Why the new fuel limit is one of 2014’s toughest rules

F1 technology

Renault energy F1, 2014 F1 engineAs well as getting to grips with the new engine specification for 2014 teams also have to master demanding restrictions on fuel use.

The 2014 F1 rules limit each driver to just 100kg of fuel per race. This is one of the major challenges of the new rules, forcing teams to use up to 60% less fuel per race without sacrificing performance.

How much fuel a car uses in a race is affected by driving style, car set-up, track conditions and circuit configuration. The chart below, based on figures for fuel consumption per lap issued by Williams last year, gives some insight into the latter.

The data is based on the rate of fuel use with the previous V8 engines, which serves to indicate how far the teams have to reduce their fuel use this year:

How often and how far the drivers will have to lap within the capabilities of themselves and their cars to ensure they reach the chequered flag is one of the critical questions of the year to come. “We don?t like Formula One to be a sport where you are cruising for 50% of the laps,” warned Ferrari?s head of engines Luca Marmorini last year.

Limiting the rate of fuel use

Gill Sensors Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meter, 2014For the first time, the rate of fuel use will also be capped. Teams will not be allowed to exceed a fuel intake of 100kg/hour.

This will be monitored by a fuel flow meter such as the one pictured, which is produced by Gill Sensors and homologated by the FIA for use in Formula One and the World Endurance championship. This uses ultrasonic wave pulses to measure how quickly fuel is flowing – the faster the flow, the more quickly the signal is received.

To give an indication of how severe the fuel flow limit it, the table below gives a guide to the average rate of fuel use at races last year. Based on the data above, this graph compares the typical fuel loads for each race with last year’s winners’ finishing times to show the average rate of fuel use.

Keeping in mind that the fuel rate limit being imposed this year is on peak use, not average consumption, it’s clear to see from the data below how severe a reduction we are talking about. The average rate of fuel use suggested below for some races exceeds the peak limit drivers will be allowed to hit in the coming season.

NB. The races at Monte-Carlo, Silverstone, Singapore and COTA were all disrupted by Safety Cars and therefore these figures for rates of fuel consumption will be lower than for an uninterrupted race.

Clearly fuel efficiency will be a major goal in the coming season. Generating too much drag will be a greater disadvantage, potentially obliging teams to reduce their wing angles, and drivers who can save fuel early in the race and push harder at the end will be rewarded.

How will this affect the racing? Will drivers now find it advantageous to sit the in the slipstream of their rivals when they can to save fuel? We can certainly expect to hear a lot more team radio chatter about fuel strategy this year.

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92 comments on Why the new fuel limit is one of 2014’s toughest rules

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  1. I’m surprised that Catalunya uses the most fuel.. A lot more than any other track

    • Roald (@roald) said on 15th January 2014, 12:53

      Pretty logical considering it consists of a lot of sweeping corners, with the insane levels of downforce the cars had compared to the low amount of engine power, drivers were holding down the throttle pedal in quite a few of them, albeit not always all the way down.

      • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 15th January 2014, 13:35

        You use more fuel accelerating than maintaining speed. So stop-go tracks tend to eat the most fuel. Its the same for road cars.

        • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 15th January 2014, 13:45

          Which is why I was very surprised to see Montreal was the track which required the least amount of fuel load.

          Considering it’s about as stop-start as it gets.

          • michaeldobson13 (@michaeldobson13) said on 15th January 2014, 14:14

            Because of the long straights at Montreal (and similarly Monza), cars spend less time accelerating and more time ‘cruising’ at or near their top speed, thus using less fuel. Tracks like Catalunya don’t allow cars to get to a ‘cruising’ speed, so their almost always accelerating. Plus Catalunya is high drag, and the added testing there mean surely the teams have a good set-up for good speed there all the time, allowing them to add extra fuel and run richer fuel loads more of the time.

          • sato113 (@sato113) said on 15th January 2014, 14:26

            canada is not stop start at all! the only heavy braking to a stand still then accelerating away again is at the hairpin. no where else

          • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 15th January 2014, 15:09

            @michaeldobson13 They are almost always accelerating, or breaking which will make a huge difference for this year as more accelerating will mean more fuel needed but more breaking will lower that as energy will be recovered and be available (if ERS works as planned), thus I expect the figure to be flattened by the new rules.

            For the rate of fuel, I wonder if some team will try to exploit it by flowing fuel when not needed then storing it somehow and using it later when they need it ? Do the rules allow it ? Or is it well measured at engine intake ?

          • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 15th January 2014, 16:22

            @sato113 It’s no secret Canada is the most demanding track for brakes, it always has been, it’s just that we don’t see that many retirements now (except the two HRTs in 2012). And the reason is that it does have several “heavy” braking events.
            Singapore is also demanding, but in this case is the lack of straights that doesn’t allow them to cool down.

