Why F2’s role as F1’s sustainable fuel guinea pig ‘won’t be a reliability issue’ RaceFans

Formula 2 and Formula 3 will serve as the proving ground for Formula 1’s transition to sustainable fuel in 2026.

Starting next year, Aramco will provide the Junior Series with a scalable sustainable fuel blend, from bio-ethanol to purely synthetic. This will pave the way for F1 to become fully sustainable when its new engine regulations are introduced in 2026.

From there, F1 teams must use 100% sustainable fuel, made either from genuine waste and non-commodity biologics, or from synthetic processes that build gasoline molecules. In anticipation of this, Saudi Aramco will become the fuel supplier for F2 and F3, first introducing non-fossil fuels derived from bioethanol, then full synthetic fuel.

Both types of non-fossil fuel are allowed in the F1 2026 regulations. Sustainable fuels derived from bioethanol are currently easier to manufacture in bulk and are already used by some FIA ​​series, such as World Endurance Championships. Unlike the 10% ethanol introduced in F1’s fuel mix this year, the fuel is full petrol, with the ethanol changed by being catalysed to absorb more hydrogen.

The most sustainable form of synthetic gasoline is created by capturing carbon from the air as CO2, then combining it with hydrogen through electrolysis of water powered by renewable energy. The process then turns the hydrogen and carbon into a fuel that can be refined into gasoline.

Some F1 cars have already run successfully on sustainable fuel

The reason F2 and F3 were selected was explained by F1 technical director Pat Symonds earlier this year. “Formula 2 and Formula 3 use one type of engine, they use one type of fuel,” he said. “So we have to do the job once. And, to be honest, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The F2 and F3 cars currently use LMS 102 RON unleaded petrol supplied by Elf. Formula 2 technical director Didier Perrin says this specification will be matched to the 2023 fuel, which will introduce a 55% sustainable blend.

Aramco’s development program for F2 and F3 will see it first use a “drop-in” gasoline derived from bioethanol for the initial 55% sustainable blend. With gasoline refined to 45% fossil fuel, it will be unleaded gasoline which corresponds to the current formulation.

“We intend to have replacement fuel to use the existing engine for 2023 and complete the same formulation for 2024,” explained Pierre Calendini, director of Aramco’s fuel research center.

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Calendini said the intention is to gradually shift from bio-based fuels to fully molecularly constructed fuels made from air-captured carbon and sustainably sourced hydrogen. “So our next step will be in 2025 and 2026 to start including the synthetic components and then to pave the way to Formula 1 for 2026 with fully sustainable fuel and come with fully sustainable fuel in 2027 for F2 and F3.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Monza, 2022
The entire F1 field will be sustainably powered by 2026

This plan, to gradually increase the amount of synthetic gasoline involved, is to accelerate the introduction of sustainable fuel without waiting for production capacity, Calendini said. “The strategy with biofuel is that it’s a way to get what we call sustainable components. Fuel is a mixture of different molecules and we can very quickly start using bio-based components very close to what we will produce in 2024 and then use that to build a fast start and first step.

“Then we consistently introduce and increase the amount of molecules made by a synthetic process,” Calendini explained. “Synthetic fuel is a big program. We are currently investing in two pilot productions [plants], one in Saudi Arabia and one in Spain. The total production of these is estimated at 2.6 million liters per year, including fuels for cars and planes.

“So that would bring in 2024 one of the largest pilot productions of synthetic fuels,” Calendini continued. “And then we’ll use our resource molecules to make the fuel for F2, F3 and also to think about Formula 1 for 2025, ’26, ’27 fuels.”

Perrin pointed out that this is also part of F2 and F3’s plans, in line with the FIA’s intention that by 2027 each of its series will use only sustainable fuels, with nothing original. fossil.

“We have great ambition with Aramco and F2 and F3,” Perrin said. “We want to be sustainable with synthetic fuel and capturing carbon dioxide in 27 is much more ambitious than just being sustainable.

“From this goal, we are developing a roadmap in a few steps, and the first step will be in 2023 to start with sustainable fuel. But the development will continue until we reach the really ambitious goal of being fully sustainable and synthetic in 2027.”

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F2 will continue to use the same engine formula next year, but has issued a tender to manufacturers for a new engine from 2024. However, Perrin says there will be no need to change the hardware existing to accommodate the first examples of the new fuel. .

Start, F2, sprint race, Baku, 2018
F2 has had technical issues with its latest cars

“As far as the engine is concerned at the moment and for ’23, ’24 to get the fuel into these engines, we won’t have to make any hardware changes,” says Perrin. “Maybe from ’25 and for sure from ’27 we might have to make some adjustments on the hardware, for example the injectors or something like that, but for now, for ‘ 23 and ’24, the introduction of the new fuel is with the exact same engine, just different mapping, which is the beauty of it.

“Basically we don’t plan to make any changes to the cars for next year,” explained Perrin. “That’s the beauty of this project, we are developing the engine with the new fuel for 2023. The engines are currently on the test bed and so far we haven’t needed to make any hardware changes to the engine, just to adapt the mapping to the new fuel. So it’s really good for the teams, it’s really good for us. And it’s been going very well so far with the existing engines.

Can all of this be done without sacrificing reliability in a hotly contested series where a single retirement could swing the outcome of a championship, on which a young driver’s career prospects may depend? When the current F2 chassis and engines were introduced in 2018, teams encountered several technical issues which temporarily led to the series abandoning standing starts.

Crew chiefs expressed concerns earlier this year that the introduction of sustainable fuels could once again affect reliability. Perrin played down those fears.

“Obviously this is something we are looking at with the partnership with Aramco, which has already participated in a few championships with sustainable fuels,” he said. “We have information and we are taking it into account in the development of the engine to face this sustainable future. So yes, with Aramco we are learning from previous experience and taking that into account in the current development.

“But we’re very confident that from a reliability standpoint, to be completely transparent, we expect exactly the same level of performance and reliability.”

F2 CEO Bruno Michel said last week he was confident the series’ comprehensive testing regime for its sustainable fuels would eliminate any problems.

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Michel confident F2’s new fuel won’t cause reliability issues

“We are doing all the necessary testing for all the pre-selection and screening of the fuel that we are going to use next year and I can tell you with certainty that the fuel will not be a reliability issue at all,” he said. declared. in response to a question from RaceFans.

However, he acknowledged that motorsport can never be entirely free of reliability issues. “For everything, including the engine, we are a one-brand category. Everyone runs with the same gear. And at some point you might be unlucky, let’s put it that way. At some point, you might still have technical issues that have nothing to do with the engine or have nothing to do with the fuel.

“But as I said, we’ll do whatever it takes in terms of testing because, as you can imagine, before we introduce any fuel, we’re going into a very heavy development program and at the moment we have engines and the fuel that we’re going to use next year on a test bed for hours and hours and hours before we put it on the track, on our development car, and before we present it to everyone, so I really don’t think we’re going to have a reliability issue because of the fuel.

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