Nyck de Vries, Mercedes, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021

New ethanol fuel requirement causing power unit challenges, Mercedes admit

2022 F1 season

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The shift to a 10% ethanol fuel requirement for 2022 has affected the performance of Mercedes’ power unit, the team have admitted.

Alongside the heavy technical regulation changes that will transform how Formula 1 cars will look in 2022, there is also a new requirement that the fuel teams use in their power units feature a higher level of biocomponents than in previous seasons.

In a video posted to social media, Mercedes High Performance Powertrains managing director Hywel Thomas explained that the new fuel requirement has affected the performance of their Mercedes power unit.

“There have been biocomponents in the fuel throughout the hybrid era,” explained Thomas. “What we had was a requirement to have 5.75% by volume of bio components. The change this year is that percentage has gone up to 10%. And also, instead of it being open what those components you use, you have to use ethanol.

“What that means is the engine is going to react slightly differently to the fuel. So there’s some areas of the performance, we’re really, really happy with, and other areas where honestly, we’re less happy. What we have to do is change the fuel where we can, and change the hardware of the power unit where we can, in order to maximise the effect of the things we do like and minimise the effects of the things we don’t.”

Thomas says the while the increase from 5.75% to 10% biocomponent may not seem like a major increase, it has resulted in the most intensive development work between Mercedes and fuel partners Petronas since the move over to the V6 turbo formula in 2014.

“As in every year when we’re developing the fuel, it’s a partnership between ourselves and Petronas to make sure that the fuel is enjoying the power unit experience and the power unit is enjoying the fuel experience,” Thomas said.

“The change this year to go to the E10 is probably the largest regulation change we’ve had since 2014, so it was a sizeable undertaking to make sure that we really developed that fuel and the number of candidates that we had, the single cylinder running, the V6 running – it shouldn’t be underestimated how much work that took.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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45 comments on “New ethanol fuel requirement causing power unit challenges, Mercedes admit”

  1. I don’t know if the chemical composition of ethanol has changed, but I know it was never very good for the engine valves.

    1. Ethanol is a formula.
      C2H5OH (or C2H6O depending on notation)
      Nothing changes there.

      Some fluids have a negative impact on the lubrication of the valve stem. Something to compensate with added doped.
      Ethanol itself will not affect the valve materials. M

      1. Some fluids have a negative impact on the lubrication of the valve stem

        I didn’t want to go into so much detail, but there is the issue.

        1. And as I’m pretty sure F1 engines directly inject the fuel into the combustion chamber, this is no issue as the fuel doesn’t go passed the valve stems. The air going though the intake system and cylinder heads doesn’t contain fuel, like with injectors in the intake manifold.

  2. We are the underdog’s again :)

    1. Anon A. Mouse
      6th February 2022, 17:30

      According to who?

    2. Problem is that Honda, Renault and Ferarri is claiming the same problem :)

  3. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    6th February 2022, 11:31

    mY EnGiNe BoNo

  4. How is destroying rain forest to grow crops to turn into ethanol ‘biofuel’ helping the environment again?

    1. Because someone said so.
      If they say it is green, then it is green even if we all see it is yellow.

    2. They call it Green Washing. It is where the public is told something is good to make them feel good but after actual studies are done it often turns out to be worse.

      1. Not much different from the electrical push, I’d say.

    3. Hey, at least it is gluten free.

    4. Ah yes. There’s a potential negative aspect, so let’s not do anything, and keep burning fossil fuels.


      Hint: They’re not burning the forests to plant crops for ethanol. They’re doing it to plant crops for money.

      1. When the “ethanol” push started in North America, about 10 to 15 years ago, someone did the numbers and proved that we could produce enough ethanol to switch over all the gasoline powered vehicles. Only catch, there isn’t enough water to grow the needed crops for ethanol production and still grow food.
        In the US, it has transpired that the it is the corn producing states promoting the requirement for ethanol. Just because something can be done, should it be done.?

      2. You forget grat that global warming is a scam from China to undermine the economy of the USA. Or it’s a natural phenomenon. Oh wait, no, the planet is so large we can’t have an impact on it.
        I can’t keep up with all the – contradicting – reasons to do nothing.

