‘Lift and coast’: Why F1 drivers are told to save fuel

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It’s just the whole bloody system that’s ridiculous. I finally get a car I can drive as I like it, and I run out of gas.

I mean, is this racing?

One subject dominated the airwaves – or at least what we got to hear of them – during the Canadian Grand Prix. Out of 145 messages broadcast between the lights going out and the flag falling there were 36 – almost a quarter – to do with saving fuel.

It may seem preposterous that Formula One teams spend millions to develop their high-performance racers, then put so little fuel in them it appears as though their drivers are constantly being told to back off and save what they have. But it is being done for sound reasons, and it may not be easy to discourage it.

Brimming the tank

The 702kg minimum weight limit for an F1 car includes its driver but excludes fuel. Teams are then allowed to add up to 100kg of fuel for the race distance.

There’s an obvious trade-off here: if teams slosh in the full allocation they increase the starting weight of their car by over 14%. More fuel makes it easier for them to reach the end of the race, but that extra weight means slower lap times and a higher demand on tyres and brakes.

There are other headaches for the engineers when it comes to deciding how much fuel to put in their cars. Weather conditions can affect fuel consumption significantly: tailwinds and headwinds can have positive and adverse effects, and fuel consumption is far lower on a wet track as drivers spend far less time at full throttle.

The Safety Car is another massive variable. This goes some way towards explaining why Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix was considerably less action-paced than the 2014 edition. Last year it was out for the first seven laps of the race – 10% of the grand prix distance – allowing drivers to save a huge amount of fuel early on.

However this year’s race was green from start to finish, and as early as lap four we began to hear messages like this:

Daniil KvyatGianpiero LambiaseI’ll do a little bit of fuel lifting now. It’s a good opportunity.

This gives some insight into why fuel saving messages have become so common. Compare it to the quote at the beginning of the article.

It will not surprise many of you to learn it isn’t from Nico Rosberg or any of his contemporaries – this was his father Keke talking after running dry on the last lap of the 1986 German Grand Prix. Here’s the rest of it:

I’m not a fool, if my read-out had told me there was a problem, would I still have been running that close to Nelson [Piquet] on the last lap? No, I would have eased off – I knew my second place was not in danger. [Team mate] Alain [Prost] and I both ran minimum boost all the way – we knew there was no other way to finish.

It’s not [engine supplier] Porsche’s fault, it’s just something that’s bloody difficult to achieve. When the mechanics of the engine are changing all the time, you’ve got to be able to change the computers accordingly. And you need test data for that – if you don’t have it, they’re lost.

This was true three decades ago for 1.5-litre turbo engines which pale in terms of complexity to today’s hybrid power units. But while engines have grown more sophisticated, so have the tools and tactics the teams can employ to manage them.

Rosberg couldn’t manage his fuel use in a sophisticated way because his data was unreliable. But today even television viewers have access to the same fuel consumption data as the FIA.

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Why drivers lift and coast

Today’s drivers are well-versed in the technique of fuel-saving. Kvyat’s message shows he knew that by starting to save fuel early in the race, and doing so a little and often, it would lessen the overall impact on his performance, and potentially put him in a stronger position in the later laps.

When a driver is told to save fuel during a race, the ‘lift and coast’ practice is the most effective way of doing it while minimising time loss and reducing the opportunity for a rival to take advantage. It involves ‘lifting’ the accelerator before the start of a braking zone, then ‘coasting’ without applying brakes or throttle until they reach the braking point.

This spares the engine from being run at maximum throttle while at top speed, which is when fuel is burnt at its highest rate. It is therefore the most effective way of saving fuel. As we heard on Lewis Hamilton’s radio, drivers can make the necessary gains by lifting as little as 50 metres earlier.

But this isn’t done just to save fuel. The reduced strain on the engine helps bring temperatures down. And it helps prolong brake life: the huge drag of a Formula One car means that merely lifting the throttle causes significant deceleration, so when the driver eventually begins braking they do so from a lower speed, reducing the stress the discs experience.

Is there too much fuel saving in F1?

Evidently, the concern that too much fuel saving is bad for racing is not new to F1.

Nor was the practice absent under the previous engine regulations. In the last season with V8 engines, some teams would fill their cars with up to 10% less fuel than they needed to complete a race distance, then ‘lift and coast’ to make savings when needed.

But are drivers backing off more with the current engines than they used to? This was what David Coulthard claimed in a recent article.

Sunday’s race gave evidence to support that view, such as this mid-race conversation:

Xevi PujolarMax VerstappenLet’s go for a big push now in next two laps.
Max VerstappenXevi PujolarFuel saving or not?
Xevi PujolarMax VerstappenYes, still with the fuel. Keep the target on the fuel. But push more on the tyre.

Fuel saving was such an urgent priority for Toro Rosso that even when Verstappen was told to increase his pace and take the remaining life from his tyres in the laps leading up to his pit stop, he was still being told to watch his fuel use. On two prior occasions we heard him being told to stay within DRS of the car in front – not necessarily to make a pass, but to save fuel by being in the leading car’s slipstream.

And the need to save fuel weighed even more heavily on the McLaren drivers:

Tom StallardJenson ButtonThis is fuel three, we need fuel six.
Jenson ButtonTom StallardI mean, you would not believe how early I am lifting off.
Mark TempleFernando AlonsoNasr is seven-and-a-half seconds back. We must save fuel, we must target zero.
Fernando AlonsoMark TempleI don’t want, I don’t want.
Mark TempleFernando AlonsoWe’re going to have big problems after if we don’t.
Fernando AlonsoMark TempleAlready I have big problems now. Driving with this, looking like amateur. So I race and then I concentrate on the fuel.
Mark TempleFernando AlonsoThere may still be retirements later in the race, we need to make sure we can still fight for positions in the end.

However we can’t exclude the possibility that we are more aware of fuel saving now because of the increased amount of team radio chatter which is broadcast these days.

Can fuel-saving be eradicated?

What could F1 do to stop or reduce the amount of fuel-saving being done? Past experience, such as the FIA’s various attempts to lower nose heights in recent years, shows how tricky it is to satisfactorily write rules which stop teams from doing something which brings with it a performance advantage: in this case, reducing weight.

