Should Formula 2 test sustainable fuels before they are introduced in F1?

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Formula 1’s ongoing drive to become more environmentally conscious in how it goes racing has seen the sport transform over the last twenty years.

Moving to V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014 saw the fuel loads required for grands prix dramatically reduce. This season, F1 has introduced a new fuel E10 fuel blend that includes a 10% ethanol biocomponent – almost double that which the world championship used in 2021.

With the new engine formula set to be introduced for the 2026 season, F1 is set to switch to “100% sustainable” fuels. However, that same requirement is also due to be applied to the new power units used in Formula 2 cars from the 2024 edition of the championship, making F2 effectively a testbed before Formula 1 adopts the fuel in 2026.

However, those plans have proved somewhat controversial. The FIA, Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel and F2 team bosses are united in agreement moving the second-tier series to a greener and more sustainable future is the right thing to do. But some of F2’s team managers have expressed their concerns about the series being made to use new and untested fuel technologies to help it be prepared for Formula 1.

Before DAMS were taken over by Charles Pic, the team’s former managing director, Francois Sicard, told RaceFans that he and other F2 bosses at the time were cautious about having to take on new fuel technology in the series.

“We have to go greener in every category, so going biofuels for me is a good idea,” Sicard said. “But we have to be careful not to try to experiment to new expensive technology.”

With the new invitation issues for engine manufacturers to tender for supplying new power units to F2 from 2024, it appears that the championship is set to be used to put sustainable fuel through its paces before it is introduced into Formula 1. But should it be?

For

With Formula 1 being not just the pinnacle of motorsport but by far the most high-profile and lucrative of the FIA’s world championships, it makes a lot of sense that the sport should not be left to experiment with new and potentially risky technologies, sporting rules and formats if they can be proven elsewhere first. As F2 CEO Bruno Michel told RaceFans, the series is well suited to taking on such a role.

“It is much easier for us to do it because we are a single make category, than for Formula 1 where they have several engine suppliers, several fuel suppliers,” Michel told RaceFans. “Imposing something in Formula 2 is much easier than it is in Formula 1.”

Michel’s point is proven by the introduction of 18-inch wheels in F1 this season, which Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher both experienced in 2020 before their promotion to Formula 1. Any drivers in F2 who race with the new fuel will also benefit if and when it is adopted into Formula 1 in the future.

Michel also clarified that there should not be a financial burden to teams, as the costs of the development will be covered by Formula 2 themselves.

“I would not go into this debate saying that it is a ‘test’ for Formula 1,” Michel concluded.

“No – it’s something that we want to achieve and that we can achieve probably easily and more rapidly than Formula 1 can do it.”

Against

Carlin team boss Trevor Carlin expressed his concerns with the concept earlier in the year when Formula 1’s technical director Pat Symonds spoke of plans to introduce sustainable fuels in Formula 2 and Formula 3 before F1.

“I really don’t think it would be wise for us to be taking on that because this is a customer championship Formula 2 and our drivers are paying us to drive,” said Carlin. “Those drivers are paying for development and Formula 1 teams have a lot of money, a lot of resources and engine companies. So I think that type of work, they should be doing themselves and we shouldn’t really get involved.”

Reliability remains a concern in Formula 2 following many mechanical failures and technical problems since the 2018 Formula 2 car was introduced. Drivers and their backers who stump up a pretty penny for the privilege to race in F2 will not be happy to see their performances or races ruined by problems caused by experimental technology like fuels. A spec series should allow for results to be driven purely by the performances of drivers, not reliability of their cars.

With the new power units to be introduced in 2024, manufacturers need to know exactly what they will be working with. It’s a risk to ask the new providers to try and accommodate fuels that are not yet battle-tested or will be changed throughout their used in the series.

I say

Using junior formulae to make sure concepts intended for adoption by Formula 1 in the future work as intended seems like a smart idea. However, that attitude never seems to be applied to sporting concepts like DRS or wild new qualifying formats like the awful ‘elimination’ format that was quickly dropped at the start of 2016.

Using sustainable fuels in Formula 2 feels like an inevitability just like it does in Formula 1. Taking advantage of the 22 cars in F2 to help gather data and help develop the technology ready for a seamless transition during the introductions of F1’s new power unit formula in 2026 feels like a natural move. Concerns about reliability and the potential impact on competition are valid, but it could hardly get worse than it did at times when the new car was first introduced in 2018.

Fuel technology is developing rapidly and making impressive strides in sustainability – just look at how Sebastian Vettel was able to run Nigel Mansell’s FW14B using wholly sustainably sourced fuel at Silverstone. Formula 2 will end up using similar fuels in its future as an inevitability, so why not get a head start?



You say

Should Formula 2 test new sustainable fuels before they are introduced to Formula 1 in 2026?

