A solution to solve ‘lift and coast’ fuel saving in F1

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The powers that be decided last year, the fans were hearing too much car to pit wall radio chatter that revealed the drivers were being consistently coached by the team.

The number of radio transmissions broadcast on the world feed was cut and certain instructions to the drivers banned.

Yet the radio messages during the Canadian GP this year, continued to portray the sport in a bad light. Lewis Hamilton was told to lift and coast to save fuel on more than one occasion.

The first instruction was to ‘lift and coast 50 metres early’ of the normative braking point. The second time Lewis was told this should now be increased to 100 metres.

Christian Horner commented, “If you are a fan sitting at home watching that, you want to see the guys going flat out racing each other.

“It is something we need to take on board and react to.”

Red Bull and Horner have persistently complained about fuel flow regulations and the reduced fuel allowance since the introduction of the new F1 V6 Turbo hybrid engines.

“I think it [Formula One] should be a sprint race,” adds Horner, “and lift and coast doesn’t belong in a sprint race. That is not the message that F1 should be putting across.”

The F1 strategy group is currently brainstorming big new ideas to make F1 more attractive to the fans and the GPDA recently launched a survey to canvas the fans for their ideas.

This survey is believed to be the largest ever conducted of sport’s fans with some 200,000 respondents so far from over 190 countries.

However, the competing ideas from the survey of how to ‘fix Formula One’” may in fact cause even greater confusion, because understanding what the fans say should happen and delivering this will be no easy task.

A survey in 2009 was conducted, and the fans said they wanted more overtaking in races. The result? DRS, which is not universally loved. The real solution would be to reduce the aerodynamic wash of ‘dirty air’ the cars create on those behind.

Even ‘the professionals’ recommendations need closer scrutiny. Christian Horner believes there are solutions to the ‘lift and coast’ fuel saving issue. “Shorten the race by five laps or whatever it is. Either a bit more fuel or a bit less distance. It needs to be a flat out sprint race from start to finish.”

Yet these solutions are rather disingenuous, because it doesn’t solve the age old problem of teams ‘short fuelling’ their cars, something Colin Chapman was infamous for doing.

The 2015 race in Montreal saw most teams ‘short fuel’ their cars in anticipation of 84% probability of a safety car. Despite fuel saving, Lewis Hamilton finished the race with 2 kilograms of fuel to spare.

The simple solution to reducing fuel saving during F1 races would be to make each car start with 100 kilograms of fuel. Yet to date, this suggestion has not been forthcoming from anyone in Formula One.

23 responses to “A solution to solve ‘lift and coast’ fuel saving in F1

  1. “The simple solution to reducing fuel saving during F1 races would be to make each car start the race with 100 kilograms of fuel. Yet to date, this suggestion has not forthcoming from anyone in Formula One.”

    Because it’s simple, elegant, costs wouldn’t increase and it would work well; everything any true F1 solution isn’t.

    • Absolutely because the F1 way is to create something that can be interpreted 20 different ways…..

    • Well, as Somers had to say about that it would just cause teams to use a rich fuel burn map on recce laps to try and ditch extra fuel weight. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try it, but don’t be surprised when it turns out differently than we’d hope.

      • That could be mitigated by suggesting that 100kg+ allocation be used for the race. Calibration is done from the green light to the chequered flag, with anyone under 100kg immediately placed under investigation. That way the drivers can’t fuel dump during the recce and formation laps..

        The maximum fuel flow rate should prohibit a rich fuel burn throughout the race that encourages a fuel dump with the additional fuel available for average consumption and/or battle strategy. Of course there will always be fuel saving, it’s just the level to which it is being conducted that seems to bother people.

        Let’s not beat around the bush the ACTUAL problem is weight, see here: http://somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/lift-coast-whats-big-brouhaha.html

        As I also suggested in that post, perhaps a WEC style energy matrix should be drafted that would encourage both performance and efficiency so teams can trade them off strategically throughout a race. I know this would BLOW the broadcasters minds but it is relatively simple to understand, providing you understand the fundamentals of how the powerunits work (which most the broadcasters still don’t, I’m available for lessons… 😉 )

        • Considering the engine situation we now have (effectively two-tier), could they not ditch the fuel flow rate? So with the 100kg, if you have fuel left, you could up the wick and push to the flag? Would that really change the development order we are seeing? Unless Renault/Honda catch up next year we’ll be stuck with two tiers..