  5. Bit early for the start of Mercs “sandbagging”!

    1. For 2022 season they have new sandbags, “green ones”, still testing as you can see.

      1. They were asked a question and they flippin answered it. Why do you need to also turn into something negative or claim sandbags. Redbull do this all the time but I do not see you complain when they do it, I wonder why? Maybe because super Max is in the team.

        1. I am sure Honda said the same as they had the same problems…..

          1. They already did some weeks ago.
            Around the time Mercedes stated the new engine was even stronger.
            Now the reality kicks in or they wanted to depreciate the first statement.

    2. Absolutely. Every other engine manufacturer has said it’s not a problem, and they’ve still got the same horsepower as before. /sarcasm

  6. All this nonsense is just some sort of political posturing. The worst part is the truth. Every environment of group says that corn Ethanol is worse for the environment than the petroleum alternative. The EPA study shows that corn ethanol does nothing to reduce CO2 compared to the petroleum alternative but because of the corn ethanol lobby, the general public believes that corn ethanol is actually a good thing. The actual truth is corn ethanol is bad. The racing people are trying to play the politics though.

  7. FIA has bought in to the scam! I cant believe it. Ethanol in auto gas for regular autos is a scam brought on by the farmers. 10% ethanol in auto gas decreases mileage by about 10%, so in the end the amount of dead dinosaurs consumed per mile is the same.
    For F1 with the fuel flow restrictions, this equates to a horsepower reduction, with the same dead dinosaurs consumption per lap.

    F1 has become a woke joke, in my opinion.

    1. someone or something
      7th February 2022, 1:26

      My ad-hoc hypothesis that unironic use of the word “woke” has a strong negative correlation with IQ is corroborated by the fact that, no, adding 10% of ethanol to gasoline does not decrease mileage by 10%.
      I mean, not even 10% of water has that effect (not kidding, small amounts of water are used as additive in some engines to improve efficiency). In reality, ethanol has about 2/3 of the caloric value of gasoline, and a full tank of E10 has about 3% less mileage than pure gasoline, sometimes more, sometimes less.
      Rated I for “incomprehensibly misinformed”.

      And one last thing: There were no more dinosaurs involved in the formation of Earth’s petrol reserves than brain cells in the creation of the slogan “10% ethanol = 10% less mileage”. Petrol is about 99% algae, and dinosaurs still don’t make up a significant part of the remaining percent, either.

      1. and a full tank of E10 has about 3% less mileage than pure gasoline, sometimes more, sometimes less.

        ….At a constant 35Mph?

        1. someone or something
          7th February 2022, 11:21

          Are you being intentionally obtuse, or does it come naturally?

          Being stubbornly, even irrationally against anything remotely connected to the adjective “green”, justified or not, is one thing.
          The other thing is making no ducking sense whatsoever. Your reply falls into the second category.

          1. ;-) 😁 👍

          2. Through some crude unscientific means, my mileage is off about 5% with ethanol containing fuel compared to that which I can get that is ethanol free.
            Then of course there is the significant other’s diesel that can break 50 mpg. Not bad for an SUV.

  8. Please take this constructively and with the best of intentions – would be nice to see some scoops on this website instead of social media write ups

    1. … and with fewer adverts

    2. They don’t have scoops because they don’t have traditional journalists, dieter was it, with a lot of connections. Anyone who’s come here since is going to be more and more disappointed.

      Where this site used to shine wasn’t scoops, but detailed analysis. Graphs of performance, the history of F1, book reviews, and the round ups with links to the scoops from other F1 sites (which they no longer link to, probably due to competition.)

      Now I agree, I don’t really know where this site is headed but all they seem to rely on is press releases and social media, even for the round ups. Hazel does a good job being a proper journo for Formula E, but as far as F1 goes it seems in a weird place.

      Now without Dieter but also without as much content they used to excel at.

      1. @skipgamer

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve been a member for many many years back to the F1F days, and each year this site got better. But since Dieter left at the end of last year it’s had a real dearth of good content. Really hope it’s just a pre-season finding your feet thing.

