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Author Topic: Fueling  (Read 2348 times)

Offline Wizzo

« on: April 23, 2006, 04:33:04 PM »

It’s what victories are made of: in Formula 1, petrol is one of the most important components for good performance. In the laboratories of the petroleum companies, scientists are constantly searching for the ultimate formula for the best petrol to give their team a crucial advantage on the track.

The battle over seconds requires that refuelling must also be carried out rapidly. Twelve litres per second are pumped into the tank of a Formula 1 car during its pitstop. The tank is located below and behind the driver’s seat, and consists of a deformable Kevlar casing which protects the driver against fire in case of a crash. Only unleaded ‘super’ petrol compliant with EU standards is permitted, the same petrol available at the service station around the corner.

This was not always the case. Back in the founding years of Formula 1, the mixture was left up to the chemists. They brewed aggressive mixtures from substances such as benzene, methanol, acetone and nitrobenzene, some of which had to be drained from the engine immediately after practice and races. Without this precaution, the engine would not have survived the night. Later on, kerosene was used until the late 1960s, before the list of admissible additives was increasingly narrowed by the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Inter-nationale de l`Automobile (FIA), for the protection of drivers and mechanics.

WilliamsF1 Team Manager Dickie Stanford remembers: “The petrol used to be dangerous for anybody who came into contact with it. Before each Grand Prix, we would therefore locate a hospital which was able to deal with burns caused by our petrol in case of an emergency.”

The petroleum companies experimented with more than 300 mixtures per season up until the early 1990s. It took until 1993 for the FIA to specify that Formula 1 petrol had to comply with all the safety and health regulations of the EU. The performance of the race cars remained entirely unaffected. This is because the development of the petrol, of which approximately 200,000 litres are used for research, tests and races each season, is still conducted on a highly professional level by the manufacturers. In their search for the best mixture and the extra shot of power for those crucial split seconds, the engineers can mix and burn petrol virtually, without actually having to produce the fuel. Some of the teams have developed their computer technology so that the virtual petrol can even be tested in a virtual engine.

In most cases, the ultimate formula is quickly found, although the realisation of it is far from easy. The demands on the petrol used to put the race cars on course for success are considerable: it should not only give the engine maximum power, but also be very light and economical to use, so that the car’s weight can be kept low and refuelling stops kept short. Perfect petrol is a competitive advantage which should not be underestimated. The fact that it allows driving one or two laps more than the competition can alone be decisive for the result of the race.

Consumption is one of each team’s best-kept secrets because it is the most important part of the race strategy. Experts estimate that a Formula 1 car uses approximately 70 litres per 100 kilometres. In Formula 1, as in everyday traffic, the amount of fuel used is heavily dependent on the style of driving. Cars consume the largest amount of fuel when accelerating. Driving with foresight requires less braking and, as a consequence, also requires less acceleration. This is where the potential for saving is greatest. “When accelerating, the throttle should be opened in a measured manner and the gear should already be shifted up to the next higher one at around 2,000rpm,” Dr. Hartmuth Wolff of the Allianz Centre for Technology (AZT) recommends. “During long idle periods, it is worthwhile to switch off the engine. After only 30 seconds of the engine not running, the saved fuel has already exceeded the amount required for restarting the engine.”

The composition of normal service station petrol is specified by law. The FIA ensures that only the fuel permitted in Formula 1 is used. Each team must submit a sample of its petrol before the season. On Grand Prix weekends, the FIA technicians take random samples from the cars, which are then analysed and compared with the submitted fuel sample in a special laboratory on site at the race track. If the samples do not match up, the stewards can issue a penalty. In the worst case, the team in question can be disqualified.

And did you know...

... that a Formula 1 car is more fuel-efficient than a normal passenger car? While a 900bhp racing car uses 0.78 litres of petrol per bhp, a compact-class car with 75bhp uses 0.093 litres.

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