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Exclusive: Hyundai discuss possible F1 entry

Are Hyundai preparing for a tilt at joining F1? The Korean firm's motorsport chief Cyril Abiteboul says there is much to consider.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul says the firm is considering a range of options as it weighs up whether or not to join Formula 1. Abiteboul joined Hyundai in January after having served as Team Principal of the Renault F1 team from 2017 to 2020, leaving the French outfit shortly before its rebrand to Alpine. The Frenchman also had a stint as team boss at the now-defunct Caterham F1 team, and his background fuelled speculation that his appointment at Hyundai was a prelude to the Korean manufacturer looking to join F1. Speaking exclusively to RacingNews365.com on the sidelines of the WRC Croatia Rally, Abiteboul did not explicitly rule out Hyundai joining F1, but stressed that the marque's current motorsport programme in WRC remains its priority, citing the now-established ties between Hyundai and rallying. "The [Hyundai Motor] Group is actively looking at different programmes right now," said Abiteboul. "Since 10 years ago, we are in the WRC. The baseline scenario is that we stick with WRC, because when you build a connection between a brand, that connection is only valid if it's a sustainable one. "Today, there is a strong legacy between Hyundai and WRC, so our main objective is to see how WRC is going to evolve, so it makes sense to [stay] in the sport which we've been in for 10 years."

Hyundai looking for greater EV element, more prominent promotion

According to current WRC regulations, vehicles in the leading Rally1 category are powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine and an electric unit providing an extra 3.9kWh. With a significant range of hybrid and fully electric models among Hyundai's current road car offerings, Abiteboul suggested that the Korean firm may soon look to compete in a series with a stronger electrical element than WRC currently stipulates. "It may be that at some point we need to look at alternatives [to WRC], and the alternatives that we will be mainly looking at are championships in which EV is a key component," said Abiteboul. "You see what Hyundai and [sister firm] Kia is about in terms of product design technologies, some of the most advanced technology, and at some point they will want to be able to showcase that in a top-tier category." F1's next major scheduled regulation overhaul in 2026 aims to place a greater emphasis on electric power, which would appear to coincide with Hyundai's desires. However, given the complexity of F1's power units, and the time needed to fully develop a competitive and reliable engine, any future Hyundai participation in F1 would be more likely to coincide with another scheduled regulation change in 2030. Abiteboul also noted that Hyundai places high importance on promoting the company's individual models. Such promotion would be less obviously seen in F1 than in WRC, where Hyundai enters a modified version of the firm's road-going i20 N hatchback. "One thing that is very important to us is the promotion of products and our [high-performance] N range," said Abiteboul. "Product promotion, right now, isn't really the thing of Formula 1, so we will focus on categories that do electrified technology promotion and product promotion, in particular for the benefit of our N brand. "That's what we need for motorsports. Any platform that does that, we can look at."

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