    3. Nothing to scoop.

  9. Ethanol has a much higher octane rating than conventional petrol, so there are gains to be made in terms of “knock resistance” and as far as im aware there are many companies heavily investing in using algae grown in seawater to produce ethanol based fuels that don’t require the use of land that is normally used to produce food. I guess that is something… Saying that, you need approximately 2.2 times the amount of Methanol to produce the same stoichiometric ratio as petroleum based fuels (which will eat into the fuel flow limit) so I don’t know how it will all work out in the end. Maybe the engines will have the ability to produce more power for short periods of time due to their higher knock resistance, but need to operate in a lower power mode for the majority of the race? E85 blends (much greater Ethanol content obviously) have completely changed the landscape of turbocharged engines in club level competition, allowing for MASSIVE gains in power due to engines becoming toque limited… i.e. they become over stressed mechanically before they are limited by engine “knock” (detonation). Most of the gains come from being able to run much more ignition advance befor the onset of knock which allows the engine to effectively harness more of the “push” from combustion and gain torque everywhere. I’m sure the best minds in the business are all over this, and the “challenges” are merely finding the correct balance of power and economy.

    1. I know in the old Indy car series and go carts running ethanol, their fuel flows were eye watering. Ethanol apparently carries oxygen too, so the more fuel one flows the greater the horsepower. But this is fine without fuel flow limits, but if F1 keeps its fuel flow limit, I cant see any benefit to the racing or to the environment from the addition of ethanol.

      1. The older Indy cars and Go-Carts were run on Methanol. It has about half the net energy value that ethanol does. Hence fuel flow rates double what we normally identify with.
        Fuel was supplied my Methanex, either out of Kitimat (BC) or Chile.
        An advantage of Methanol was that the latent heat of evaporation is higher than either gasoline and you are pushing twice as much through the engine. Akin to having an internal cooling system. Worked great with turbocharging.

    2. You’ve touched on many great points. One other thing I could add (which those great minds already know) is that ethanol combustion does have a reduced exhaust temperature which can be beneficial in reducing cooling to give an aerodynamic advantage. I do wonder at high altitudes which engine manufacturer will perform best as the ethanol blend increases.

  10. I think it’s silly to have fuel being a point of competitive advantage. It should be a spec fuel, it makes no sense at all with all else that’s changing to allow teams to get a better fuel that suits their engine.

    Hopefully this is something that will be worked on for 2026.

    1. This is an interesting point given how many folks complain about F1 turning into a “spec series” — I’d be happy with things like wheels, nuts, air guns, jacks, and many other components being standardized given there is little to no applicable real world use in developing those components. Fuel and lubricants are still road-relevant and it would be a shame for F1 to standardize them when there is still room to research and extract power from their use.

  11. Yes it would be nice to see others teams that use the Mercedes engine have equal power and performance to Mercedes themselves. The engines are designed around Petronas fuels and if I the information I have read is correct then McLaren do not have access to Petronas which would be a distinct disadvantage would it not?

  12. Code for “we’ve made significant power gains over the winter”

  13. I don’t think Ferrari, Mercedes or Honda will be lagging each other in terms of engine performance for 2022. They’ve all proved themselves incredibly handy when developing PUs, and should make this new ethanol composition work for them. The only one PU manufacturer that looks likely to drop the ball again is Renault.

  14. The F1 technical regulations allowed (or dictated) the use of “organics” up to around 5.75% if I recall correctly.
    The teams and their fuel suppliers were free to use pretty much whatever they wanted for that 5.75% so long as it was “organically” derived. Since you can organically create pretty much anything you want, cost no object, then the genie was out of the bottle and there were likely some pretty exotic compounds being used. Road relevance … what’s that.?
    There was a comment from one of the Mercedes team members that the problems they were having were due to them being restricted to ethanol and the loss of the compounds they had previously available in the 6.5% (guessing this is 5.75 + some other components). Tends to confirm that they were utilizing “organic” compounds to good effect. Consider that the compression ratio of the engines, sorry, IC Power Unit, is limited to 18:1 (Tech Regs 5.3.6) and I am certain they use every bit of it, it would seem that combustion science would be a major feature of any additives.
    While the imposition of ethanol as 10% of the fuel may be somewhat questionable from an emissions and efficiency perspective, it gets the FIA off the hook for promoting exotics in fuels with no potential commercial applications.

  15. Mercedes explains what they are doing, commenters are complaining. An ancestral combination.

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