          • The fuel flow limit is intrinsically linked to safety, the idea was that drivers/teams couldn’t exploit dangerous maps at either end of the spectrum and cause incidents like the Webber / Heikki flip. Imagine the disparity in speed if someone was using 200kg/h per hour vs someone in fuel conserve using 50kg/h for arguments sake.

            That’s why I’ve suggested a WEC style matrix that would allow diversification in the implementation of electrical energy vs the petrochemical. It would give different engine manufacturers different avenues to chase…

  2. The above suggestion does not really solve the issue either. Simply because the teams will turn the wick up more, thus, putting the drivers in a situation where they still need to lift & coast.
    This still means the team with the most efficient engine will always have the advantage, weather it’s for higher power over race distance or higher downforce (load) to balance it out.

    Maybe an alternative would to allow teams to use how ever much fuel they like & simply be done with it…
    But that does not work either as the most efficient engine would still have the advantage as the cars could run lighter than their competitor…

    • It’s not fuel saving, it’s weight saving. It’s presented like this by commentators with limited technical oversight. Listen to the guys commenting LeMans 24h on Eurosport, they are amazingly knowlegeable and maybe they talk to a more geeky audience so they can aford to be technical without putting people to sleep (sorry spanners)

  3. “The simple solution to reducing fuel saving during F1 races would be to make each car start with 100 kilograms of fuel”

    It is a good solution, but as with all solutions there’s a way to go around it. Here’s an equivalent situation that you can find today on many races:
    Let’s say the team thinks with the minimum of 90 kilos they can finish the race and need to lift and coast a little bit to achieve the end of the race. This is a fast strategy because you can stress the tires less at the beginning when the car is at the heaviest. Now, after 20 laps you have a safety car in which you don’t consume much fuel normally. At some point, after a few laps of SC, you saved so much fuel that the you don’t need to lift and cost. But the SC is still on track, so now you end up with more fuel that what you can use – which you must lug around, slows the car down and wastes tires. What to do? Just inject more fuel, burn it for no other reason than to reduce weight.

    In the above proposed solution the cars would just burn (waste if you will) all the fuel they can in the fist few laps to lighten the car until they can enter the best strategy, which likely involves lift and coast..

    • If the teams short-fuel expecting a safety car then why not change the rules and add say 1 lap to the race distance for every 2 safety car laps? The BTCC do something similar so you don’t get races artificially shortened or finishing under safety car conditions.

      • It would be a good solution for the show and will likely limit coasting. I’m not saying cars today expect safety cars, but they do expect to coast. From a track position point of view even if they must coast and the other car (comming from behind) doesn’t need to coast, the following will happen: the car in front costs say the last 50m of the straight; the car behind for 50m (0.5s) has a power surplus, but that’s hardly enough most of the times to make the pass due to the dirty air and loss of downforce/traction.

        Sadly imho as long as track position is king and passes are made diffcult by the aero, underfuel and lift to coast is a successful strategy, no matter how bad it looks. BTW LMP1s do it, it was a thing in the days of the V8+Pirelli, less back when the tough as nails Bridgestones were the only tire.

        • Granted you would still get underfuelling but not to the same degree. At certain races teams do bank on a safety car then end up having to save fuel later in the race if one doesn’t appear. It would also have the benefit of reducing the impact of a late race safety car and add an extra bit of spice to strategies.

          You are correct though that the main issue is aero – if passing was easier then there would be less incentive to lift and coast.

          I’m just catching up on Formula E races and a thought hit me. Can the cars regen independently of braking? Could you sort of regen for the first part of the braking cycle (with less retardation) then the mechanical brakes kick in later on? Or don’t the drivers have that level of control? Strikes me that if they can regain energy in that way then lifting and coasting in the way they do now would be less critical.

