2017 reg changes means scrapping fuel limits

Admittedly I am not a big fan of the race fuel limit in Formula 1 nor could I be accused of being over-the-moon about the fuel-flow restriction or even the hybrid power unit if I’m honest. That’s my issue I have to wrestle to the ground, not your invitation to shame me about it.

I think the technology used in the hybrid is incredible and the pursuit of alternative energy transportation is a noble charter by anyone’s measure. Being good stewards of the resources we have is a great thing. I am very keen to see where the road car industry goes with hydrogen because we are good at making energy on demand but not that great at storing it and I think the alternative road car propulsion system would be more apt to replace internal combustion if it behaved more like petrol and could easily replace the lifestyle of petrol. Been driving for 400 miles and are low on propulsion? Stop and fill up and go another 400 miles.

Much of my consternation with F1’s current model is the cost to produce this outlandishly complicated technology as it is bankrupting teams as well as swinging the pendulum too far in the direction of manufacturers and technology and farther away from racing and drivers. A happy medium is needed. A balance. That’s what the 2017 regulation changes are supposed to be focused on and the FIA and FOM are having a devil of a time getting the manufacturers to get on board such is their massive investment in the current environmentally friendly regulatory message they’re attempting to deliver—which it must be said was an FIA initiative and mandate as well as bait for the hook in order to get more manufacturers in the sport.

We need more fuel

Shell F1 fuel

As we head toward the April meeting to determine the 2017 regulation changes, we know the sport wants wider cars, heavier cars and more mechanical grip as well as wider tires. All of this will have an impact and determine what changes need to be made to this current power unit spec we have. I was reading Mr. Noble’s article on the matter and it does seem to be a real concern for Renault’s Nick Chester as he told Jonathan:

“At the tech regulations meeting, we voted to get rid of the race fuel limit.

“We still have the flow limit, so you have a green message that the cars cannot consume too much, but abolishing the fuel limit will get rid of lift and coast and having to manage fuel, which seems like a good thing for racing.

“If we stay at 100kg and go to the 2017 regulations then there will be a lot of fuel saving, and I think people will start complaining about it.”

Ultimately the limit could be increased but the flow rate would not be. This, presumably, would still mean that the power units use 40% less fuel than the V8’s but they are allowed to work harder for longer. I don’t have any metrics to tell me how much of that 40% more efficient total is due to lift and coast but suffice it to say, allowing teams 10kgs more fuel on board would mean the teams can run harder but would they? Would teams load 10kgs more? They would if they wanted to stay up front.

The big question for Hybrid fans

The big question I have for those of you who are big fans of the current specification and the environmental gains F1 has made is this, would you be frustrated if F1 increased overall fuel load and allowed for more fuel to be burned during races? If you are very motivated by environmental issues such as fossil fuel usage and F1’s new model is really something you have been excited about, then is this a deal breaker for you?

Some folks, who are big fans of this socially responsible form of racing, have told they would stop watching if F1 changed to anything other than a hybrid system. For you folks, would you stop watching if they started burning more fuel?

Technology evolution

On another note, the immediate assumption here is that in order to handle the increased weight of the cars and new 2017 spec, they would need to burn more fuel but is there a way to increase the hybrid’s performance in order to provide that missing shove in the back of the car instead of asking for more petrol? Has the technology evolved to a point where much more can be gained from the current ERS?

Maybe the answer is yes but then the cost to increase this technology would put F1 in even a bigger cost spiral to beef up their hybrid systems even more, no?

You start to see just how difficult these 2017 regulation change discussions can be when you measure all impacted areas of the proposed change.

V8 evolution

If you go back a few years, you’ll hear me prattling on about why I wasn’t convinced of this new power unit hybrid system. I was actually more keen on starving the V8’s through fuel-flow restrictions and forcing engineering to develop the ICE even further for the same power output. I felt that was very road car relevant as most cars are still ICE and the sales of hybrids were in their nascent stage—still are to be honest.

Now, admittedly I am no engineer and perhaps they had reached the end of their development as far as the V8 ICE went but a dear friend of mine, Steve Matchett, who is very much in the know also thought this to be a better idea at the time so I would suggest that they had room to develop.

I recall speaking with the engine folks in Maranello and when we talked about the V8’s they made a simple comment that stuck with me. If you’re really keen to get into F1 when it’s a 4-cylinder format (which the original hybrid spec was going to be), it’s the same tech, just cutting the engine in half. Same number of cylinders. Good engineers can divine the technology and performance benefits from a V6 or V8 just as they can a single cylinder. It’s all relative isn’t it? Sure, adding cylinders adds complexity but still. Again, I don’t make engines for a living so I could be way off base here but Ferrari didn’t seem to think so.

