Formula 1 Fuel: What Fuel Do F1 Cars Use?

Formula 1 Fuel: Lewis Hamilton analysing PETRONAS Syntium with CoolTech

Formula 1 fuel: Since 1996 the fuel Formula 1 cars use has been heavily regulated by the FIA, when a rule was brought in that fuel had to be Euro 95 standard, which means it has to be essentially the same compounds as what you would put into your road car at a petrol station.

Except this is F1, so it’s never that simple…

While F1 fuel is not allowed to contain any compounds not found in petrol put into road cars at the local service station, the fuels used do have a different mix.

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, Thursday (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)
2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, Thursday (image courtesy Mercedes-AMG Petronas)

Formula 1 Fuel

Although commercial fuel and F1 fuel are blended using the same chemicals, the final product made for each Formula 1 team is highly optimised for peak performance by each manufacturer. What this means is the fuel made by Shell is optimised for Ferrari, and wouldn’t perform at the same level if it is used by the Mercedes team.

F1 has stayed ahead of the curve regarding fuel, and has seen many of the breakthroughs in fuel technology adopted in a commercial setting. For example, current F1 regulations state that fuel must include 5.75% bio-components. Two years after this rule was brought in by the FIA, this was also made a law for commercial fuels in Europe.

Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Pierre Gasly of France and Red Bull Racing pose for a photo with heritage Esso and Mobil cans to commemorate the 1000th Formula One race during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 11, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (image courtesy Red Bull Racing)
Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Pierre Gasly of France and Red Bull Racing pose for a photo with heritage Esso and Mobil cans to commemorate the 1000th Formula One race during previews ahead of the Chinese GP at Shanghai International Circuit on April 11, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (image courtesy Red Bull Racing)

When the FIA bring in the new Formula 1 regulations for the 2022 season (after being delayed due to the impact of Covid-19) the sports governing body is aiming to push the bio-component ratio to 10%, with the ultimate aim being 100% sustainable fuel in the not too distant future.

What octane fuel do F1 cars use?

The fuel used in an F1 car is a minimum of 87 octane, keeping in line with the requirement that the petrol used must be similar to what you would put in a road car at the pump. Often there is a misconception that the fuel in an F1 car is a high octane concoction that is completely different to that used in a road car, however, this is not the case.

The complete characteristics of F1 fuel can be found in the below table.

PropertyUnitsMinMax Test Method
(RON+MON)/2 87.0ASTM D 2699/D 2700
Oxygenwt% 3.7Elemental Analysis 
Nitrogenmg/kg500ASTM D 5762
Benzenewt% 1.0GC-MS
DVPEkPa4560(1)EN13016-1
Leadmg/l5.0ASTM D 3237 or ICP-OES
Manganesemg/l2.0ASTM D 3831 or ICP-OES
Metals (excluding alkali metals) mg/l5.0ICP-OES
Oxidation Stabilityminutes360ASTM D 525
Sulphurmg/kg10EN ISO 20846
Electrical conductivitypS/m200ASTM D 2624
Final Boiling PointoC210ISO 3405
Distillation Residue%v/v2.0ISO 3405

How much fuel do Formula 1 cars use?

Rather than being calculated in litres or gallons, how much fuel an F1 car uses is calculated in weight. As of 2019, the regulations stated that a car could use up to 110kg (242 pounds) of fuel per race.

This was increased from the 105kg (231 pounds) allowed in 2018, as F1 bosses wanted drivers to be able to push their cars to the limit lap after lap, without having to worry about conserving fuel. This has now made for more high octane races in the closing stages, as drivers know they have enough fuel on board to finish the race.

Another change that was introduced for 2020 is cars are now only allowed to have 250ml of fuel outside of the fuel cell (the Formula 1 fuel tank is actually one single piece of rubber, referred to as a bladder) which is down from two litres in 2019.

This is to stop teams trying to gain an advantage by keeping large amounts of fuel outside of the fuel tank.

Do F1 cars refuel?

No. Refuelling during a race was banned for the 2010 season and beyond due to budget and safety reasons.