  4. Surely the most ironically obvious solution to eliminating lift and coast would be to reintroduce exhaust-blown aerodynamics? Because with that didn’t the engine keep revving and burning fuel even (especially) when the driver “lifted”? 🙂

    • As I understand it, the engine still went into a lean condition but the throttle was basically left open at low loads, so the engine was more or less pumping air with as minimum of fuel as needed.

  5. All gp’s should be made exactly 2 hours, …it is a Grand Prix after all. All competitors must starts on the same fuel load and the race then becomes as long as you choose to drive. And whilst we at it remove the Drs and open up the regs for the underneath of the car. It’s what we always wanted so we can see the cars running together again and not just on the straights!

    • Why not 3? They were that in the 50s.. ;). But it’s a standard distance (300 km/180 miles), else you would have them running very lean for 2 hours at some courses (Montreal) and not as lean at others for 2 hours (e.g. Monaco). I can hear the complaints of low speeds at Montreal already..

  6. All these wasted bits of Internet on something that isn’t really a problem, but merely a perception. The worst answer is to add another complicated rule requiring exactly 100kg of fuel to be burned.
    It is just a part of racing and simply needs to be presented as such, and explaining (as others have written) that this is the fastest way to complete the distance instead of letting the less informed fan draw their own conclusions.

  7. 2 more suggested solutions.
    1) Modify tyre compounds to increase optimum tyre temps. The ideal tyre temps for both optimum grip and wear/racespeed could be higher – allowing the drivers to push harder during the race and also benefit more from a higher engine setting without overheating and causing excessive wear to their tyres. In theory could this be done without increasing tyre life? Probably won’t happen though as the lesser teams would be handicapped further, struggling to keep their tyres in the optimum range due to lack of downforce and power.
    2) Ban pit to car communication so the drivers have to work it out themselves like in the good old days (plus the added excitement of cars possibly running out of fuel or slowing down severely in the closing laps).

  8. @Bill McKidd @Drago

    So true what you say about perception. The Eurosport/Quest commentary has been a revelation so far. Simple and relevant explanations for non technical viewers.

    @Bill McKidd said The worst answer is to add another complicated rule requiring exactly 100kg of fuel to be burned. +1 That would mean the lunatics are running the asylum.

  9. Broadcasting the driver/pit wall discussions is another example of Bernie shaping perceptions. We’ve hardly heard mention of fuel saving before this year, but it’s been a part of racing for decades.

    What is the little devil up to now? It can’t be anything complicated, he’s incapable of thinking too far ahead. He’s probably attempting to drop the value of F1, so he can buy it back at a bargain price from CVC. Let’s hope that if/when they sell off, Bernie gets well and truly shafted.

  10. Fuel and weight management has always been a part of F1 and racing in general. A lighter car means the whole system and the tires will stressed less and in case you need to save fuel the driver can adapt his driving-style to burn less without sacrificing too much lap-time. The other component is that having track-position is key, if you are running behind a car and cannot overtake (for whatever reasons) then your tires and the systems in your car will be operating at a regime with higher stress levels, which probably have some kind of impact on reliability and how the weight of the car evolves during the race. Running in clear air means you can run your car in relatively nominal operating regimes and drive in a way that maximizes the ability of your car and keep it that way.

    There has always been some kind of management going on within cars on the behalf of drivers, the difference today is that teams now have whole crews of engineers with Terabytes of data to look into and understand how things are going during a race and feed their views to the drivers, whereas 30 years ago the drivers probably knew about all these things already but didn’t have engineers telling them that sort of thing during the race itself but maybe once in the paddock, in meetings or whatever. A better solution would be to ban radio-communications from pit to driver and just let the drivers get on with the racing on their own. If they need to be coached live all the time on how to drive, why are they being paid mega-bucks ? I’m sure teams would still find ways to communicate with their drivers in other fancier ways, that’s what F1 teams are so good at, but I would say the fundamentals idea is that the drivers should be on their own for any racing-related aspect.

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