All of us have always wondered, what is it that makes an F1 car so different and so fast? There are obviously tons of reasons to it, but right now, we’re gonna talk about just one! The one that is quite astonishingly true – Because of just 1% changes in the fuel composition, an F1 car is able to smash all world records!
It is this 1% that gives one F1 car an edge over other F1 cars. It is this 1% that has been sought for by a plethora of companies and scientists. It is this 1% that decides who will be the next world champion.
Yes. 1% does mark a significant change.
So which 1% are we really talking about here?
F1 car fuels have been synthesized in such a way, that 99% of its composition resembles the fuel used in the ordinary hatchbacks and saloons. But it is that 1%, which is toyed with, by world renowned scientists and professionals, that makes it eligible to be used in an F1 car. Fernando Alonso did a comparison test at Fiorano with a 2009 Ferrari F1 car (a two year old car is allowed to test under FIA rules, but not one more recent) and drove four laps using the race fuel, setting a fastest lap time of 1:03.950. He then did a similar length run on the road car fuel and was 9/10ths of a second slower, the race fuel being notably superior in pick up and acceleration, but the road fuel amazingly was faster in top speed at the end of the straight.
So, what exactly is that 1% composition?
Not much has been revealed till date, about this fuel, in the motorsport history. It’s because such type of information is prone to exploitation by several arch rivals, which can cost billions of dollars and a heap load of titles. Almost all scientists and motorsport companies have sworn to secrecy on that one formula. But, if not the entire 1%, at least 0.3% of that singular figure has come to light.
The Formula 1 fuel regulations are not lenient. They control the formulation by limiting the Hydrocarbons content that go into the final product. An F1 car must race on fuel that is very similar to the fuel at the pump and complies with draconian restrictions: except for one point – the octane rating is not limited. Thus, despite an apparent rigor, there is room for manoeuvre which allows the researchers to make the difference. If the ingredients which make up the F1 fuel are regulated and their proportions controlled, the recipe is almost free.
The question here is, what is Octane rating?
Octane rating or octane number is a standard measure of the performance of an engine or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating (igniting). In broad terms, fuels with a higher octane rating are used in high performance gasoline engines that require higher compression ratios. Basically, it is a measure of the ignition quality of gas (gasoline or petrol). Higher the octane number, the less susceptible is the gas to ‘knocking’ (explosion caused by its premature burning in the combustion chamber) when burnt in a standard (spark-ignition internal combustion) engine.
The F1 fuel comprises of dozens of ingredients, specially formulated for guaranteeing optimized performance. The turbocharged engine is fed by lead-free super petrol with a high octane rating (anti-detonation properties and power gain), improved combustion stability (antiknock), and high energy content.
So, the next time if you ever happen to drive a Formula 1 car and you’re in a mood to challenge Lewis Hamilton’s lap time, consider feeding the engine this high octane specialized fuel.