A crude (pardon the pun) answer would be to force all the teams to use the full 100kg fuel allocation. But there are obvious workarounds to this which teams could employ.

As the era of ‘fuel credit’ qualifying showed us, it is well within their abilities to run rich, fuel-burning engine maps to get rid of the excess weight of petrol, and then race as they do today. Under the current rules drivers could simply do several pre-race reconnaissance laps with their engines in ‘fuel burn’ mode to achieve this.

Would fuel-saving disappear if refuelling was reintroduced, as the Strategy Group desires? Not necessarily. In IndyCar, where refuelling is allowed, drivers are often heard being given their fuel mileage figures so they can stretch their fuel between stints in order to make fewer pit stops.

A similarly obvious ‘fix’, though a merely cosmetic one, would be to forbid teams from giving their drivers instructions about fuel, much as they already are banned from talking about racing lines and other things. But if the intention is to encourage more flat-out racing, this wouldn’t even qualify as a sticking plaster solution.

It’s not hard to see what turns people off about racing drivers being told to back off and reduce their pace. But getting them to stop doing it may prove difficult.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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121 comments on “‘Lift and coast’: Why F1 drivers are told to save fuel”

  1. Why F1 drivers are told to save fuel? To save fuel.

    One problem I see, the rules around fuel and hybrid system implementation do not take into consideration different track lengths and demands. And an other one I see is the FIA trying to slow the cars down, which might be turning around given the recent noises.

    But on the whole, I have always had more problem with the people who constantly complain about physics, that is, that drivers have to use their fuel, tyres, machinery conservatively to make the fastest race time. Those people were complaining ten years ago when I started following F1, they said it didn’t happen 5 years ago or whatever, and those people exist now, perpetuating the same fallacious misinformed opinions. Problem is, the journalist at least should know better.

    1. @mateuss

      the journalist at least should know better

      I don’t follow – are you saying I’ve got something wrong here?

      1. @keithcollantine No. I was referencing the Sky coverage and alike, since they constantly bring it up as some sort of an issue.

          1. @mateuss, I have to agree with you 100%.

            Its true that those same drivers and fans that complain about the problems in F1 today say F1 was so much better back then, or this aspect was so much better. Well, yes and no, it seems people are good at remembering the great parts of F1 and easily forget the negative aspects of what ever time period they are comparing too.

            How about the boring domination of Ferrari? How is that different then today, when today its actually worse.

            or the slotted tires. or the difficulty to pass. Those problems existed then as well. Regardless of how good the cars sounded.

            great article by the way @keithcollantine !!!

        1. I have also problems with their constant complaining because it’s raining and no one’s on circuit during practice. What do they expect? Last week I thought Mercedes was putting a show letting their drivers go on wet track, so I laughed pretty hard when Lewis aquaplaned slowly into the barriers. Not that I find aquaplaning funny, but you get my drift.
          If anything they should say let friday practices be free or something. But then there’s wet qualifying and race every once in a blue moon that gets cut short.

    2. This from the BBC site a few weeks ago, and I believe it’s quite authoritative, much more so than any journalist or Internet poster (although it’s not lost on anyone except the above poster that commentary from SkySports is usually informed by at least five F1 and WEC drivers):

      “If they happen, we will get rules like seven or eight years ago,” said Alonso. “For the last four or five years we’ve been going in the wrong direction.”

      David Clouthard said much the same thing in the BBC article linked above.

      Kimi Raikkonen this week: “‘When I came into Formula 1, it was more exciting for everybody, it was like really the top, it was a long time ago,’ Raikkonen told Canal+ France.”

      Horner this week: “A dull Canadian Grand Prix led to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner saying Formula 1 needs to be ‘flat out racing’ again.”

      The eco-conscious fuel limitations and ERS systems are collectively abysmal, wrongheaded, and are destroying F1.

      1. In defense of my rose tinted view of yesteryear I submit that the 1960’s when I first started watching F1 were better than today, (apart from the appalling safety aspect) heres why;
        1. No pit stops, all passing had to happen on track.
        2. No wings, aero considerations were confined to reducing drag, this meant drivers could follow the car in front only cm/inches apart without being disadvantaged.
        3. Pitboards were the only way to communicate with the driver.
        4. No onboard sensors sending information to the pits, the driver had to manage problems on his own.
        5. No computerised engine management, so no rev limiter other than the driver.
        6. No automatic gearboxes or clutch, it was up to the driver to match engine revs to gears and traction.
        7. An era of rapid development in engines, transmissions, brakes and suspensions, most of the developments were public knowledge and understandable, so technically very interesting.
        8. The drivers drove other classes like F2, saloon cars, GT etc. so it was easy to see the talent without the car factor.

        Please tell me why I am wrong if you think that I am, if you can’t fault my argument don’t brand us as old fogeys wearing rose tinted glasses just because we miss F1 the way it was.

        1. First problem is you’d need design a rule set to have them actually do what you want.

          We can’t even get the nose rules right.

        2. @hohum,
          The truly sad part is that you nailed the absolute largest problem with #2:
          “No wings, aero considerations were confined to reducing drag, this meant drivers could follow the car in front only cm/inches apart without being disadvantaged.”

          This is obvious to anyone who even remotely applies a few brain cells to the problem. But does ANYONE suggest limiting the aero, especially the front wings, that cause all the problems for passing and wheel to wheel racing? No. Not even a hint or a suggestion from any of the people inside F1 debating the changes needed.

          It’s enough to make me want to tear out my hair because it’s such an obvious solution that saves all the incredible expense on those overly complex (and fragile) front wings and allows real racing!!! WTH people? Why aren’t we all screaming about this?

          Oh, and I can’t disagree with any of your other points either. But that particular point is the key.

        3. If that raw racing (no sensors, driver feel etc) is what you’re looking for, you should probably watch NASCAR.

      2. No, these hybrids are more powerful and harder to handle than the previous V8s.

        Yes, the cars could and should be faster, but it is the mentality that the cars have to be slowed down and tracks made infant proof that is the issue. The recent decisions to shallow out the rear wing, ban the beam wing, ban FRIC and narrow the front wing alone must account for some 5s a lap. Not to mention countless other things that have become the victim of the FIA “Ban Hammer”.

