Formula 1 | Will F1’s revolutionary fuel create big gaps in the network?

For the next generation of power units in 2026, the F1 plans to keep the engines hybrid, but revolutionize their fuel.

This will be 100% durable and even reusable in production cars. To do this, the density of the deployed energy, the octane level (isomer that makes up the oil) and the deployment flow of energy will necessarily be less important.

Pat Symonds, who oversees the development of this new fuel for F1, is aware of this great challenge, but who can restore a central place in F1 in the energy transition. What are the details and the first planned outlines of this new engine regulation in terms of fuel?

“From a competitive point of view, there are certain things we have to do in the regulations, such as putting a maximum octane and things like that. »

“But what we don’t want is to say how it should be done, because for me it’s competition. The advantage of motorsport is to develop these types of techniques and see what the industry can do if they have a free hand. »

“So our regulations will clearly say that everything must be sustainable. We will regulate certain things, like density, like maximum octane. »

“And one of the things we do a little differently is that we currently regulate the power of the engines by regulating the flow of fuel. The current Formula 1 engine has a flow limit of 100 kg / h. Put this fuel into the engine and then add as much air as you need to burn it. »

With this new fuel, Symonds even expects, at least initially, to see clearly different performance from one engine manufacturer to another.

“If we keep this up and maybe we have slightly different types of fuel, because currently the fuel is very similar regardless of the manufacturer, we might find that someone got a good power advantage with one instead of the other.”

“So what we’re doing in 2026 is more than regulating mass-related flow, we’re regulating energy flow. Similarly, when you receive the gas bill at the end of the month or the electricity bill, you are actually paying for the kilowatt-hours you used. ‘

“In the same way, we would say” this is the number of kilowatt-hours – megajoules, the technical term – that you can consume in a given time. »

“We should have a very open competition in how fuel is produced.”

The risk would be to see an engine manufacturer completely dominate the competition …

“But we will not have the opportunity to see an engine manufacturer completely dominate the competition, because it has better fuel. »

“We want to encourage competition. But we also have to respect that we want to run, and we like tight races. »

A dilemma between performance and ecology?

Either way, can F1, the pinnacle of motorsport, agree to restrict its performance too much for ecological reasons? Symonds clearly assumes that choice.

“We put a limit on energy density because we know it is relevant for production cars. »

“We could do ‘rocket fuel’. That’s not what we want to do. We want to try to move the industry forward so that it’s a real solution for future mobility, so that the energy density is similar.”

“Many synthetic fuels have a lower energy density and therefore a lower power, unless you use much more fuel. Ethanol, for example, alcoholic fuels: ethanol, methanol, etc. – has been to burn in larger quantities to obtain the same power. ”

“But that does not mean that they do not take place, because the advantage of this type of fuel is that it is quite cheap. And in our future fuel we will have a reasonable amount of ethanol, probably up to 20%. »

In the end, Symonds assures us, the performance of the new fuel will not be lower than that currently found in Shell, Exxon or Petronas.

“The performance of the total fuel will be quite similar to the fuel that we have at present. »

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