Understanding The Fuels Used in F1 Racing and Its Impact on The Sport
F1 Racing is the fastest road-course Racing in the world. The F1 cars go as fast as 350 kilometres per hour to fight for the Grand Prix. F1 not only involves racers but automobile companies and fuel and lubricant makers too. F1 acts as a research base for these companies who hope that the performance influences buyers of their commercial products. In Contrast to the Cars used in F1 Racing, which are specifically designed to enhance speed and performance, the fuel used in F1 cars is chemically similar to the one we use in our vehicles.
History of Fuels Used in F1 Racing
After the inception of a new rule by FIA – Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile in 1958 that only commercially available fuel must be used in Racing, alcohol-based fuel was banned. Alcohol-based fuels were used before that, as alcohol burns at a lower temperature than petrol and hence reduces overheating of engines. Shell conjured a blend of methanol, nitrobenzene, acetone and water in the late 1930s for the Auto Union Team. Using the same concept of alcohol-based fuels, Shell helped Alfa Romeo to dominate the World Championships, which started in 1950. Then followed a period of dominance of Shell and Ferrari until 1958 when FIA banned alcohol-based fuels.
Teams started adding alternatives to increase the engine performance like Kerosene in the 1960s and Aromatic Compounds (Benzene based) in 1990s; until FIA banned the use of Kerosene and Benzene for safety reasons in 1992 and unleaded fuel became mandatory. Even today, F1 cars use fuel which is remarkably similar to the fuel we use in our everyday life.
Quantity of Fuel in F1
With an increase in the CO2 levels and increasing awareness about Global warming, one can imagine that F1 Racing is not considered an eco-friendly sport. To fight this battle, the FIA in 1984 reduced the maximum limit from 250 Litre per race to 220 Litre per race. Which was then reduced to 196 litres in 1986. The FIA mandated 2.6L V8 engines replacing the 3L V10 to control the fuel consumption. Later in 2014, they shifted to 1.6L V6 turbo with a maximum capacity of 110 kg permitted per race.
A Fair Game
Like any sports, F1 is regulated by officials who ensure a fair race. Fuel analysts are dispatched by FIA at every race to ensure the quality of fuel used by teams meets the requirements of FIA. They have the necessary equipment to match the fuel used at every race with a previously submitted sample. Fuel samples are collected when cars stop at scrutineering bay during practice and qualifying rounds. The analyst heats three fuel samples to 280°C and lets them cool off, to analyse all the elements of the sample. Samples are also pulled from the cars after the race. Each team is allowed 50 different blends of fuel to be used according to the type of circuit they are racing on. All this shows how vital fuel is in providing that extra edge to cross the finish line.