    • Breno (@austus) said on 15th January 2014, 20:33

      So the flow rate is ok? Only Monza was higher than 100 kg/hour, and this year the cars should be more fuel efficient, correct?

      • Phil Haddad said on 15th January 2014, 21:04

        That chart shows the AVERAGE, not the PEAK. The peak is limited to 100kg/hr, some of the races had an AVERAGE over over that….

  2. Roald (@roald) said on 15th January 2014, 12:51

    Should be fine. FIA’s going to have to draw a line somewhere and the truth is, if they allowed 150kg of fuel the teams would still try to use every last bit of it and run into trouble every now and then. I’d rather have this than tyres that do not even allow being raced on because they’ll fall apart in the process. Engines will get more powerfull just by making them more fuel-efficient instead of getting them to rev higher and I’m fine with that. It’s the 21st century now and fuel is finite.

    • Mortimer (@brookem) said on 15th January 2014, 16:29

      So tell me, what is the difference between cars having to drive round at 80% to stop the tyres falling apart and cars driving round at 80% to stop them running out of fuel or exceeding the alloted fule restrictions? Your statement makes no sense at all! In coming from an era where there are no restrictions to one where they have been severely implemented means a massive difference in how teams will cope and how the races pan out.

      If anything this should have been a restriction implemented with a reduction graduated over 3 years. Teams could at least guage initially how to deal with a whole new set of circumstances while coming to grips with the racing implications gradually.

      Fuel saving stints are GOING to happen and I even expect to see some positions illiminated from the results for exceeding the 100kg allotment to get to the finish line. Either that or we will see some laps being done at safety car pace towards the end of the race.

      • Mads (@mads) said on 15th January 2014, 17:59

        Fuel saving doesn’t have as large an impact on the actual driving though.
        Fuel saving is largely done with engine maps, rather then driver input, and while that will mean less power, it will also encourage them to maintain speed through the corners, to not waste fuel getting back up to speed.
        Fuel saving makes the cars slower, it doesn’t mean the drivers won’t be pushing the limits.

        • Mortimer (@brookem) said on 15th January 2014, 18:09

          that makes even less sense than @roalds post, particularly your last sentence.

          • Mads (@mads) said on 15th January 2014, 20:41

            I dont see why it is so hard to understand.
            The fuel flow limit is, in a way, the same as a rev limiter. In that it partly dictates the maximum engine output.
            The driver will not actively do anything to drive slower to save fuel.
            It just limits the power he gets on full throttle.
            Unlike the tyres where the driver deliberately drove slower then he could, to reduce heat build-up and therefore tyre wear.

          • BarnstableD (@barnstabled) said on 15th January 2014, 21:43

            Mads is right. They’ll control fuel by changing maps. The driver won’t stay on a fuel-rich map and drive slower; he’ll drive as fast as he can but be slowed by the reduced power from the car.

            Put it this way: to save fuel, the cars will be running less quickly than the cars can manage. With tyres, the drivers were driving less quickly than the drivers could manage.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 16th January 2014, 3:55

            It makes perfect sense to people with decent comprehension.

          • ronsky said on 16th January 2014, 19:29

            But in overall, if cars will go less quickly than they could manage (let’s say at 80%) why do you think the drivers will still have to push 100%?

          • Kimi4WDC said on 17th January 2014, 5:53

            Because it doesn’t – unless you drive PRIUS :) It’s going to be same as tyres.

            Again, for your everyday driver, yes, hardly noticeable. For F1 drivers, bored to death.

            It’s just another delta time exercises, hence not the maximum due to restriction. And due to restriction yes, they wont be going any faster, but that logic is for people drag racing in PRIUSes :)

      • bertie (@bertie) said on 15th January 2014, 19:26

        Fuel saving only affects acceleration. Tyre saving affects everything from cornering to braking.

      • gDog (@gdog) said on 16th January 2014, 4:51

        The other benefit is relevancy.

        Improving fuel efficiency is relevant to the car manufacturers.

        Disintegrating tyres is relevant to no-one..

  3. Watch your tyres !
    Watch your fuel !
    Watch your ERS !
    Watch your incident under investigation (you know, when you dangerously crossed the white line by 1 mm) !
    Watch your DRS !

    And try to drive. Forget about pushing to the limit.

  4. So will the next loophole to be exploited be around the makeup of the fuel the teams run?

    • Robbie said on 15th January 2014, 13:30

      I think the fuel makeup is pretty regimented if I’m not mistaken, but while I get that if a team figured out something in this area they’d have an advantage, at least to me that would make for some fascinating crossover into domestic cars and fuel savings in them globally. Much more relevant than, for example, exhaust blown diffuser trickery for more downforce.

    • Perhaps there is a way to get more energy into the fuel without making it heavier, thus making each kg last longer. I don’t know if this would be possible and still remain inside the regulations. That would be something in the league of the double diffuser of 2009.

