Alain Prost has spoken out against the growing trend for governments around the world to announce bans on the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars within the next two decades, saying it threatens the future of Formula 1.
Honda has already acknowledged this week that the costs involved in moving to electrification are a big reason why it is still debating its long-term involvement in F1.
“I am really upset about what I can see today with the automobile industry,” Prost told Motorsport.com as F1 pre-season testing resumed at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Prost fears that the push to electric cars could end up damaging the European automative manufacturing business, and hand the initiative to Chinese car makers instead.
“We are going to give everything to the Chinese, where in ten years time they are going to introduce their cars here,” he complained, adding that he was worried about the massive loss of jobs that would follow.
“We’re going to lose I promise you, one million people in the next ten years in the automobile industry if we don’t change that,” he warned.
“I don’t care because I’m not part of the industry, but I really hate that. It is stupid, stupid regulation,” he added. “When you ask me about F1, I always answer: take care of the automobile industry first, and F1 is then very healthy.”
Prost said he doubted whether the push for electric vehicles would even help the environment in the long term due to the impact of heavy batteries and motors adding extra weight to road cars,
“We need to talk about sustainability all the time, what we can do, but the technology is very, very difficult,” he explained. “We ban diesel but at the end I’m sure that we are not going to reduce the CO2 with these measures.
“I think when you go for more mileage, your CO2 emission is going to be the same, or even worse, because the weight of the car is going to be a lot more. And we know that.”
He was also critical of governments pushing for the changeover to electric cars when the joined-up thinking on crucial infrastructure was simply not yet in place.
“Why don’t we have all the same plugs and same system of recharge?” he asked. “We have two competitors in France and they have two different systems. That is completely stupid.
“We could do it differently,” he suggested. “If you had a big car with a diesel engine with the nice filters, it should not be a problem.”
Formula 1 isn’t in a position to move to an all-electric technology, because that is the preserve of the FIA Formula E series. Prost was an early advocate of the current turbo hybrid engine approach in F1, but now accepts that it’s not worked out as well as he had hoped.
“I was the one pushing for the new engine,” he said. “We thought that is the closest technology [to road cars] that we’re going to have in the future with the turbo engine.
“But it did not work for F1, we must be honest. The fans don’t like [the new engines] very much.”
“You don’t want to go with electrical because we have FE, and you know how difficult it is going to be for FE in the future that is for sure,” he continued.
“It is very difficult to develop because of the tracks, because of the technology, because of the money.
“So what is the technology for F1 in the future?” he asked. “It is difficult to know.
“On one side – and it’s not my position – we go back to 12-cylinder and we have the same vision of F1 worldwide,” he suggested. “Or, if we go to hydrogen in ten years time, we would have another philosophy. And why not?
“But who is going to push the button and make that decision? It’s very difficult, but it’s good to ask the question.
“We cannot – like in my period [driving in F1] – simply follow the trend of the automobile industry. Today it is much more difficult.”