Formula 1: Balancing Performance and Sustainability

F1 faces a challenge: how to ensure entertainment and the highest levels of performance, while meeting commitments to improve sustainability. Here, the Renault DP World F1 Team provide some insight into how that balance is more achievable that you’d think.

Technical team at Renault F1

The advancements we can make together within Formula One will have a longer last impact on the future of road vehicles – leading to significant fuel savings through improved efficiencies, and a reduced carbon footprint for the automotive industry worldwide.

Formula One (F1) cars are typically synonymous with the roar of engines in vehicles designed for one thing: speed. But in fact, more is being done in F1 to improve sustainability than you may imagine. To start, F1 cars boast the most sophisticated and technologically advanced hybrid-electric drivetrains in the world, with astonishing feats of engineering involved. This power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power, using less fuel (and hence emitting less CO2) than any other car known to date. As F1 – and automotive industry more broadly – come under increased pressure to improve sustainability through reducing emissions, engineering efforts and innovations around electrification are more important than ever.

This is why we’re working hand-in-hand with our Technical Partner DuPont across both our Enstone (UK) and Viry-Châtillon (France) teams, with a core focus on co-innovating solutions that apply directly to the safety, protection and efficiency of these hybrid-electric drivetrains. As hybrid-electric engines and fully electric batteries become more technologically advanced and higher in energy density, they presents significant challenges to the management of heat – ensuring heat dissipation and supporting thermal runaway avoidance. Our partnership’s joint expertise and heritage within the automotive sector is allowing us to explore materials that can solve these problems, enable significantly higher energy efficiencies within batteries and engines, and advance the future of mobility by allowing powertrains to run at previously undeliverable temperatures, pressures and distances.

Our partnership goes far beyond just the powertrain element of F1 vehicles, exploring a number of different areas. One of the most pivotal is the examination of materials and engineering to improve the lightweighting of the cars on the track – an area of engineering typically associated with the need for speed, with any extra weight within a vehicle generally equating to valuable hundredths-of-a-second off lap times. But reducing the weight of these cars is also hugely beneficial to its fuel efficiency and towards a reduction in the amount of energy required to get around the track. Reducing a car’s weight by 50kg can achieve a CO2 per kilometer saving of up to five grams and improve fuel efficiency by over 2%.

DuPont team conducting engineering tests

But it isn’t simply a case of swapping out materials for lighter options – it requires expertise and heritage in materials science. These lighter-weight alternatives must be able to stand up to the challenges of not only F1 engines, but everyday automotive engines – the heat, the aggressive chemicals, and the high pressures within them. So strong, durable and lightweight bodywork, advanced structural adhesives for vehicle assembly, and the replacement of metal parts (where possible) with high-performance polymers – all key parts of our work with DuPont – can help us achieve weight reductions and reduce fuel requirements, while still delivering optimum performance.

Part of what makes DuPont and Renault DP World F1 Team such perfect technical partners is not just our shared passion for the sport and everything automotive, but both our organizations’ heavy involvement in automotive innovations across the last century – everything from the first turbocharged engine, to the use of DuPont’s Kevlar as a base material for fuel cells within the cars, and Nomex in the suits of drivers. The advancements we can make together are not only relevant to Formula One but will have a longer lasting impact on the future of road vehicles – leading to significant fuel savings through improved efficiencies, and a reduced carbon footprint for the automotive industry worldwide.