    • Steven (@steevkay) said on 15th January 2014, 21:47

      I think this is heavily regulated, which is why teams need to be able to provide fuel samples when asked by the FIA/stewards/whoever. My understanding is that fuel mixtures in the past (I think 80s/90s when engines became ridiculously powerful) were becoming too exotic, so as a result it’s something that has become regulated, much like the rest of the formula.

      As with anything else in F1, I suppose it’s possible to find some kind of additive that’s difficult to detect. Who knows? Maybe there will be an Adrian Newey equivalent for fuel research.

  5. Robbie said on 15th January 2014, 13:22

    I’m concerned and encouraged at the same time. Concerned that delta time tire conservation will simply be replaced with delta time fuel conservation, but encouraged that one strategy for them is to reduce downforce to save fuel. I think we’ll just have to wait and see and obviously some tracks are very different than others.

    I think most people would agree with Luca Marmorini that we don’t want in F1 for them to be cruising for half the laps. So I hope that if that starts to reveal itself as the reality especially at venues where they thought that wouldn’t be the case, and in fact it becomes an issue of too much delta time running and therefore fans running from F1, they have the sense to tweak things a bit. For now I’ll trust that the 100kg limit should not create a dire issue, or they wouldn’t have done it. Theoretically. But nobody knew how bad last year’s Pirelli’s were until they raced in anger.

    • hobo (@hobo) said on 15th January 2014, 14:40

      I think we all hope that they will back off of rules if they become a problem. But the likelihood of that happening is worrisome.

      Further though, I’m worried that there won’t be a good response. If fuel consumption becomes a problem, they could allow more than 100kg of fuel, but how many teams are designing cars with tanks that have much spare capacity? I wouldn’t imagine that they would design it in, given the rules. How many teams have room under the bodywork for bigger tanks? How much redesign would be needed?

      I think that has been a big problem with the FIA making rafts of rule changes. If they were going to institute max fuel load and max fuel rate, they should have done one or the other this year to help understand how to set the other for 2015. For example, they could have limited fuel rate in 2014 and see how that affected total fuel consumption per race. What if cars capped at a fuel of 100kg/hr were using 120kg of fuel per race, they could set that as the max load in 2015 rather than just setting them arbitrarily; which is how most rules seem to be set in F1.

      • JimG (@jimg) said on 15th January 2014, 15:07

        I don’t know all the details but I’m assuming that the teams were involved in setting the new rules, and therefore that they think they are achievable. The cars might be slower to start with but I hope that there is no knee-jerk reaction to allow more fuel. Instead I hope that the engine manufacturers have a chance to do some engine development and more speed comes that way.

        I think that F1 designers and engineers work best when they have big challenges, and I certainly expect to find this more interesting than finding some new aerodynamic trick.

      • Mortimer (@brookem) said on 15th January 2014, 16:40

        Totally concur.

      • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 15th January 2014, 18:31

        @hobo Fuel rate and total fuel are correlated as a maximum full rate of 100kg/hr will probably give you an average around 60 kg/hr, use that for one hour and a half and you reach the 100 kg of fuel over a race distance. This is largely approximate but that gives the figure … So shouldn’t be a problem (if both of them are well estimated)

        Concerning the modification of the rule, I don’t think we will see any of this for the following reason : that is not safety related thus FIA can’t force the modification. And there will always be teams or engine better than others so those will never agree to a modification of the rule. As we have already see with the weight modification and Mercedes opposed to it because they (probably) think they have an advantage in that area …

  6. audifan said on 15th January 2014, 13:48

    strange that the fuel meter can measure up to 8 litres/min
    so with a tank capacity of 135 litres it could cope with races of 17 minutes !

  7. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 15th January 2014, 13:48

    The fuel flow rate restriction confuses me.

    • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 15th January 2014, 14:27

      I find it very confusing that they define the flow restriction as 100 kg per hour, meaning that the viewers will confuse it with the 100 kg maximum total consumption.

      They should say that the maximum flow rate is 27.8 gram per second, and people would not find it as confusing.


      • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 15th January 2014, 18:34

        Good point, as most viewers aren’t familiar with flow rates anyway that doesn’t change anything to have it in a different system and that would clear the 100 kg – 100 kg/hr confusion

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 15th January 2014, 14:28

      I don’t see why… It’s as plain as day; 100kg per hour is the max flow. According to this article, there’s only three or four races where the AVERAGE flow is above 100kg per hour in the previous V8s, which is obviously above the MAX flow rate.

      • hobo (@hobo) said on 15th January 2014, 14:46

        @beejis60 – Can’t tell if you’re being facetious or not, but I find that a huge problem. If the average fuel rate is anywhere near 100kg/h (6 races were above 90kg/h, 12 above 80kg/h), then one can assume a considerable amount of the race was spent burning fuel at a rate well above 100kg/h to get the average that high.