  • Strongly agree (43%)
  • Slightly agree (22%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (11%)
  • Slightly disagree (4%)
  • Strongly disagree (15%)
  • No opinion (4%)

Total Voters: 46

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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  • 28 comments on “Should Formula 2 test sustainable fuels before they are introduced in F1?”

    1. I don’t feel strongly either way, so I went for ‘neither agree nor disagree.’

    2. Testing is overrated– after all, that’s the one thing that has been relentlessly eliminated from Formula 1 over the past 15 years.

      Don’t even let ’em test it on the dyno– Oh wait, they did actually restrict dyno time for engine manufacturers.

      Formula 1 is headed to a test-free environment– the teams get one shot to develop and test their cars, engines, energy store, and then it’s off to the races, with no in-season development allowed, and massive penalties for getting it wrong.

      I’ve never seen a sport so intent on self-destruction.

      1. I’ve never seen a sport so intent on self-destruction.

        I have, and so have you. You are talking about it here, now.
        F1 is the pinnacle of motorsporting self-destruction.

        Remember how much testing a handful of F1 teams were doing in the 90’s? How was that sustainable, when the backmarkers could barely even afford to attend the races, never mind spend 6 days each week doing on-track testing?
        What sort of on-track competition does that lead to? What sort of experience does that provide for viewers?
        F1 has hardly ever had good racing – certainly not consistently – and that’s a big part of the reason why.

        As anyone who does this sort of stuff seriously knows all too well – testing is far more efficient and effective in competition than it is in isolation.
        Especially when it’s a ‘sport’ that relies directly on viewer and sponsor engagement.

    3. With a single engine manufacturer, it doesn’t make sense to compromise reliability and introduce a random element into the competition. But in any case the whole idea is greenwashing fakery: there’s already a food crisis as well as a deforestation crisis, so claiming we can DING! start using arable land for vehicle fuel is just dishonest. It takes a ridiculous amount of land to create a bit of biofuel, I’m reading that it’s 1% as efficient per MWh/hectare as solar panels, and then when you factor in the motor efficiency that becomes 2-300%! It’s not even doable never mind ‘sustainable’.

      1. As I understood, F1 will drop ethanol by 2026.
        I just dont now what are they intented to use and call it sustainable.
        I, as youself, suspect that they will continue to produce oil based fuels and offset it with carbon capture/credits.

        1. There was an article on here a little while back outlining some sources of alternative/synthetic fuels. Porsche, for example, has invested lots in carbon capture from the atmosphere paired with electrolysis to separate hydrogen from water and combine the two into a hydrocarbon. Not at all an oil-based fuel/solution.

          1. The Sabatier process – will be needed to produce rocket fuel on Mars – good practice I suppose. Heat to 300°, compress to 3Mpa over a catalyst and just like that – eco fuel /s.
            ICE’s aren’t sustainable.
            On the question: the oil and gas sponsors of each team/manufacturer will be making or procuring this fuel. Set the criteria and let them iterate and bench test them to the nth – the least they could do for the valuable laundry service.

            1. GreatT, that’s correct in producing methane; Porsche is going a step further and converting that to a liquid fuel. (Source) Having a liquid fuel is a key component for Formula 1 otherwise the engineering effort to redesign the cars for gaseous fuels (in terms of transporting, burning, monitoring energy consumption, etc.) is a significant stretch for 2026 regulations.

      2. You are wrong here @zann

        claiming we can DING! start using arable land for vehicle fuel is just dishonest. It takes a ridiculous amount of land to create a bit of biofuel, I’m reading that it’s 1% as efficient per MWh/hectare as solar panels, and then when you factor in the motor efficiency that becomes 2-300%

        The fuel uses is NOT a biofuel, which makes your argument in this discussion pretty much irrelevant (be it that in general, you are certainly right that bio fuel is not a good solution to make our transport more responsible and future proof)

    4. Yes, seems reasonable. If you have a second (or third) series and the means to use it as a test bed for a fairly non-invasive change, you might as well use it.

      “I really don’t think it would be wise for us to be taking on that because this is a customer championship Formula 2 and our drivers are paying us to drive,” said Carlin. “Those drivers are paying for development…”

      And if it discourages even one mediocre, paddock-hanging tourist from buying a seat in F2, I’ll support it even more.

    5. What is this fuel supposed to be? None of these articles ever say what it is. They just keep saying “100% sustainable”. If it’s made from corn or whatever that is definitely not “sustainable”. This just seems like an exercise in trying to greenwash an industry that I think is actually already doing enough for the environment. The trickledown in efficiency from F1 engines is enough in my opinion. Why don’t they sell that? Biofuel is as dirty as it gets.

