest sporting superstars.

ANOTHER MANUFACTURER

Formula E cars make little noise and are far slower than F1 and cannot complete a race distance due to the limits of battery technology – each must make a compulsory stop to change batteries.*

The arrival of DS, however, brings another major manufacturer into a series that is evolving and in 2016 will allow teams to develop their own power trains.

Renault and Audi are already involved; BMW electric vehicles are used as pace cars.

"The future is going to be fascinating and I'm taking my pills so I can live to see it," Branson said. "I think things are going to move rapidly now. What goes on in a petrol-driven engine is really complicated and antiquated, out-of-date and polluting."

F1 'STILL PINNACLE OF MOTOR RACING'

Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation that governs both types of racing as well as other conventional series, said, comparisons should not be made between the two.

"It is a big mistake to compare," the Frenchman, who was in the audience to hear Branson, told Reuters. "It's two different things. It's like comparing London to a city on the beach... I really feel you need F1, which remains the pinnacle of motorsport, and you need Formula E, sports-car racing and rallying, Touring Cars and Formula 3."

*Formula 1 also used to have to stop to “change batteries” – except the “refill” then was petrol and added greatly to the excitement of each race.


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