        • BJ (@beejis60) said on 15th January 2014, 14:56

          @hobo Topher said he was confused by the reg. Looking back, I think I read it as he’s confused by what the fuel flow was, not confused as to why this regulation is a regulation at all. Sorry, it’s early morning here in the US and I had not ate or had my coffee yet.
          But yes, I agree with you that it is a huge problem, however the natural reduction in consumption by a smaller displacement engine should help a little, I would assume.

          • hobo (@hobo) said on 15th January 2014, 15:07

            @beejis60 – I’m in the states as well and almost gave you that same caveat (early). I wasn’t sure if my response was appropriate, given your comment, but sent it anyway.

            The smaller displacement should help, but by how much isn’t clear. They probably should have instituted these rules after a year of 6cyl engines, or not at all.

    • Jimbo (@jimbo) said on 15th January 2014, 15:25

      Think of it like the RPM limit. You weren’t allowed to go over 18,000rpm (revolutions per minute) even for a second. The same with the fuel flow rate limit; you are not allowed to consume fuel at a rate greater than 100kg/hour for even a second.

    • Kiran Sripathy (@kiransripathy) said on 16th January 2014, 3:42

      Consider this analogy. Lets say you need to travel 100 km to reach your destination. But you can travel at either 100 kph or 200 kph to reach your destination. Similarly fuel load can be compared to distance and speed can be compared to fuel flow rate. I guess in UK max speed limit is 75 mph. Similarly FIA enforces a max or peak fuel flow limit of 100kg/hr.

  8. Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 15th January 2014, 14:42

    It’s probably worth highlighting that the V8 usage isn’t entirely comparable, because the new engines automatically consume ~25% less fuel because they have 2 fewer cylinders.

    Yes, it’s not an exact scientific way of looking at it, but wouldn’t a good starting point be to reduce the expected fuel consumption accordingly?

  9. Beto (@chebeto) said on 15th January 2014, 14:46

    I can’t understand why 100kg. 100 is totally arbitrary and I think they chose it because it is a nice round number. Why can’t it be 115 or 120kg or different values set to each track?
    The people running this show are gonna bring F1 to the ground.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 15th January 2014, 15:36

      They had a fixed target of 35% savings in the engine spec when the V6 was discussed. Which brought it down to 96 kg – then they rounded it up to 100kg. That’s what I understood.

  10. They could have started with 110-120 KG’s so as not to make any one engine supplier too weak for an year or too, let the engines develop and then make it 100…But the ERS and reduction in number of cylinder will help up a bit.

  11. W (@yesyesyesandyesagain) said on 15th January 2014, 15:50

    One easy way to save fuel is less drag, which means less downforce, which leads to slippery cars that are more exciting to watch being driven. It will be interesting to watch which teams opt for less wing, allowing them to drive flat out longer, and which teams focus on running more wing but have to slow down to save fuel. It is just one more variable to manage and more cars running a wider variety of setups leads to more exciting racing.

    • Steven (@steevkay) said on 15th January 2014, 21:50

      This is what I’m hoping for, as Keith said in the article:

      “Clearly fuel efficiency will be a major goal in the coming season. Generating too much drag will be a greater disadvantage, potentially obliging teams to reduce their wing angles…”

      I await the day where cars can overtake each other again on full opposite-lock. =)

  12. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 15th January 2014, 16:13

    hehe imagine if the fuel flow meters starts to fail, I remember reading that only a couple of days ago it was homologated by the FIA as they had problems to make it accurate enough, we saw that happening last year when the telemetry (I think) failed which meant that the drivers had free use of DRS in the first races.
    Teams may run at higher flow rates if they discover these meters aren’t reliable enough.

  13. frogster said on 15th January 2014, 16:20

    They should’ve just gone for the 100kg limit and not bothered with flow rate limits. Let the teams use their fuel allocation as they like. They could have then scrapped the stupid DRS and let the cars fight it out using extra fuel for a boost. It would also allow a driver to defend his position. It would also add another strategic element to racing.

    I feel they have really missed a trick with this one.

  14. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 15th January 2014, 16:41

    I find all this quite ridiculous ,why are the FIA trying to save 50 litres of fuel per car for a f1 grand prix .They have produced a new engine spec to be more green and then forced the drivers to drive as if they were on an economy run by restricting the drivers race pace . If they want to be really green they could cancel the whole pantomime, I’m of to spectate on the Monte. see some proper motor sport.

  15. How I see it is that since the maximum revs are decreasing and the capacity of the engines is decreasing by a third, the fuel saving should be quite marked. There are obviously more variables, but 100kg shouldn’t be too difficult a target to meet I wouldn’t imagine at a lot of the tracks – ones like Suzuka and Catalunya (as highlighted on the charts) are the issues.

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