The 2022 Formula 1 season saw some of the biggest rule changes in the history of the sport. The obvious differences between the cars can be seen in the new aerodynamic rules. However, another big change in the rules was the shift to F1 cars using E10 fuel, and the effect it has on the cars.
E10 fuel in F1 is made from 10% ethanol and the rest from fossil fuels. From 2022 onwards, Formula 1 cars run on E10 fuel. This is one of many steps F1 is taking to create a greener sport as E10 fuel is less harmful to the environment than previous fuels, but it does affect how F1 cars perform.
However, it’s not as simple as pouring E10 fuel into the engine and racing. Switching to fuel with higher ethanol content has serious ramifications for the cars, as many engine manufacturers have already discovered. Below, we’ll discuss the many challenges F1 teams face with E10 fuel.
What Fuel Does F1 Use?
Formula 1 cars use E10 unleaded gasoline. It’s a little different from the fuel you find at your local gas station, but the goal of F1 fuel was to make it as relevant to modern road cars as possible. F1 fuel, however, is tweaked for powerful, high-performance engines.
The F1 version of E10 fuel doesn’t stray too far from the average consumer’s fuel. This is why gas stations such as Shell can use Formula 1 marketing so well. The truth is, F1 cars use largely the same fuel that you are putting into your car. There are some small differences, but for the most part, it’s the same thing.
E10 unleaded fuel is now becoming a popular choice for many gas stations across the US, Europe, and the UK. This means that Formula 1 has had to adapt to the trending fuel changes. After extensive research and testing, E10 fuel was introduced to F1 in 2022.
What Is E10 Fuel In F1?
E10 fuel is a type of fuel used by F1 cars that contains 10% ethanol and 90% fossil fuels. Ethanol is sourced from biological waste products, such as food byproducts. F1 cars use this fuel to reduce the impact of agricultural waste on the planet, and to make the cars more environmentally friendly.
E10 fuel produces less CO2 than the fuels previously used in F1. This is why it’s better for the environment. However, it does come with challenges that F1 teams must deal with. E10 fuel has a lower energy density than previous fuels, and it therefore slightly reduces the power output of cars. But there are other complications, which we discuss more below.
Why Did F1 Change To E10 Fuel?
F1 changed to E10 fuel to make the sport more environmentally friendly and more relevant to normal road cars. The FIA plans to make F1 a net zero sport by 2030. F1 needs to make some big changes and develop new technologies to reach this goal, with the switch to E10 fuel being one such change.
The first step was to introduce more efficient power units. This was done through the 1.6-liter V6 turbo hybrid engines. Love them or hate them, F1 engines are some of the most fuel-efficient in the world, and some of the most powerful thanks to hybrid technology.
Of course, Formula 1 could go green by making the cars fully electric, but this would make Formula E redundant, and Formula 1 would undoubtedly lose a lot of fans. The best option is to develop renewable fuels that can run a combustion engine without damaging the environment.
Using E10 fuel is one step towards their goal of making the sport carbon neutral. It poses a serious challenge for the teams − much more of a challenge than some teams were expecting − but it will ultimately be better for the sport and the environment as well.
Why Is E10 Fuel Better?
E10 fuel was brought in to start allowing teams to move towards using more bioethanol-based renewable fuels. Formula 1 is slightly behind in this regard as IndyCar is currently using E85 fuel (85% ethanol). The difference, however, is that IndyCar still allows refueling, which makes up for the lower energy density of the fuel limiting how far the cars can drive on a full tank.
Formula 1 will not stop at E10 fuel, as this is merely a stepping-stone in the right direction. The FIA has stated that they want all teams to be using 100% renewable fuels by 2026, which is when the new engine regulations come into effect. Teams will need to learn and adapt quickly before then.
Does E10 Fuel Make F1 Engines Less Powerful?
E10 fuel does make Formula 1 engines slightly less powerful than they were before. While testing E10 fuel in last year’s engines, the engine manufacturers found that the E10 fuel caused a loss of up to 20 horsepower in their engines.
This might not sound like much, but 20 horsepower can make a huge difference in Formula 1. In early 2022, it was reported that many engine manufacturers, namely Ferrari, managed to claw back most of their horsepower after redesigning their 2022 engines. This was natural, as F1 engineers are always looking for ways to claw back losses that result from regulation changes.
Why Is E10 Fuel Less Efficient?
Formula 1 teams have also found that the E10 fuel is less efficient than the E5 fuel previously used in their cars. The same is true for the average road car. Studies have shown there is a slight decrease in fuel efficiency when using E10 (between one and three percent).
On public roads, this might not make much of a difference, but on a Formula 1 track, it can make or break a race. Formula 1 cars operate on fine margins and the cars are usually fueled as little as possible to save weight and make them faster. Running a less efficient fuel means F1 teams must up the amount of fuel they add to the car to ensure it lasts the race distance.
E10 fuel is less efficient because ethanol has a lower energy density than regular gasoline. This means that cars running E10 fuel burn fuel at a faster rate to go the same distance as an engine running on pure gasoline. This means the fuel is less energy efficient.
Does E10 Fuel Affect The Engine Build?
One of the biggest challenges teams had to face with the introduction of E10 fuel was how to actually build the engines. E10 fuel is heavier than E5 fuel, which means the extra weight had to be accounted for. With E10 fuel being less efficient, teams would also need to add more fuel into the car to cover the same race distance.
E10 fuel’s higher ethanol content also means the fuel may get hotter towards the end of a race. These hotter temperatures may lead to more vaporization of the fuel in the tank, which could cause fuel pump issues as well. So, it’s not just the engine where changes had to be made, as other fuel-related components required alterations as well.
How Does E10 Fuel Affect F1 Cars?
E10 fuel affects F1 cars in a few different ways, but most importantly in terms of their efficiency and how the engine and fuel pump have to be set up. E10 fuel is less energy dense, but it may also run hot after a long time of running, which can have implications for the engine and reliability.
In the average road car, E10 fuel might not make much of a difference in terms of power and mileage. However, in Formula 1, these are two extremely important elements that need to be maximized.
How Does The Engine Freeze Pose A Challenge With E10 Fuel?
An engine freeze was put in place in 2022 until the end of the 2025 season. During an engine freeze, no team can change their engines or upgrade them in any major way until the freeze is over, which is currently scheduled for the end of the 2025 season.
The engine freeze was brought in to help teams to cope with the decreasing budget caps. Teams will no longer have to spend money on developing their engines as no one on the grid is allowed to work on their engines. It’s a good way to freeze the playing field in terms of where each team is with their engine, but this can leave those struggling quite far behind until the freeze ends.
Whether or not this will have any implications in terms of the E10 fuel remains to be seen. However, if a team was to face major problems with the fuel and their engine setup, the freeze on engine development could mean they’re stuck with that problem for a long time.
E10 fuel in F1 uses 10% bioethanol and 90% fossil fuels. This makes F1 cars more environmentally friendly since they produce less carbon dioxide, but it also makes them heavier, slower, and less fuel-efficient. It’s planned that F1 cars will soon use 100% renewable fuels.