        There is nothing wrong with the engines. You are barking up the wrong tree.

        Also, an other thought: you know what was challenging and exciting? Full-DRS qualy laps, that was exciting! But then some of the same whiners about how F1 is less exciting etc… campaigned to limit the use because it might be dangerous and someone might spin… Go figure! Someone like M.Webber who will not hesitate to take a stab at F1 and how it has “lost it’s challenge”, and yet he himself was instrumental in this particular decision to limit the use of DRS in free practice and qualifying. Hypocrites, whiners and opportunists everywhere. (Especially at the RBR camp, since Merc is winning, and Ferrari and McLaren seems to have acquired some balls and self-respect recently)

        1. mateuss i am with you all the way on this one,
          the whiners are either RBR who dont control their engine because they are not a car manufacturer and losers or the fans that want their team back at the front,
          then comes Bernie who started the whole whining thing about F1 long before anyone else,
          now we have the SKY reporters adding their bit and ex drivers making out they know it all, the whole thing has really got outa hand,

          if we wont to fix it, then let the teams have more freedom in aerodynamics,
          give them the tools to let these cars have more down force wider tires increase the top speed that takes lap times to a new height the tracks are safe enough now for these cars to be doing 350ks an hour, so why not let them go for it???

        2. @mateuss,
          Further proof of your argument: Note that Toyota is getting embarrassed in the WEC and they’re finally admitting that the naturally aspirated V8 can’t compete with the 4 Cylinder twin turbos of the Porsches! They’re going to switch next year.

          The answer is not to go back to the V8’s.

  2. Great article which highlights how fuel saving is as part of F1 now (and indeed other motorsports) as it was decades ago. So the Canadian Grand Prix was “boring” from a spectacle point of view, but sometimes you need boring races or the football equivalent of a 0-0 draw which makes us appreciate the great races even more. If their is no concept of “bad” their cannot be “good” and vice versa. Getting into philosophy now. I’d say wait until the season is over before passing judgement on the current state of F1.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      11th June 2015, 12:46

      I completly agree with you but the problem is that F1 is trying it’s hardest to make itself less entertaining and football isn’t.

      If the F1 circus was running football, the players wouldn’t be allowed to drink water during the race, would have to wear boots that fall apart over the first 20 minutes, would have a button on thier shirt that gives them an extra goal when pressed, would not be allowed to do any training other than on 3 designated days before the season and would spend each match walking around slowly to conserve the 100 calories they are allowed to eat in the week leading up the game.

      1. I think the problem is that Bernie in his infinite greed wants to make Formula 1 a sport like Football, a sport that is watched around the globe and brings endless money. Formula 1 is not a sport for everyone, it is good as it is right now (or was 4 years ago), we the fans, do not need a circus show with acrobacies every race weekend, this is not a sport for the casual viewer, casual viewer should go see football. The more Bernie and his fellows try to artificially “improve” the show, the more it backfires on them, and consequently on us, the true F1 fans… …Thank you and good night!

      2. @petebaldwin

        …would not be allowed to do any training other than on 3 designated days before the season…

        But they can play FIFA on their Playstations as much as they want! :)

      3. @petebaldwin

        Nicely done…..:)

  3. petebaldwin (@)
    11th June 2015, 12:38

    Simple rule is to ban comms relating to fuel. Very simple and easy to police.

    Teams will then have to give the cars enough fuel to last the race – the less fuel the teams put in to start, the more they are relying on the driver to fuel save and without thier engineers spending the whole race begging for their drivers to slow down, protect the car and use less fuel, it isn’t going to happen.

    1. @petebaldwin As the Kvyat quote shows, drivers don’t save fuel just when they’re reminded to by their engineers. And as noted elsewhere in the article, they don’t lift-and-coast just to save fuel. For these and other reasons I don’t share your conviction this would be so easy and work so well.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        11th June 2015, 13:04

        @keithcollantine – But the Kvyat quote shows an F1 driver actually taking control of his own race… I have no problem with that – that’s exactly what I’m saying should happen. Other than the Kvyat quote though, the rest appear to be engineers pleading with vastly experienced drivers to slow down, lift and coast and use less fuel.

        If the drivers don’t even enjoy F1, how are the fans supposed to get on board!?

        1. Let’s say you don’t use live timing or any guide and just use your eyes to observe the speed at the track, the current cars are slow visually, honestly. I’m not a casual fan.

      2. @petebaldwin @keithcollantine

        I completely agree, Keith. Exactly the same amount of fuel conservation would be required, anyway, the drivers would just have to judge it for themselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but is unlikely to increase either the spectacle or the amount of fuel the teams put in. In fact, it would lead to a situation where a driver who was good at judging fuel savings could run a lighter load, do more fuel savings, and get better overall performance.

        In addition, I doubt it would completely stop the feedback. As we saw in the team orders ban, they would find a way to tell them, encoding it into legitimate communications. One word difference in telling them the gap to the car behind could indicate to save fuel or just go for it. There is no way to completely enforce the ban.

        1. @drmouse No matter how much fuel you give them or force on them, physics won’t change. It will still be more beneficial to save up fuel at the end of straights to use more fuel at the beginning of straights.
          It will still be beneficial to run “light”, no matter if that means appropriately fueling the car (“underfueling”), plain opening a valve and dumping kilos of fuel out or just burning it going to the grid etc.

      3. @keithcollantine Now I know how Kvyat was the fastest on the track in the last few laps, 18.0 was a remarkable time for a Renault engined car compared to the others in the latter stages!

    2. Hm, @petebaldwin, let put this idea upside down.

      What if FOM stopped broadcasting these kind of messages instead of the teams stopped giving them? We would get far less annoyed by constantly being reminded that they are saving fuel.
      Would you be ok with that?

      Let me add that I would greatly dislike that (the broadcast willingly withholding relevant information).
      On the other hand, thinking about it reminds me of the guy in charge of FOM who is the singe largest opponent of the current engines. How do we know he is not using the broadcast for his own targets (we know he’s capable of it as he has done that before, with CGI messages, not showing certain teams etc), playing a disproportionally large amount of fuel saving related messages?

