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Adrian Newey has questioned the green credentials of Formula One's new power units, arguing the sport's resources could have been better spent elsewhere.

The new turbocharged V6 engines and energy recovery devices are limited to 30% less fuel than last year's naturally aspirated V8s, and have been championed as being more efficient. The theory is that the hybrid technology explored under the new regulations will trickle down to road cars, but Newey highlighted a wider debate in the motor industry about whether hybrid and battery powered cars are really the way forward.

"When you get into things like batteries then an electric car is only green if it gets its power from a green source," he said. "If it gets its power from a coal-fired power station then clearly it's not green at all. If it's a hybrid car, which is effectively what the Formula One regulations are, then a lot of energy goes into manufacturing those batteries and into the cars which is why they're so expensive. And whether that then gives you a negative or a positive carbon footprint or not depends on the duty cycle of the car. How many miles does it do? Is it cruising along the motorway at constant speed or stop-starting in a city?

"So this concept that a hybrid car is automatically green is a gross simplification. On top of that there are other ways, if you're going to put that cost into a car, to make it fuel efficient. You can make it lighter, you can make it more aerodynamic, both of which are things that Formula One is good at. For instance the cars are 10% heavier this year, a result, directly, of the hybrid content.

"So I think technically, to be perfectly honest, it's slightly questionable. From a sporting point of view, to me, efficiency, strategy etc, economy of driving, is very well placed for sportscars, which is a slightly different way of going racing. Formula One should be about excitement. It should be about man and machine performing at its maximum every single lap.

"The cars are going a lot slower and that should be factored in when we talk about the whole... okay, they're using 50 kilos less fuel but they're going a lot slower to achieve that."

Asked what sort of engines he would like to see in Formula One, Newey said: "I think it's a very difficult question to answer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting we should go back to gas-guzzlers - although actually the V8s were extraordinarily efficient. But, it seems to me that what we have done is create a set of regulations which, whilst technically interesting, I still question whether it gets all the compromises right.

"Ultimately, then there is a relationship between cost, weight, aerodynamics… all sorts of factors if you're going to go into road relevance. How you weigh that, how you proportion it is impossible for an open-wheeled single-seater. It's a very different beast. So no easy answer. We've got a package which is very complicated, very expensive. The cost of the power unit has at least doubled compared to last year, which is difficult for some of the smaller teams, so it's a very complicated balance I think is the honest truth."

Newey suggested that if the cost of the new power units had been focused on the chassis then a similar level of fuel saving may have been achieved.

"It's not just about creating a formula which looks at how many litres of fuel you use per kilometre with everything else fixed, because everything else isn't fixed in reality. If you go into the real world, cost isn't fixed, the cost has gone up hugely to create this. As I said before, if you put that cost into weight saving, you might be better off in many cases, so to automatically say that this is some huge benefit for mankind I think is taking a bit of a big leap myself."

Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010