Teams first approached the FIA and F1 boss Max Mosley to ban refuelling on the grounds of reducing costs, as there was a great deal of expense in transporting fuel rigs from track to track across the world.

This was first rejected as refuelling was seen as an exciting part of race day, as teams who didn’t have the power or performance to match the strongest teams could use a lighter fuel load in qualifying to take pole position and steal a march on their rivals. The downside being they would need to pit earlier, thus losing their advantage.

However, common sense prevailed, and for the sake of safety for both drivers and pit crew, refuelling was banned by the FIA to ensure there were no further incidents such as the 2009 Brazilian GP where Heikki Kovalainen drove off with the fuel rig still attached, which created a fire that engulfed Kimi Raikkonen.

How do F1 cars not run out of fuel?

To ensure an F1 car doesn’t run out of fuel during a race, team engineers start making calculations on how much fuel is used per lap throughout winter testing, then refine their calculations race by race based on modifications made to the car, and the conditions at each race to get their team to the finish line.

Throughout the free practice sessions of a race weekend, different race pace will be used to simulate certain periods of the pre-planned race strategy, to allow the engineers to adjust their calculations accordingly.

The car is then fuelled for the race based on these calculations, with the aim to have enough fuel to make it to the end of the race with the least amount of extra weight being carried.

Can you use normal fuel in a Formula 1 car?

The FIA regulations state that the fuels used in a Formula 1 car must be similar to what can be purchased at the pump for a road car. However, F1 being the innovative sport that it is, means there will always be development done to push the limits of engine power while staying within the boundaries of the law.

Interestingly, Shell and Ferrari performed an experiment in 2011 where they put the petrol you could buy at a Shell petrol station into their 2009 F1 car in a special test at Fiorano.

Fernando Alonso was the driver, and he first did four laps using the race fuel, followed by four laps of the commercially available fuels.

Using the race fuel, he set a time of 1:03.950. When switching to the commercial fuel, he was just 9 tenths slower. The race fuel helped acceleration, but the commercial fuel gave a higher top speed at the end of the straight!

In what may have been a canned comment to use in advertising, Alonso said ‘99% of the chemistry in Shell V-Power race fuel is identical to the chemistry used in the road fuel that can be bought at Shell forecourts. The Shell V-Power road fuel felt just as quick as the Formula One fuel. It’s a nice surprise.’

What fuel do f1 cars use? Fernando Alonso ran an interesting test in 2011 while with Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso (image courtesy Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

So what fuel do F1 cars use? As it turns out, it’s remarkably close to what you put in your car at the bowser!

Only F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, and f1 fuel is the pinnacle of petrol 😉

Leave a Comment

Recommended For You

How Are F1 Cars Shipped Between Countries?

Formula One (F1) is one of the worlds most popular ...

Formula 1 vs IndyCar – Which Is Faster?

Formula 1 vs IndyCar - Which is faster? Both racing ...
How Does A Formula 1 Car Work?

How Does A Formula 1 Car Work?

With so much speed and power, how does a Formula ...
How Do Teams Develop An F1 Car?

How Do Teams Develop An F1 Car?

How do teams develop an F1 car? As with most ...
What Are F1 Sprint Qualifying Races?

What Are F1 Sprint Qualifying Races?

Just what are F1 sprint qualifying races? The British Grand ...

More in News

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 24: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates with Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 24, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202110250013 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen Wins Engrossing USA GP

In a race that lacked some of the on-track drama ...
2021 United States Grand Prix, Sunday - Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton Loses Ground In Championship Battle

Scorching temperatures, sunny skies and packed grandstands at COTA created ...
2021 United States Grand Prix Sunday - Kimi Räikkönen

Kimi Räikkönen Throws Away A Point In Austin

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN went so close to a deserved ...
Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A521. United States Grand Prix, Sunday 24th October 2021. Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA.

Alpine Leaves Austin Empty Handed After Late Misfortune

Alpine F1 Team depart from Austin without a point after ...
2021 United States Grand Prix Tyre Performance Analysis

2021 United States Grand Prix Tyre Performance Analysis

2021 United States Grand Prix Tyre Performance Analysis: Red Bull's ...

Trending on F1 Chronicle