      1. COTD. COT Year.

      2. I absolutely 100% agree with you.

      3. OmarR-Pepper - Vettel 40 victories!!! (@)
        11th June 2015, 15:36

        @bascb and it fits with what he just said a couple of days ago: “The worst teams can ever do is threaten me”

  4. Great insightful article, as usual.
    The crucial phrase is probably this one:

    However we can’t exclude the possibility that we are more aware of fuel saving now because of the increased amount of team radio chatter which is broadcast these days.

    However, I wouldn’t resort to a (kind of) double negative to make this point: In my opinion, 90% or more of the criticism is due to the spectators knowing too much but understanding too little.

    1. good point – that was something that grated with me a little in that coulthard article (his claim that in the 80s everyone was flat out); i think understanding of the sport is increasing but in a skewed way.

    2. In my opinion, 90% or more of the criticism is due to the spectators knowing too much but understanding too little.

      I completely agree.

    3. Can’t we just have a minimum fuel requirement too? Ie, all cars have to start with at last 92kgs of fuel and no more than 100kgs? Might possibly remove the extreme examples of fuel saving

      1. Sounds like a goo idea.

      2. As mentioned already, this would be circumvented by teams through running several laps prior to going to the grid.

        Unless you force the team to “top if off” just before the formation lap.

        A radical idea: ban any audio communication between pits and driver. no message display in the steering wheel either. Go back to the 70’s when the only way the team could communicate with the driver during a race is by the boards they see as they drive by the pits. Obviously the team could still tell the driver on each lap to adjust fuel settings, but with so many settings to take care of in a modern F1 car, the driver would be limited on how much information he could grasp by looking at the board for 1-2 seconds.

        There is TOO much coaching and adjusting orders from the pits to the drivers nowadays. They are guided way too much. The driver factor is becoming less prevalent these days. If the driver can not determine that the brake bias needs to change, maybe they should not be in F1.

        1. I’ve been of the opinion for a while now that F1 is no longer a ‘single driver’ formula but instead has morphed into an on-board driver with up to a couple of dozen ‘off-board’ co-drivers. All the engineers monitoring the cars systems and readings and then feeding advice/tips back to the driver. I think the answer is quite straight forward. Do not allow any car to pit data during a race, all information that the driver has is displayed inside the cockpit. Need a flat-tyre warning, install a warning light, need an overheating warning, install a gauge and so on. Display the information to the driver and let him/her make decisions about how to drive.

          This would also have the knock-on benefit of driving down costs if there wasn’t the need to ship tons of monitoring equipment and engineers to each race.

          1. trouble with this idea is now they cant look after the engines,
            when you limited to 4 engines a season monitoring them is a must…

  5. The difference between what’s happening now and what used to happen in the past is that even when drivers were saving fuel, tires etc in the past they were still breaking lap records regularly.
    They were also saving the life of parts just to make it to the end of the race, not conserving them to be used in the next 3 or 4 races. There ws a genuine need to conserve parts as some simply couldn’t survive more than a race distance worth of stress, whereas now we know the parts can be used for flat out racing, they just have to be saved because of the rules limiting the number of them that can be used in a season.

    Until a few years ago you got the sense that the teams and drivers were pushing the limits of what was possible, it now feels increasingly like they’re trundling around in conservation mode for almost the entire race.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      11th June 2015, 13:13

      @beneboy – “Until a few years ago you got the sense that the teams and drivers were pushing the limits of what was possible, it now feels increasingly like they’re trundling around in conservation mode for almost the entire race.”

      I think that sentence almost perfect sums it up for me. F1 just doesn’t feel cutting edge anymore – the fact that they are trying to agree on regs to increase lap times by 5 SECONDS shows that it isn’t cutting edge – it’s at least 5 seconds off!

      1. Until a few years ago you got the sense that the teams and drivers were pushing the limits of what was possible, it now feels increasingly like they’re trundling around in conservation mode for almost the entire race.

        I disagree. I remember conversations then where people were saying the teams obviously weren’t pushing the limits any more, because the engines were so reliable, the cars were too easy to drive etc.

        I can remember comments like these for the last 15 years or so. People are looking back with rose tinted specs.

        1. “People are looking back with rose tinted specs.”

          By “people” you mean the drivers? Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, Button?

          1. I think their problem is the fact that cars are not faster than this.
            I don’t think they want less reliable, less drivable messes….

      2. FIA’s entire move toward “a sustainable and environmentally conscious” F1 has been stewing since at least last year.

        During and since Canada we have more and more teams *and drivers* making comments about the decline of actual racing competition (and getting even louder this week). It will get worse. The “sustainable” agenda is stultifying and is making F1 quite a boring enteprise.

        @keithcollantine There was fuel saving to accomodate pure competititve racing objectives, and there is now a fuel saving to meet the FIA’s overt political agenda. In your article – which I read from start to finish – you really didn’t address that latter objective at all.

    2. Then problem is not fuel saving at all, it is that they are just plain slow.

      1. they could be the fastest cars on the plant but no they are held back with all these regulation,
        these engines if allowed to do 18’000revs would scream down the straights at 350ks or more but that is too dangerous for the drivers.

        1. I’m sorry, but with MGU-H they will “burble” and not “scream” down the straights.

          Really, the series ought to be renamed Formula H(ybrid).

    3. QOTD right there

  6. @keithcollantine thanks for a great article.

    Although I am on the side of those who have criticised the level of fuel saving we are currently witnessing in F1, I do appreciate an in depth article which explains the complexity of the issue. A great read.

    One thing which I do find frustrating is the number of commenters who blindly parrot lines like “there’s always been fuel saving in F1” or “you can never run every lap flat out for the entire race”. I’ve been watching F1 on and off since the 80s and am perfectly well aware of this obvious proposition.

    To accept this truism tells us absolutely nothing about whether the degree of fuel saving has increased with the current generation of engines in the last season and a bit. Nor does it tell us if the balance between flat out racing and conservation (of fuel, or tyres, or anything else) is out of whack.

    Thinking about how incredibly lean these engines are designed to run when off throttle, it would be surprising if there wasn’t an increased fuel consumption advantage to lifting and coasting when compared to say the previous V8s.

