Formula 1’s ongoing drive to become more environmentally conscious in how it goes racing has seen the sport transform over the last twenty years.
With the new engine formula set to be introduced for the 2026 season, F1 is set to switch to “100% sustainable” fuels. However, that same requirement is also due to be applied to the new power units used in Formula 2 cars from the 2024 edition of the championship, making F2 effectively a testbed before Formula 1 adopts the fuel in 2026.
However, those plans have proved somewhat controversial. The FIA, Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel and F2 team bosses are united in agreement moving the second-tier series to a greener and more sustainable future is the right thing to do. But some of F2’s team managers have expressed their concerns about the series being made to use new and untested fuel technologies to help it be prepared for Formula 1.
Before DAMS were taken over by Charles Pic, the team’s former managing director, Francois Sicard, told RaceFans that he and other F2 bosses at the time were cautious about having to take on new fuel technology in the series.
“We have to go greener in every category, so going biofuels for me is a good idea,” Sicard said. “But we have to be careful not to try to experiment to new expensive technology.”
With the new invitation issues for engine manufacturers to tender for supplying new power units to F2 from 2024, it appears that the championship is set to be used to put sustainable fuel through its paces before it is introduced into Formula 1. But should it be?
With Formula 1 being not just the pinnacle of motorsport but by far the most high-profile and lucrative of the FIA’s world championships, it makes a lot of sense that the sport should not be left to experiment with new and potentially risky technologies, sporting rules and formats if they can be proven elsewhere first. As F2 CEO Bruno Michel told RaceFans, the series is well suited to taking on such a role.
“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,” Michel told RaceFans. “Imposing something in Formula 2 is much easier than it is in Formula 1.”
Michel’s point is proven by the introduction of 18-inch wheels in F1 this season, which Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher both experienced in 2020 before their promotion to Formula 1. Any drivers in F2 who race with the new fuel will also benefit if and when it is adopted into Formula 1 in the future.
Michel also clarified that there should not be a financial burden to teams, as the costs of the development will be covered by Formula 2 themselves.
“I would not go into this debate saying that it is a ‘test’ for Formula 1,” Michel concluded.
“No – it’s something that we want to achieve and that we can achieve probably easily and more rapidly than Formula 1 can do it.”
Carlin team boss Trevor Carlin expressed his concerns with the concept earlier in the year when Formula 1’s technical director Pat Symonds spoke of plans to introduce sustainable fuels in Formula 2 and Formula 3 before F1.
“I really don’t think it would be wise for us to be taking on that because this is a customer championship Formula 2 and our drivers are paying us to drive,” said Carlin. “Those drivers are paying for development and Formula 1 teams have a lot of money, a lot of resources and engine companies. So I think that type of work, they should be doing themselves and we shouldn’t really get involved.”
Reliability remains a concern in Formula 2 following many mechanical failures and technical problems since the 2018 Formula 2 car was introduced. Drivers and their backers who stump up a pretty penny for the privilege to race in F2 will not be happy to see their performances or races ruined by problems caused by experimental technology like fuels. A spec series should allow for results to be driven purely by the performances of drivers, not reliability of their cars.
With the new power units to be introduced in 2024, manufacturers need to know exactly what they will be working with. It’s a risk to ask the new providers to try and accommodate fuels that are not yet battle-tested or will be changed throughout their used in the series.
Using junior formulae to make sure concepts intended for adoption by Formula 1 in the future work as intended seems like a smart idea. However, that attitude never seems to be applied to sporting concepts like DRS or wild new qualifying formats like the awful ‘elimination’ format that was quickly dropped at the start of 2016.
Using sustainable fuels in Formula 2 feels like an inevitability just like it does in Formula 1. Taking advantage of the 22 cars in F2 to help gather data and help develop the technology ready for a seamless transition during the introductions of F1’s new power unit formula in 2026 feels like a natural move. Concerns about reliability and the potential impact on competition are valid, but it could hardly get worse than it did at times when the new car was first introduced in 2018.
Fuel technology is developing rapidly and making impressive strides in sustainability – just look at how Sebastian Vettel was able to run Nigel Mansell’s FW14B using wholly sustainably sourced fuel at Silverstone. Formula 2 will end up using similar fuels in its future as an inevitability, so why not get a head start?
Should Formula 2 test new sustainable fuels before they are introduced to Formula 1 in 2026?
- Strongly agree (43%)
- Slightly agree (22%)
- Strongly disagree (15%)
- Neither agree nor disagree (11%)
- Slightly disagree (4%)
- No opinion (4%)
Total Voters: 46
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