Formula One racecars are some of the fastest cars on the planet. Sure, there are faster cars out there but they’re specially designed types that break land speed records. When these lightweight speed demons are really pouring it on, how many miles are they getting per gallon?
The typical Formula One race car is about 7.1 miles per gallon. That’s a judgment call by professionals, guessing at the mpg because Formula One race teams don’t have to release their miles per gallon statistics. If they don’t release them, no one knows.
Fuel consumption in an F1 racecar is also a byproduct of what the car is designed to do. Teams are always trying to gain an advantage in aerodynamics. The weight of the cars is very light, considering the horsepower, efficiency, and raw power under the hood.
The fuel that goes into F1 racecars is every bit as extravagant as the oil, with a little more regulating power from the officials. The Octane has to be 87 as a minimum. Formula One can go higher than that as much as they want to but no lower.
However, you’re never going to see 87 octanes out there on the racetrack, in any of the Formula One cars. The typical octanes are between 95 and 102. You’ll never see that kind of octane at your local gas station.
Like they can with oil, each team is free to tinker with the formulation that goes into whatever octane they’re using at the moment. You also have to consider the biofuel component as well. The rules dictated by F1 allow for a blend of ethanol, up to 10%.
According to F1’s PR department, F1 racing will shift to 100% sustainable fule no later than 2025. How much that will change the dynamics of the cars out on the track remains to be seen.
The largest level of optimizations per team revolves around the type of racecar and engine their cars are running. Teams are allowed to tweak the fuel formulas according to the racecar they’re working on.
The fuel that goes into F1 cars is pretty regulated, with the exception of a window of leniency within the constraints of specific engines. However, every race team has its own brand of fuel. There may be the same brands of fuel across a few teams but their tweaks are all different.
Each team has its own “power unit,” which isn’t a device so much as a descriptor for the whole of the vehicle. These “power unit” providers are Ferrari, Red Bull Powertrains, Renault, and Mercedes.
These providers both build and deliver engines to the individual teams and some of them also deliver the fuel. The following providers provide fuel for their individual teams and, in some cases, they provide the engine as well:
That’s a lot of different teams getting fuel from a lot of different providers. Each team also tweaks the formula to perfection for their individual cars, under the constraints of the Formula One rules. Of course, even with all that work, 7.1mpg is the best they can get out of it.
A Formula One racecar holds about 26 to 28 gallons in the fuel tank. According to Formula One rules, the cars can hold no more than 105kg. The weight limitation makes sense, with extreme aerodynamics and safety concerns on the track.
Also, according to the rules of Formula One racing, the fuel load has to last the entirety of the race. This is a major reason the different teams spend so much time perfecting the fuel mixtures in their cars.
If you were to look underneath a Formula One car, you would be surprised at the size of the tank. It's not as big as you would think. That’s because there are large pipes and tubes running through the bottom of the vehicle that carries those fuel loads.
In 2010, refueling in the middle of a race was banned. The Formula One race cars have to have enough fuel to make it through an entire race, which should be no more than around 190 miles. The calculations on fuel consumption and longevity are intense and critical to the success of the driver and their car.
The fact that an F1 race car has a range of about 190 miles, means those fuel calculations better be extremely accurate because they will be running on fumes when they cross the finish line.
As hard as they try to get the fuel consumption level absolutely perfect, it doesn’t always work out that way. Fortunately, there is a level of control the driver has over this very thing. If they look up, ¾ of the way through the race, and they are consuming too much fuel for the remainder of the race, they can change the engine operation.
Once they flip the switch, the engine is basically tuned down so it does not consume so much fuel, allowing them to finish the race. Of course, impeccable timing is necessary because drivers don’t need their car in fuel preservation mode in the thick of the race.
There are a number of complex controls, mixtures, and calculations that go into a Formula One race car’s fuel consumption. Fortunately, F1 engineers are up to the task.
Formula One racecars get about 7.1mpg on their cars. Their fuel efficiency has to be so precise that the car can travel 190 miles without running out of fuel. That’s despite the fact that the cars can really only go 190 miles. Its an engineering marvel that F1 cars rarely ever run out of fuel before the finish line.