Tweaking the current spec

So what will it be? Can we simply tweak the current spec hybrid? If so, how do we do that and keep costs down and output up and environmentalists happy with the message being delivered? Admittedly, I am less worried about keeping environmentalists happy as I am watching good racing and being entertained but then that’s how I roll. Grand collectivist social causes don’t make me feel alive and part of a solution, I believe men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one—Sting believes that too but I’m taking him purely out of context and that’s his issue, not mine.

You folks are smarter than I am, how do we do it for 2017?

Hat Tip: Mr. Noble at Motorsport

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Tom Firth

As much as I believe we all have great love for Doug’s SCCA rallycross pictures. Are they meant to be in the middle of an article on fuel flow?


Maybe its a subtle hint that a bunch of guys in daily drivers put on better racing than a billion dollar a year racing series?

Tom Firth

Pretty sure the tractor image is demonstrating alternative technologies.

Paul Riseborough

Bio gas?


While in 2014 we saw the on screen graphic highlighting each driver’s fuel use several times per race, in 2015 I didn’t notice this anywhere near as often. The reason being that by last season teams had not only worked out how to get to the end of the race reliably within the 100kg limit, they were now deliberately short fuelling (carrying less than 100kg of fuel at the start of the race). They can only be doing this if the time gained by running light at the start of the race is greater than that lost by fuel saving… Read more »


I agree with you MIE. Hamilton especially was able to shed fuel weight and get further ahead at the start of the race. The extra overall weight of the cars in 2017 might require a little more fuel but if we had those same graphics all the time, I expect we would see the Mercs (or who ever else makes it to the front in qualy) continuing to use less to make that initial gap. Where we might see a difference is for the Honda teams (okay McLaren). The talk is they heavily under-specced their ERS systems. They couldn’t store… Read more »

Paul Riseborough

MIE, you hit the nail on the head – given the increased prevalence of short fuelling, the max fuel load limit is not driving strategy for most races. However a wider car lapping at a higher average speed is going to drive the total energy expended up, so I think the fuel load may have to be increased. In response to NC’s questions, I don’t think increasing fuel load should be a problem for the ‘green image’ of the sport that the manufacturers and FIA are trying to project. The fuel flow rate limit is still the primary means by… Read more »

Robert Rick

Well, you can have great racing on bicycles, so I don’t know if the power units or fuel restrictions are the deeper problems in F1 today.. if there are any… I think the racing is fun to watch and tune in every race weekend. But if cars get heavier and have to push more air they will surely get slower. And if that’s a problem in it self I would recommend maybe getting rid of wings all together and set the bottom of the car free aerodynamically to allow ground effect. Or maybe simply let all winglets be adjustable to… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

As the folks at NASCAR on Fox would say…..it’s time to….”CRRRANK IT UP!!!”

Andreas Möller

As MIE noted, the teams and drivers learned very quickly how to make the 100kg race fuel last the distance, so just upping the total amount of fuel (without also raising the fuel flow rate) might not make as much difference as one might think. If starting underfueled and lifting and coasting calculates to a quicker race time than starting with a higher fuel load, that’s what the teams will do. That said, I wouldn’t mind if the total fuel was raised to, say 110kg. I just wish F1 would make more PR noise about the advances in thermal efficiency… Read more »

Negative Camber

Yeah, I guess Nick felt like keeping the flow rate would send a green message but they would be able to press harder longer. They should have called MIE. :)


I’m no engineer either so forgive me for being an idiot, but isn’t this backwards? Get rid of the flow limit and leave the amount of fuel alone (or make it even less). That will provide plenty of incentive for teams to improve performance AND efficiency and the same time. I’ve never understood the flow limit. I get that limiting performance for safety reasons is necessary, but why do they have to deliberately stymie innovation in the process. Get rid of the flow limit, get rid of the rev limits and just let the engineers figure it out. If you… Read more »


Load ’em up and turn ’em loose. Fuel is a non-issue. Nearly zero.
I just read an article that stated the average NASCAR race uses 6,000 gallons of gasoline over two days.
It also states that the average total usage of gasoline in the U.S. is four hundred million gallons per day.
That means a NASCAR race uses 0.0000075 per cent of the total gasoline used in the U.S. over the same two days.
I seriously doubt that any of us will be alive to see negative effects from that.
Ref.: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/nascar-environment.htm


NC: “not your invitation to shame me about it.”

How about applause? Will that work?


too much restriction is killing F1, we should be allowing more freedom for Engineers, letting them find clever ways to out smart the competition. Let F1 be the sport it was all those years ago, give us all the excitement back, bring back the magic……