Improving Sustainability In Formula 1

Engine Changes
Energy Recovery Systems
Fuel Consumption
Other Changes


With the 2014 Formula 1 season well under way, it seems appropriate to take a look and see how this form of motor racing it is gearing itself toward a more sustainability future. While motor racing is generally not associated with being green, Formula 1 is argued to be at the pinnacle of the sport and appears to be making significant advances in this area.

Image credit: Thinkstock

Formula 1 attracts large budgets and the latest technologies as teams strive to gain small advantages that can not only result in victories, but larger sponsorship packages. These improvements may only result in fractions of a second quicker per lap, but may also mean the difference between victory and failure.

Formula 1 also serves as the proving ground for technologies that may one day be used in road vehicles. A few examples include carbon fibre reinforced plastics, carbon composite brakes and paddle shift clutchless gearboxes, often referred to as flappy paddle gearboxes.

In 2014, there have been several changes brought about by the governing body that seek to make the sport somewhat more sustainable. These include:

  • Engine changes
  • Energy Recovery Systems
  • Fuel consumption

Engine Changes

The big news is turbos are back. Last year’s 2.4 litre V8 engines have been replaced by smaller 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engines.

The 2013 V8’s were estimated to produce 750bhp of power, with and additional 80bhp available with the KERS (Kinetic Energy recovery System) system. This year the smaller V6’s will produce about 600bhp. They will however benefit from an extra 160bhp from the new ERS (Energy Recovery Systems).

The change to smaller capacity motors is something that numerous vehicle manufacturers are adopting. Smaller capacity motors generally mean, lighter motors resulting in lighter cars which helps in reducing fuel consumption.

Energy Recovery Systems

In 2009 the FIA introduced KERS to Formula 1. At that time it was optional and only Ferrari, BMW, Renault and McLaren installed the system in their cars. While still legal in 2010, all teams had agreed not to use it. KERS made a comeback in 2011 with FOTA (the Formula One teams Association) agreeing to use it for the upcoming season.

The system involves recovering kinetic energy from the moving vehicle during braking and then storing this energy. The energy is then available for use during acceleration at later points in the race.

In 2014, KERS has been replaced by two energy recovery systems, designated MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic) and MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat), plus an Energy Store (ES).

MGU-K operates in a very similar manner to KERS, contributing 120bhp under acceleration from using energy stored in the ES.

MGU-H is connected to the turbocharger and uses heat from the exhaust gases to generate electrical energy. This energy can be used to power the MGU-K (and thus the drivetrain) or stored on the ES for later use.

The MGU-K is limited to recovering 2MJ of energy per lap. The MGU-H on the other hand is unrestricted and can be used to speed up the turbocharger, and as a result eliminate turbo lag, or slow it down acting like a traditional wastegate.

A total of 4MJ of energy can be returned to the MGU-K and then to the drivetrain. This is ten times more energy than the KERS systems used in 2013, making it a much more significant system than its predecessor.

Fuel Consumption

In 2014, cars will be restricted to 100kg of fuel per race with a fuel flow limit of a 100kg per hour. Last year cars had no fuel flow limit but used somewhere in the region of 160kg per race, with maximum flow rates of approximately 170kg per hour.

This means that engines will have to be significantly more economical. It will also bring race tactics into play with fuel consumption being critical, especially at the beginning of the season when cars are still proving themselves.

Other Changes

Several other changes have been implemented by the FIA which include:

  • 8 speed fixed ratio gearboxes. This compares to the 7 speed gearboxes with 30 gear ratios available in 2013.
  • Narrower front wings, down from 1800mm to 1650mm in 2014.
  • A shallower rear wing flap and removal of the beam wing, although the DRS flap can now open 15mm more, to 65mm.
  • Minimum car weight up to 690kg to take into account the increased weight of the new power unit and associated components
  • Reduction in height for both the chassis and nose
  • Single, centrally located exhaust


Where is all this likely to go. In the near future, Formula 1 will likely keep using variations of conventional petrol. However, it is possible at some stage down the track Formula 1 will look to expand its sustainable image further and convert to biodiesel, and follow the lead of Audi’s at Le Mans. When these possible changes takes place will depend largely on when a suitable sponsor can be found compared to the current oil companies. However, the change to turbocharged engines brings biodiesel a step closer.




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