F1 could become trailblazer for sustainable fuels

25 January 2022

LEADING experts have welcomed Formula 1’s plan to leverage the intense competition between its teams in a bid to drive the development of sustainable fuels.

“We believe Formula 1 can set an example of how a sustainable fuel can be created and used, and that’s a big thing we’re working on now,” revealed Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director for motorsports, at a recent event.

“We all know this massive environmental challenge we’re all facing,” said Brawn, “but I know from my experience of Formula 1 that if you set the 10 teams a challenge and make it a competitive challenge… So what we’re discussing is sustainable fuels.”

Rising to meet the environmental challenge was, he said, the next stage for Formula 1. That push towards sustainability had, Brawn suggested, been a major factor in attracting the recent interest of the Volkswagen Group, which has attended meetings about the next generation of Formula 1 powertrains.

“Electrification has its place, we believe sustainable fuels have their place,” stressed Brawn, the guest speaker at the RACER / EPARTRADE Online Race Industry Week. “There’s a billion vehicles, getting onto two billion vehicles, on the road at the present time and you can’t get rid of them so unless you find something which can be applied to the vehicles you’re not going to have the impact that you want.

Fuel you could put in a road car “So in 2026 at the latest – and maybe even earlier – you will have to race with a sustainable fuel, in other words a net carbon zero fuel. So the way that fuel is made, is produced, has to be net carbon zero. And this will be a plug-in fuel that you would be able to put into a road car, so it’s another weapon in the fight against the environmental challenge.”

Both the World Rally Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours are switching to sustainable fuels for the 2022 season, with spec fuels developed by P1 Racing Fuels and TotalEnergies respectively.

In Formula 1, however, many of the top teams enjoy strong technical partnerships with fuel suppliers.

So how realistic is it that sustainable fuel could one day become a technical battlefield driving forward game-changing research and development?

“Under current performance criteria a fully sustainable Formula 1 fuel is not currently available. It’s something many people are working towards at the moment,” explained David Richardson, director at Coryton Advanced Fuels.

“For everyday road use we have sustainable fuel ready to go now but, for obvious reasons, F1 requires very specialist fuel.

“We believe that Formula 1 could be instrumental in driving demand for sustainable fuel. The current spending cap and restrictions on dyno time would need to be raised, or there would need to be a specific allowance for sustainable fuels to enable that building of knowledge and expertise. If that happens then there will be a rush of people investing time and money to develop the fuels needed and it would really drive innovation.”

Steve Sapsford, managing director of SCE, added: “F1 leading the way would be a brilliant thing as it would help drive more general market awareness about these fuels, how well they work and the impact they could have here and now in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s always a case of supply and demand. They could be the trailblazers for sustainable fuels.”

This article first appeared in RACE TECH February issue



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