    Although hearing radio commentary is relatively new, it’s not as though it was only introduced at the beginning of last year. I think it’s clear that the increased number of messages we are hearing about lift and coast and fuel saving reflect the fact that it’s a bigger part of F1 these days. And that’s a problem which needs to be fixed, difficult though it may be.

    1. @tdog I’ve heard a bit of speculation (So treat it as such) that the guys at Biggin Hill monitoring the team radio & deciding what to play out are told to play out more of that sort of thing now by there boss (Bernie) who isn’t fond of the new formula & looks for every opportunity to put it down to push his agenda.

      I certainly heard a lot of car/fuel/tyre management messages sent to drivers in F1 over the years & we never played out any of them.

      1. yep Bernie is more than capable of winding this up to get his way,
        the cunning old devil has every reason to keep pushing this sort of thing.

  7. My view is that if there was no fuel flow restriction and fuel quantity restriction, the teams wouldn’t want to save fuel as the other teams will be using more fuel for more power in their engines negating the time saved from lower weight due to less fuel. Fuel efficiency will come from the engines manufacturers maximizing the fuel energy anyways as the current car manufacters are managing to do.

  8. Just on the point about forcing teams to fill the tank.

    I don’t believe even the teams get data on how much fuel is in the car, They only get the data for how much they are using each lap which allows them to calculate how much they have left in the tank based on what they know they put in.

    As such under the current systems the FIA wouldn’t be able to get data on exactly how much fuel is in the car to enforce a rule forcing teams to have the full 100kg in the tank for the start.

    1. They could have a rule that, immediately before the race, the tank is drained and 100kg (+ an amount for reconnaissance, formation, and in laps) put in, measured by the FIA. The FIA know exactly how much was in at the start, and exactly how much had been used up to the lights going green, so know exactly how much was in the tank at the start.

    2. @gt-racer I think it’s a great idea to force teams to use the same fuel all the time, how the FIA would know it’s 100kg? simple, just use the current system and check at the end of the race that every car has gone above the minimum 100kg.

      Yes, most teams will do fuel rich maps at the beginning of the race but at least it opens the possibility if someone wants to try a reverse strategy. Besides it would make the race more interesting at the start.
      I think there’s nothing to loose and it wouldn’t make it worse than it is now, that’s for sure.

      1. Oh and that would also solve the problem that @keithcollantine mentions about the installation laps, since the FIA measures fuel consumption from lights to flag.

      2. What “reverse strategy”?—Running around with lots of extra weight at the beginning and then trying to burn it off at the end would have no benefit. This “strategy” could be achieved simply by adding ballast to the car. All cars will follow the same approach of burning off the extra mass as fast as possible. As it is now, teams are free to try to turn up the wick to try to get past fuel-saving cars and then try to save at the end. No one seems to think this is a great idea now. Consequently, having a minimum consumption rule would just result in more fuel being consumed, but not for “racing.”

  9. Another great article on a “burning” topic @keithcollantine. Thanks

  10. Wondering if a fixed fuel load for all teams would help alleviate the problem. If all cars were given say 110kgs of fuel (assuming that the 10kgs extra allows them push a little harder), whether that would reduce the ‘lift and coast’ problem.

    Current rules allow flexibility regarding fuel loads at the start of the race, and as Keith mentioned, a lot could go lighter to reduce wear and tear on brakes and poor pace at the start of the race.

    Fixed fuel loads might find Pu developers pushing hard to extract more performance from a fixed fuel load, and could make racing more interesting

    1. Fixing the engine and aero of the car would fix the racing………and if you fix the amount of fuel, fixing those things as well wouldn’t take a huge leap.

    2. Keith addressed exactly that idea in the article @todfod – if you look back at race fuel qualifying, you can easily understand that teams would still try and find a way to burn a lot early and then be lighter.

      1. @bascb

        I should always finish reading the article. Terrible habit

        1. :-) well, there you go @todfod!

  11. I’ve always felt that lift and coast was a viable racing strategy, so later in the race I can refuel and have more available to go faster. In fact I am quite certain it can be done into corners without losing time – with a bit of clever braking, at least. That should also be easier on the brakes. Before anyone starts saying I’m wrong because F1 teams would always do it or whatever — there was a time it wasn’t a popular idea but it was still true at that time.
    Anyway– it’s the same idea as conserving tires early in the race so you can get new tires later on and be faster. Or in Formula E where a driver conserves his energy in the first car so he can get into the second car later with more energy available and can go faster.

    The problem with this in F1 is there’s no refueling so that strategy is no longer the reason teams do that. This is one reason why I would have appreciated a return of refueling in F1 — it does at another strategic element for the teams as well as another element for the driver to be capable of conserving. These are supposedly the best drivers in the world–an argument to which I disagree, they are just some of the best–so why are we removing strategic elements?

  12. How about permitting three engine modes in total? One all-out qualifying mode for the engine, one race-pace mode and one pit-stop/safety car/reconnaissance mode (very low power mode). This would then be standardised across engines. During races, you could only ever use the same mode as everyone else. Then make it mandatory for teams to take the start of the race with full tanks (fill them up on the starting grid after the pre-race laps but before the out lap).

    With no other engine modes (and no fuelburn mode), they would then be starting with the same amount. There would still be fuel saving at races like Canada where all teams definitely fill up to the maximum but it would be reduced and it would be less significant. The cars would not be much slower just because they have fewer engine modes or fuel modes.

    1. Not to mention this would simplify engine rules and fuel rules. Simplifying F1 rules should be important – the sport is surely a MESS for any potential new followers. It would take 2-3 seasons before you are fully up to speed at which point rules will be even more complicated anyway.

      1. that is the reason why we have so many know all say this and that about F1 when they have know idea about the sport full stop.
        like refueling, the cars only went 7 to 15laps before refueling, if the other team had not come in them the other drivers saved fuel in the hope they had 2 or 3 more laps left to drive like hell and come out infront after they themselves refueled,
        why was it like that because you started with the amount of fuel you qualified with.
        judging how much fuel your oppositions had was the name of the game back then,
        everything else was boring as hell.
        very little passing with no DRS so it was a possession once the refueling had finished.

