The weight in an F1 car has a major influence on lap time. Elf has designed a special fuel to try and reduce the phenomenon.
The most recent interpretation of the sporting regulations, which came into force last year, now places real importance on each team's tactics during qualifying. Each car must complete its timed lap with the fuel it will need for the first stint of the race.
For the Renault F1 Team's strategist, that means solving some pretty complex problems. To set fastest time in qualifying, start near the front and not be slowed during the opening race laps, the car needs to be as light as possible -- without dipping under the 600kg limit. However, you also need enough fuel to complete around 14 laps, so a minimum amount of fuel is necessary. This is when the Elf engineers come into play.
The fuel consumption of an F1 car over a lap is, on average, 3.1kg. The time penalty for carrying 10kg of fuel (which represents three laps) is roughly 0.3s per lap. Taking this information into account, the engineers at Solaize can help reduce the problem of carrying this weight in the car. How? Formulate a fuel with lower density than usual while maintaining its energy content.
Thus, for the same mass of fuel, the car will run further. For 2004, the fuel used in the RS24 V10 is 4% less dense than that used at the pump. What's more, the special attention paid to fuel consumption is another route to achieving the same thing: pushing the first stop back as long as possible without overloading the car.
"The weight of the car is a constant preoccupation," confirms Pat Symonds. "Every gain is positive, and our partners are excellent. Each point we score is a product of our teamwork."