      1. If you Google “sustainable fuel f!” The first hit will be formula 1 own website’s article with the explanation.

        1. Sorry, but it does not. I have the same doubts as @darryn and everytime I read a F1 release the thing gets more obscure.
          The news on 2026 regulations basically rules out ethanol. It is probably not hydrogen as it is expected to by mixed with petrol based fuels. The best one can infer is that it will be some sort of liquified methane by bioconverting, as they say, municipal waste.
          I worry that, as they are focusing on no additional carbon release by the internal combustion units, that this “sustainable fuel” will be some sort of carbon offset scheme even via financial carbon credits. In the best case they will capture some carbon or oil molecules from waste with wind/solar power, add tons of catalizers and call it “green”.
          I would sincerely appreciate if you could summarize which substance or process is F1 refering to and where one can find a practical (outside labs) use of it. My best guess is that it some kind of liquified methane but good luck developing the fuel and the engine which runs on it.

          1. Right. That’s kind of what I thought. Its kind of a Trumpian semantics thing. Repeat “100% sustainability” enough and nobody will bother actually finding out what that means. I think you’re right about the offset thing. There really is no other realistic option. I really wish they would sell the tech instead. No offset program will ever dig us out of the situation we are in whereas the tech could. But F1 and Liberty are just cynical moneygrubbers like anyone else.

      2. The latest releases form F1 essentially rule out ethanol or other “food-based” fuels.
        There is methanol, which cames from wood and I think one can produce alcohols from cellulose, but none of those would fly as “sustainable”.
        I am start to think that is, as many other F1 initiatives, just a PR ploy.

        1. While F1 is certainly a marketing tool and used by everyone in it for their own reasons – there are indeed substantially more sustainable fuels in development.
          Whether a fuel is considered completely sustainable will depend largely on factors external to its production, and the metrics used to measure the process and the resulting product.

          When measured a certain way, hardly anything is truly sustainable. Humanity is king of short-term exploitation.
          That doesn’t mean that short-term improvements don’t produce positive results, though.
          Progress is never immediate, nor agreeable to all.

      3. See my post further down

    6. So much for F1 being the ‘innovator’ and ‘cutting edge of technology.’
      Let the second tier (spec) series do all the development….

      An absolute joke.

    7. The thing I don’t want is for teams in F1 to have different fuels, and that the fuel is a competitive advantage. I think I am right in saying, but might not be (someone tell me if I’ve got it wrong), that Pat Symonds wants competition in e-fuels to drive the technology forward.

      I’d much prefer it is the teams themselves creating the technology that wins them the championship, and not a tyre company or fuel supplier. The E-fuel should just be a technology demonstrator.

    8. Disagree. Why should Mecachrome and Dallara bear the burden of development? they don’t run just 2 cars, they run 50 of them. Plus spares and whatnot… Makes no sense. If there’s something very wrong with the development the whole series is at risk of running.

      Plus they’d do all the donkey’s work and gain no profit from it, as the real showcase of the technology to the world will be when F1 starts using it, not the feeder series. Plus, how would “the lessons learned” transfer to the different F1 teams? Would Mecachrome work with the engine manufacturers to help them?

    9. E-Fuels are a big no no, for me.

      I think cost will kill e-fuels. I know F1 doesn’t care about this, its more concerned with its image.

      Porsche’s e-fuel is made by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, then adding CO2 to make a synthetic methanol. There are carbon and NOx emissions I’m afraid. Not as bad a fossil fuels though.

      This process involves lots of stages, all of which adds cost and uses energy. The fact that hydrogen is used raises questions about energy efficiency as hydrogen fuel cells.

      This even worse for synthetic fuel. Hydrogen fuel cells are about 2.3 times less energy efficient than batteries, this might come down to about 2 times if development continues, but Synthetic fuels are less efficient still. The estimate is about 4 times worse than batteries.

      So fuelling the current car fleet with synthetic fuels instead of batteries will require four times as much electricity generation. This seems completely impractical to me.

      If just 10% of the UK’s cars, vans and small trucks used e-fuels it would require three times as much renewable electricity as batteries. It is also therefore entirely impossible that synthetic fuel will be cheaper than using electricity to charge batteries for the mainstream.

      1. These e-fuels will just be premium fuels for the elite and race series, that won’t switch to batteries yet or dissapear soon.

        There is and doesn’t have to be any public and not at all a common use for them.
        It’s a start and all the cost should be for the fuel-suppliers of F1.

    10. No because Formula E was created for those who want to watch “environmental” motorsport. Leave the other motorsport as it is.

      1. F1 must transition away from “dino juice” fossil fuels in the next 10-20 years or so like the rest of the world.

        1. Why? .

          1. Because the best and the brightest should lead the way.

    11. F1 should use them next year, it could have been done earlier.
      The coast and everything has to be beyond budget cap.

      And F2 should use them as well, any cost should come from the F1 Fuel suppliers.
      You first do a 50/50 mix for F2.

    Comments are closed.