  13. Apex Assassin
    11th June 2015, 13:55

    The fuel regs are among THE STUPIDEST ideas ever implemented by F1 and are a huge part of the equation that results in F1 losing it’s identity and fan base!

  14. Mr win or lose
    11th June 2015, 14:11

    One thing I don’t understand is: why is there much more fuel-saving this year compared to last year? The engines have likely become more fuel-efficient, so I expected to see less and less fuel-saving.

    1. Because FIA has a longterm strategic plan to reduce “environmental impact” all the way around:

      “It is the first time that the sport has chosen a pathway that is consciously aligned with the development roadmap for the road car industry and these regulations provide a blueprint for how to embed social relevance into the DNA of the sport.”


      Fuel saving – and more of it – is now “the DNA of the sport.”

      Any wonder why drivers and fans are getting more and more disenchanted with F1?

  15. “Fuel saving” does not automatically mean anytime the idea is applied it in an equivalent situation.

    Context matters. Saving fuel as a *choice*, saving fuel with refueling, an saving fuel without refueling – and with a fuel flow limit – are all different operating environments. Throw in increased accuracy of telemetry.

    Not very similar in my opinion. Because of the fuel flow limit, in conjunction with a fuel restriction that makes it impossible to finish some races without ERS, the drivers set off from the start knowing the delta they are going to drive to. Because the engines are NOT running at their engineering limit, and because it is NOT a choice to use more fuel in an attempt to attack, effectively the drivers are hamstrung by math before the lights go out.

    When everybody on the grid is running a fuel saving “strategy” – it is not a strategy. It does nothing for the show. If slower car turns out to be in front of a faster one on the grid sunday, and the faster car passes – as a side effect of the faster car simply being in the process of running it’s optimal fuel strategy – is that a pass?

    The guy in the slower car, that did well in qualifying, who finds himself in front of a better engineered car is not rewarded. This is Alonso’s frustration: his skill as an attacker or defender is stifled by the Oppressive Math of the situation. He does not have the option to use more fuel to try to defend or attack. It is an exercise in precision endurance driving. He has no opportunity to use his skill to defeat another driver in a superior car, because the *limit* is set not by the car being poised on the track at the limit of traction the driver can manage, but by the math exercise.

    Unless a driver makes a mistake, the finishing order merely reflects the car’s basic fuel saving efficiency profile. You can’t race if the math does not allow it.

  16. Great article Keith!

  17. I don’t think you can stop it, and I’m not convinced stopping it entirely is even desirable. But I think it would be better if you put the drivers in control. Put a fuel gauge and fuel mileage meter on their fancy dash screens (surely there’s an app for that!) and ban radio communications regarding fuel. Make them manage it themselves instead of being handheld.

    1. What difference does it make if they are reading the wheel, hearing it on the radio, or getting readings from a machine read over the radio (by a machine)? In none of these situations are they “managing it themselves.” It’s way too late to revert to some kind of Hemmingway-esque man-versus-machine/nature/man idea of auto-racing.

      1. we already have man vs nature in F1, it’s the freedom to choose for yourself (free will/self interest/nature) vs the FIA and their technical ‘regulations’. Why do the teams put up with these regulations?… When it ultimately sc**ws more than half of the field in terms of opportunities.

  18. @keithcollantine – Would it be possible to get a post with graphics showing lap and total race times comparing fuel saving and not fuel saving (i.e regular or attacking fuel maps)?

    I understand that carrying more weight slows the ultimate lap pace and puts more strain on various parts, but being able to run full fuel reduces lap times. I’m sure the teams know more than me, but as a non-engineer it’s tough to wrap my head around. It seems obvious that there are optimum points in this trade-off calculation that lead to the best possible total race time, and I expect teams put lots of time into figuring this out. It doesn’t strike me as optimal, however, for drivers to have to save fuel constantly and yet that be the best strategy.

    1. By “full fuel” I meant using fuel maps that don’t starve the engine and not employing lift and coast or similar strategies, not necessarily full tanks.

      1. I think a large part of the equation is the problem of passing cars, which is difficult enough in turbulent air, without ruining the tyres as well, so teams want to go faster than the opposition at the start in order to get a good track position in which to manage tyre degradation.

  19. It’s pretty simple, make all driverd start with the same fuel load and ban engine mapping. They should have one map and one map only, it gets confusing to the casual fan when for expample Hamilton had used less fuel than Rosberg yet he was the one told to save fuel.

  20. One solution to the lift and coast debacle is if all the cars were required to carry the maximum fuel load at the start of every race. No point in carting dead weight around. They’d have to burn it. To encourage efficiency, the fuel load could be reduced every other year by 5 Kg, and the limit on how much electrical energy can be generated and stored should be lifted.

    1. Or just migrate everthing Formula 1, to Formula E, which as we all know is *extremely* exciting and interesting as a motorsport. /sarc

  21. The 100 kg fuel consumption limit only counts for the race, starting when the lights go out until the checkered flag. So, mandating teams to use all the 100 kg, does not allow them to burn fuel prior the race.

    1. The 100 kg fuel consumption limit only counts for the race, starting when the lights go out until the chequered flag.

      No it doesn’t. Teams are not allowed to refuel their cars on the grid. That’s why drivers are told not to waste fuel on their reconnaissance laps.

  22. But it is being done for sound reasons, and it may not be easy to discourage it.

    Wouldn’t it be better if they weighted the cars with a full tank of petrol and that’s what they have to use all season? Full tank of fuel, no matter the track. It could get tricky at the most thirsty tracks if they calculate it too tightly, but everywhere else they’d be more than fine with it.

    They know how much fuel the car uses, and they can easily simulate the amount of fuel used at the worst track for fuel economy. And if they get it wrong, all they are doing is more harm to themselves, so that’d discourage them to gain advantages through miscalculations or whatever.

    1. Every car would simply use some ultra-rich map in the early part of the race to get rid of the “extra” fuel for the particular track and get back down to the ideal energy/weight curve. The upside of this might be huge plumes of fire on the overrun, but it would just be a silly waste.

