Winning Formula One Ferrari Ran on Cellulosic Ethanol

The American Le Mans Series isn’t the only racing outfit getting into green fuels.

This past weekend was the season opener for the Formula One World Championship. This is the peak, the very pinnacle of automotive performance, with teams spending hundreds of millions of dollars every season trying to one up each other with a technological advantage. Drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso  took Ferrari to victory at the season opener of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ferrari’s fuel sponsor Shell incorporated ethanol into its race fuel for the first time.

Normally, Formula One fuels are tightly regulated and feature a specific blend or mix of gasoline designed for different temperatures and climates. The Federation Internationale de  ‘l Automobile (or FIA for short) is very serious about fuel, and has stripped people of their rank for running the wrong blend. 2010 is the first season that mandates every fuel formula contain a small percentage of oxygenated fuel. While the ALMS has cars like the Corvette C6.R running blends like E85, Formula One requires just a little bit of alt-fuel to meet regulations. Still, a small change is better than none at all.

The biofuel was developed by Shell turning straw into ethanol. The FIA requires a “fingerprint” sample prior to every race, and can then request a sample from the fuel reserves at any time afterwards to compare. While Formula One may be behind the times when it comes to alt-fuels, the sport has been playing around with kinetic-energy recovery systems for hybrid race cars. No doubt this is but a drop of the bucket, as these 900+ horsepower racers typically get about 4 mpg and in a single race will consume anywhere from 20 to 70 gallons of fuel. And refueling is prohibited this season, meaning the racers have to carry all that fuel with them.

This is another small step towards the sport fully embracing alternative fuels within the next few years. Ferrari is a major player at Formula One, and they are working hard on a hybrid sports car for market… will Formula One move that way soon too? I’m willing to bet so.

Check out the full press release on the next page.

Source: Shell | Image: Ferrari

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.