Formula 2 team bosses have objected to the series being used as a “test bed” for synthetic fuels before they are introduced to Formula 1.
F1 intends to switch to synthetic fuels, which produce fewer emissions, in 2026, as part of its goal of becoming a net zero producer of carbon by 2030. F2 and F3 team bosses stressed their support for the change to greener fuels but said junior championships were not the correct place to evaluate such new technologies.
F1 technical director Pat Symonds explained the series’ rationale for trialling the new fuels in lower categories before they are used for grands prix.
“We will introduce sustainable fuels into Formula 2 and Formula 3 before we do into Formula 1,” he said earlier this year. “The reason for that is that Formula 2 and Formula 3 use a single type of engine, they use a single type of fuel. So we’ve got to do the job once. And, to be honest, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
“With Formula 1, we have multiple fuel companies involved, have different types of engine and it does have to be perfect. We can’t formulate a fuel which would advantage one engine against another. So it’s a big problem.”
However Carlin team boss Trevor Carlin, of Carlin and François Sicard of DAMS took issue with F1’s plan. The pair said they object to customer racing series, in which drivers pay to compete, being used to develop technologies for the wealthier manufacturers and teams which participate in Formula 1.
“I don’t think it really makes a lot of sense for us to be a test bed for Formula 1,” said Carlin in response to a question from RaceFans. “Because everything we’ve got is spec. We’re not allowed to change anything.”
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“I really don’t think that would be wise for us to be taking on,” Carlin continued, “because this is a customer championship, Formula 2 and our drivers are paying us to drive. It’s a little bit unfair if we’ve then got to deal with a development programme, those drivers are paying for development for Formula 1.
“Formula 1 teams have a lot of money, a lot of resource and engine companies. So I think that type of work, they should be doing themselves and we shouldn’t really get involved hopefully we’ll benefit from it when they’ve done the work for a change.”
DAMS team principal Sicard agreed, saying that the only justification for using F2 and F3 to test the fuels would be if it provided better value. “We have spec cars and we have to keep in mind that the purpose of this championship is to promote drivers and to help them to develop and to grow and to be able to step to Formula 1 if they are good enough.
“We should concentrate on that and we should keep in mind [that] the focus should be more on the cost rather than on experimentation. So if experimentation means reducing the costs, yes. Otherwise I don’t think it’s the goal or the purpose of Formula 2 to experiment for Formula 1.”
However, speaking exclusively to RaceFans, F2 and F3 CEO Bruno Michel disagreed with the view the series were to be used as a test bed for F1.
“Number one, we’re talking about sustainability and sustainability is something that is completely key for the future of motor racing,” he said. “So I think the debate on whether we are testing, going to be like a laboratory, is a rather weak debate because that sustainability is completely key for the future of motor racing, and we need to work on that. That’s number one.
“Number two, it is much easier for us to do it, because we are a single make category, than for Formula 1, where they have several engine suppliers, several fuel suppliers, so they can work on the specific regulation. For us, it’s much easier to do because everybody’s got the same engine, everybody’s got the same fuel, everybody’s got the same lubricant. So imposing something in Formula 2 is much easier than it is in Formula 1.”
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Michel also addressed Carlin’s concern over increased costs. “The teams are not paying any cost for this kind of development,” he said. “The promoter is doing it, so it has nothing to do with the teams. So I don’t really understand when when they go along that route. And as I said, we’re not testing, we’re developing something for us. If Formula 1 is using the same technology in the future, fantastic.”
F2 has previously tested innovations before they were introduced into F1. The 18-inch wheels F1 is using this year were introduced into F2 in 2020. Michel said such changes can be beneficial for junior drivers.
“We need to provide drivers for Formula 1 and in some specific instances [it’s] quite good that they’ve been doing things with us that they will do Formula 1 in the future.
“I think, as an example, the 18-inch tyres. I saw a very good interview with Tsunoda last week saying that he thought he was going to have an advantage in Formula 1 because he drove with 18-inch tyres in F2. The whole purpose of our series is to [train] drivers for Formula 1 so I think it’s quite important also that you can do that.”
Michel has no doubts the trial of sustainable fuels in F2 and F3 will go ahead. “I would not go into this debate about is it a test for Formula 1,” he said. “It’s something that we want to achieve and that we can achieve probably easily and more rapidly than Formula 1 can do it. And we are going that route for sure.”
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