      1. But wouldn’t they look foolish towards the end of the race when a car that had not burned off fuel lit the afterburners and flew past them.

        1. No. Because that car would be way way behind, having toted that extra ballast for almost the whole race.

  23. I don’t think you can prevent teams putting the least amount of fuel possible without huge fuel tanks along with minimum fuel requirements. Maybe they will use hybrid tech to spend less fuel, that’s a possibility. But this fuel issue is nothing new. Cars have been stranded through lack of fuel at times since the beginning. They always have to be mindful of this. Canada is one of the most severe cases anyway.
    Another possibility is that someone wanted us to hear those radio convos because he’s trying to manipulate public opinion to favor him. For a guy who’s known for his divide-and-conquer approach that wouldn’t surprise me.

  24. spafrancorchamps
    11th June 2015, 16:37

    It’s really simple actually. A FIA representative must confirm teams put 100kg of fuel in their car for all races. If necessary, the FIA fills the car with fuel themselves. End of saving.

  25. I just don’t think it’s a big deal. You hear the same complaints in IndyCar and NASCAR about “economy-racing,” and such complaints go back generations. In the latter case, it’s more of a refueling and pit stop time issue than a weight versus energy issue. But it is part of racing. Drivers are going to have to use any consumable—fuel, brakes, tires—at an optimum rate to achieve the lowest event ET. No way around it. Unfortunately real life is not Playstation and you cannot turn off fuel-effects.

    1. +1 I’m also not bothered by it. Racing is always about governing your consumables. Unless the rules keep changing around, the cars are only going to get more efficient in the future, and faster. I think by the next Canadian GP, lift and coast will be less of an issue.

  26. i think the real question is why are teams/drivers not allowed to choose for themselves, the best fuel load to carry. Why does a governing body need to tell people how to behave. What kind of message is being portrayed to the ‘consumer’ ?

  27. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    11th June 2015, 17:16

    Ok someone help me out cos I must be missing something. Both this article and Mark Hughes article on Sky F1 seem to imply that Mercedes did not fuel to the maximum 100kg and relied on fuel saving to reach the end. The FOM graphic was shown during the slow down lap at the end of the race and displayed Hamilton’s fuel usage as 99.26 and Rosberg’s usage as 99.46. They still hadn’t made it to Parc ferme. On this information I can only conclude that 100kg is not enough for Canada. Am I wrong?

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      11th June 2015, 17:24

      Forgot to add @keithcollantine

    2. Yes, Canada really does use up all of the 100kg of fuel of the current engines in their current state of development. Lets see if the teams will be able to make more use of that fuel next year then @davewillisporter.

    3. @davewillisporter Montreal is one of the hardest circuits on fuel (And Brakes) so without a SC your always going to see more management of those 2 things compared to most others.
      The other 2 circuits that are really hard on fuel/brakes are Singapore & Bahrain.

      With regards to the graphic although it list’s the figures in kg’s i’m fairly sure that its actually % so if thats the case it was that Lewis used 99.26% of however much Mercedes put in the tank at the start rather than 99.26 of the 100kg allowed.
      If i’m right on that then its fairly confusing to list it as kg even though it isn’t.

  28. If this is a problem with physics why not solve it with physics?

    Increasing the car to a 2000mm wide chassis would change the relative proportions of the car by 11%, wouldn’t reducing the car’s length by the same percentage have the same (desired) effect, that is a relatively wider car, but it’d also produce a less massive object?

    Wouldn’t the same engine moving less mass lead to lesser energy demands?

    A smaller car with a minimum weight limit that includes fuel should be relatively easy to enforce, right?

    1. @faulty, math ; A wider car would have more aerodynamic drag so you would need a to reduce mass massively just to compensate.

  29. Some interesting thoughts from @somersf1 about the subject

  30. All radio should be banned. That way the drivers would have to cope with the situation on their own. Teams would have to put more fuel in to allow for driver error, they’d have to make the brakes more robust as the drivers on their own could not manage the situation to a perfect economy run, as they do now.

    Then the drivers would get on and race, and the slightly more intelligent drivers would have an advantage. I’d also only allow pit boards to display gaps to rivals and laps left.

    It would be great to see drivers signalling by hand that they were intending to pit the next lap, catching their teams out who were not ready, destroying brakes and running out of fuel. Bring back the entertainment, and stop the driver being a puppet of 20 engineers at mission control.

    In case of safety a yellow light could display on the drivers dash, or even the race director could broadcast a radio safety message.

  31. To me the biggest issue is broadcasting the radio. I honestly believe that a lot of these issues have come up since we now hear more and more radio conversations. Last year, the topic came up that the drivers were no longer driving but just being told what to do over the radio which then led to the FIA introducing a half-hearted ban on helping drivers in the race which isn’t currently enforced I believe.

    I said back in 2010 after the German Grand Prix when team orders was banned and we had the radio broadcast ‘Fernando is faster than you!’ that F1 should follow MotoGP and ban pit to car radio. Then the drivers would have to drive themselves, decide when to save fuel/teams fill the tanks full at the start of races. And for the issue of safety, the cars all now have displays which can show safety messages and signals to the driver which should be controlled by the FIA and not used by the team as a subtle way to communicate to the driver. The only form of communication from team to driver should be using the pit board.

    Some might say broadcasting radio communication adds another interest/dimension to the races but I think there are more negatives from people reacting to what they are hearing which they never used to hear but still went on. No radio will mean drivers driving fast, mistakes happening and more exciting races.

    1. This is a good idea, give the driver access to the stat he needs in the car, and let them manage from there… none of these distractions from the pit wall telling them how to drive :)

  32. I don’t understand what the big deal is. It appears we have F1 fans who watch the races on Sunday just so they have something to moan about the following week. The journalist are also to blame for this as well.

    Did you guys know the British GP is nearly sold out? But of course a feel good story like that won’t make it. Instead we have articles linking F1 to the FIFA scandal on autosport.com. Why on earth would you alien your sport with something so toxic? Sabotage???

