David Beckmann, Charouz, Bahrain F2 testing, 2021

F2 will introduce synthetic fuel before F1 despite teams’ concerns

Formula 2

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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.

However F2 CEO Bruno Michel said there is no doubt the series will press ahead with plans to introduce the new fuels.

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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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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11 comments on “F2 will introduce synthetic fuel before F1 despite teams’ concerns”

  1. And, to be honest, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

    Wow, imagine saying that and feeling ok about it as promotor, owner and provider of the equipment …

    No wonder they had massive issues with the powertrains (or transmission?) then in the last few years, afterall it doesn’t have to be perfect, right.

    1. The point is that a excessive loss of performance would still result in a fair championship, as all cars have the same engine. This is different from F1, where one engine could suffer greatly compared to the others.

    2. F2 and f3 teams want a sweetener. The fuel might cause problems but that is not the issue.

  2. F2 claims its entire current existing as a feedef series to F1.
    Ofcourse its going to be a testbed for F1, because it is a spec series, you have regressed alot of outliers from F1. Making F2 the perfect series for a testbed.
    18 inch wheels, sprint races, halo all have been tested in F2 before coming to F1.

    Besides synthetic fuels are a 50 year old technology by now. A technique that produces far more pure and unadulterated product to make fuel out of. It should be easier to work with to develop the right fuel for F2 and F1 than regular crude oil.

  3. I find it a bit funny that race teams would want to be so deep inside the FIA’s ladder to F1 for the commercial gains associated with it, yet complain when they are being used as a testing facility.
    That’s exactly what the ladder exists for: to test things – usually drivers and engineers. Since they switched to using spec cars, what else did they think was going to happen?

    Still, that doesn’t alter the fact that F1 used to do the refinement for F1. Now with such corporate and financial burdens in F1, it’s too risky apparently, so they farm the development work out to the lower classes.
    F1 has outlived it’s own original purpose.

  4. Great idea.. Test things out in F2, and save yourself F1 embarasment if things do not work.

    Not sure why things should be in F1 first and then be moved to F2.

    1. Not sure why things should be in F1 first and then be moved to F2.

      Because that would be the natural order of things, were it not for the ridiculous structure F1 now operates under.
      F1 has all the money, tools, personnel and desire to refine and improve things, and the marketing visibility to sell it to the world – but lacks the interest in allowing separation in performance from external suppliers.

      They’d probably do it if they weren’t sponsored by oil companies, though…
      If Shell comes up with a great fuel but Petronas doesn’t…..
      Red Bull trashed Renault’s reputation for not being good enough – they (and other teams) would almost certainly do it to their fuel supplier too if they felt they were disadvantaged, and F1 would be poorer for it.

  5. The irony was that good old F3 back in its hay day used to be a test bed almost as much as F1!
    Literally the only issue with F2/F3 doing this testing will be if someone has unfair enforced mechanical retirements, but other than that, its a spec series, of course it makes sense. Heck, we might even find that some teams and drivers benefit from additional testing necessitated by and funded by the series promoter itself.

  6. Great article.
    The F2 team owners should keep quiet and focus on operating their teams. It is the same hardware for everyone, and they are not paying for, nor executing the development. It seems their are only making noise now because they feel they being pushed around to serve the rich Formula 1 teams.

  7. The statement about sustainability is bogus. It would be most sustainable to use some kind of readily available fuel that doesn’t require an entire R&D program to adopt. These people look like fools making claims about sustainability while having very little knowledge about sustainable practices.

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