F1 will use sustainable fuels in its F2 and F3 series this year
The 2023 Formula 1 season springs into life this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first race of the year. Three days of preseason testing held last week suggest that Red Bull Racing still has the car to beat, although there is the tantalizing prospect of Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin having possibly found a lot of speed in the offseason.
But today's interesting news comes from the lower formulae, F2 and F3, where young drivers cut their teeth. Today, those series announced they are moving to sustainable fuels starting this season.
As we've previously detailed, F1 is moving to carbon-neutral gasoline in 2026, but as single-make formulae with a single fuel supplier (in this case, Aramco), it's possible for F2 and F3 to try something even bolder.
"We've decided to promote something a little bit more extreme," explained Didier Perrin, technical director for F2 and F3. "It's a bit easier for us because we are a single-make championship; we can impose the type of fuel that we want to all the teams. So we've decided to target in 2027 to go not only sustainable, but sustainable with carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere," Perrin said.
For this year, F2 and F3 will race using a blend with 55 percent sustainable gasoline, meaning the hydrogen has been generated by wind- or solar-powered electrolysis of hydrogen, with carbon from non-food plants or waste. For context, this year, there are 14 F2 races and 10 F3 races, and between them, they will use about 80,000 gallons (300,000 L) of fuel.
But from 2025, the two series will move to a blend containing 55 percent gasoline made from direct carbon capture from the air. And by 2027, both series will race entirely on 100 percent sustainable carbon-captured gasoline.
Direct carbon capture from the air is technically possible, but the gas makes up just 0.04 percent of the air we breathe, and so it's currently an expensive process--between $400-$800 per ton of carbon, according to Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Aramco's CTO, which would translate to between $200-$300 per barrel of oil.
"But the costs are coming down dramatically, and what we saw in wind and solar is, once it's deployed, technology has a learning curve, and we expect those costs to come down to much more reasonable and practical costs," Al-Khowaiter said. Aramco currently has two synthetic fuel pilot plants under construction: one in Spain in conjunction with Repsol that's focused on aviation fuels; and another in Saudi Arabia that will be the main source of F2 and F3's gasoline.