    Back to Canada. We know F1 is data driven. We know the track is heavy on fuel because accelerations from multiple low speed hairpins. We know the probability of a safety is pretty high which leads teams into gambling on how much to carry. Why is everyone throwing a fit knowing full well that a lack of a safety car meant fuel was going to be critical? It would appear F1 fans know too much and understand very little….or they just like to complain given the opportunity. If those messages weren’t aired you’d be in the dark and just assumed they were pushing flat out.

    So in a sense F1 treated you like an adult and told you what race is really like by telling you the true story through radio. You then thank them by showing they should treat you like a child and withhold info based on your response from the info revealed to you.

    1. Right, and it would have been so much better for football if everyone had just kept quiet, right ?

  33. Increasing minimum car weight dramatically so that fuel is a smaller percentage of total weight would help. Also means we don’t keep penalising great racers simply because they’re not midgets

    1. You don’t think 702kg is heavy enough if not too heavy already? Personally i wouldn’t mind the cars being no more than 550.

  34. It’s more rational to refuel… No, Mercedes doesn’t want that. Let’s not do it. Let’s allow manufacturers year long development on PU’s as with the chassis? No, Mercedes does not want it. Let’s perpetuate, lock the advantage of Mercedes because the casual fan and the bulk of the audience is happy to watch the extravagant lifestyle of Lewis Hamilton? Yes.
    The teams and the fans can’t rule F1.

  35. A very good article and topic….I am not sure how you fix it….but when I watch a race, I do not care how much the lead car lifts and coasts, but I do not want to see the cars behind doing likewise,,,,if they are not going as fast as they can, we are not seeing a race….

  36. Make it that burning the fuel off is seen as an advantage.
    Compulsory 125kg of fuel in the car.
    Ban engine mapping.

    Can’t this work? Fuel wise at least, we just need F1 cars to work more like Karts.

  37. This may sound dumb/stupid, but why not cut the races down by about about 5-10 laps? When the races were televised here in Australia, I’d fall asleep half the time because they were late races (9:30/10:00pm starts) that went far too long but I’d also start to lose interest. 55 laps to 45 would allow for teams to push harder and be aggressive and save 10 laps worth of fuel.

    I also understand that this impacts on f1 for fans staying longer and money coming into the sport, but really, it would only be a range of about 15-25 minutes reduced racing time.

    Moto GP races are extremely short, they seem to have enough interest from fans worldwide.

    1. I would prefer they increase the fuel allocation to this, as it would change one of the core, fundamental regulations of Grand Prix racing… the race distance.

      Sure, any change in regulations skews records, but if we don’t have a core set that stays consistent, what do we have?

    2. You are right, but only at the very beginning,

  38. I don’t like this regulations.

  39. I believe it’s the lesser of many evils…

    If we don’t want fuel saving, we need more durable tires that will not degrade so much with the added weight. but then this would cause the ‘dreaded’ 1-stop races (2010 Italian GP?). Re-fuelling would alleviate it a bit, but then you have the cost and image issues the sport is trying (?) to avoid.

    Another option would be to remove data recovery and fuel management modules from the Fuel-systems all together, and let teams deal with the 100lt capacity fuel tank the old-fashion way? This may have a work-around via the induction system though, and if that was banned, engine manufacturers would be up in arms over not knowing if the pump is about to fail.

    There may be other options I’ve not thought of, but if they’re more complex than this, they may be hard to police, or just be far too complex for the public to understand. In a time when F1 is trying to woo fans back, they may also not be the best options.

    Given that, I’m happy for the current situation. It’s promoting on-track passing as opposed to pit-lane passing, and it’s presented in a way the public can sorta understand.

    F1 has bigger issues to deal with anyway, so let’s get back to DRS and prize money dispersion issues first.

  40. F1’s biggest problem is it’s fans. Fan’s that can’t agree on anything. Fans that look at the past through rose tinted classes. It’s problem is also journalist who claim to love the sport but are only interested in writing controversial articles.

    The journalist are competing with fellow colleges to see who writes the article that will set the narrative for the days before the next GP with zero regards for context. We all know how the 24hr news cycle works and F1 is no different.

    I’m starting to think maybe I should stop visiting F1 forums because I don’t think they are a true representation of F1 fans. Trying to to gauge F1 fans through forums would be like trying to gauge BMW owners by what goes on at a BMW enthusiast forum…or soccer fans by the discussions in soccer league or team forum sites. Forums like these are were upset people disproportionately go to vent. They make it seem like a huge majority agrees because the sensible fan isn’t posting. Its the negative ones that scream the loudest. The strange thing is we know for a fact you can’t please these people. So why waste your time trying to please them. They’ll just find something else to complain about.

    Read the “fixes” being proposed in this comment section alone. Just ridiculous. You can’t have your “personal” F1 with unobtainable expectations!!!

    1. Bernie Ecclestone has known this for years – that’s why he’s been doing so much to get rid of all those troublesome fans.

  41. Fuel saving is not a problem for me in F1. If there’s close racing between multiple top teams then very few will care about all this.

  42. Excellent, balanced and informative article

  43. [‘Lift and coast’: Why F1 drivers are told to save fuel.]

    Because F1 is now morphing to road cars. That’s what they’ve been selling on how green F1 is and the road car relevance to the future. Should be even more boring in the future. Serve them right to lose millions of fans and more soon.

  44. Admittedly I don’t watch Indycar, but I believe it’s not the same, in F1 the tyre wear limits your ability to stretch your stints to make fewer stops. So as long as the tyre remains the same, refuel could eliminate fuel saving. In fact, it has made an extra stop/4 stops strategy a race winning strategy, it could reward the drivers who has the ability to do 60+ consecutive perfect laps. On tracking overtake can be great to watch, but man, first you have to allow the drivers to push.

    An other way to prevent it is to do it in the spec ECU: as long as the ECU concludes that the current consumption won’t last the race, the throttle shall be cut/max RPM shall be reduced, the drivers can floor it just to feel good. This would take away the freedom of the teams, if they don’t want to be forced to save fuel very early, then they should not under-fuel the car.

    This is excatly what they do in Motogp I believe. BTW imagine racing wheel to wheel at 300+ kmh with no safe belts no HANS, the only crush structure is your bone, this is the best motor sport on the planet, if a 4 wheel racer would have the skill, they would need to grow a pair first.

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