Learn to use different engine settings and save fuel with the lift and coast technique in our tutorial.
Photo credit: Koch Media / Codemasters
At the 1997 F1 Australian Grand Prix, Frenchman Jean Alesi had a good chance of winning as he was up to second place. But while his team tried to call him into the pits for five laps straight in the middle of race, the Benetton driver stayed out on track. On lap 34, he ran out of fuel and had to stop his car, producing one of the most embarrassing race retirements in the sports’ history.
Since 2010, refuelling during pit stops has been prohibited in Formula 1. This means that good fuel management has become even more important because the safety net of a pit stop for fuel is not there anymore. In this tutorial, we will teach you how to get the most out of your gas tank so that you don’t end up like Alesi.
Three different engine settings
Let’s talk about the very basics first. In F1 2020, you can set your engine to three different settings during the race: lean, standard and rich. While the first mode will make your car a bit slower, especially on straights, it will also save you fuel. The rich setting enables full power of your engine at the cost of higher fuel consumption.
But when should I use which setting?
When to use the rich mix
As already explained, the rich motor settings will get the most power out of your car. It is thus most useful on straights where you want to reach as much speed as possible.
The rich mix is most effective when combined with the ERS overtake setting and DRS if available. This combination is the perfect pre-set for a successful overtake.
However, there are also some situations where you should avoid using rich settings. Using the rich mix puts a big strain for your engine, which means it will start to overheat. On a free straight, your car will be able to catch enough air to cool your engine down.
But when you drive closely behind other cars, you might get some trouble with engine temperature while using the rich mix. That is because of the concept of dirty air. The cars in front of you will leave behind the warm exhaust gases of their engines.
The dirty air is unsuitable to properly cool down your engine. When driving in dirty air with rich settings for too long, your engine could possibly overheat, ending your race.
You should thus always have an eye on the engine temperature and turn down the fuel mix if you notice it reaches the critical point of 140-150 degrees.
When to use the lean mix
Driving behind slower opponents can be a good opportunity to save resources, especially in narrow sections where overtaking is impossible anyway.
As we have already mentioned the concept of dirty air, it is always smart to turn down the fuel mix if you are chasing a car that is slower than you and which you will overtake on the next straight anyway.
Not only will you save fuel which you can use later in the race, but a cooler engine will also give you some extra speed on the following straight. The lean setting is also generally a good choice in slower sections as you do not need the extra power of the other settings anyway.
But there is also another way to save fuel using a special driving technique.
Lift and coast
The lift and coast technique comes into play when driving through corners. When you arrive, you lift off the throttle a bit earlier than you would usually do, by about 50 meters. Your car thus will already slow down a bit as you get closer to the turn.
You then try to go as fast as possible through the corner while using the brake and accelerator as little as possible – you coast through the turn. Try to take the corner as wide as possible. The tighter you take it, the more you will have to brake and accelerate, costing you fuel again.
With lift and coast, you can save lots of fuel. However, as you don’t push the corners as hard as possible, you will also see your lap times worsen by a few tenths. But that is still far better than a DNF.
The fuel program in free practice is a great opportunity to work on your lift and coast skills. The program will indicate how much fuel you save using the technique while also showing you the necessary time frame to stay competitive.
Crucial decision at the start
Everything we have discussed so far takes place during the race. But one of the most pivotal decisions in fuel management must be taken before the lights go green: how much fuel am I going to carry?
When making this decision, there are several aspects you must consider.
What is the character of the track? On circuits with a lot of high-speed sections like Monza you may want to carry more fuel than recommended which will give you the opportunity to use the rich settings more often. On narrow street circuits like Monaco not much speed is required, so opting for less fuel can be the better choice.
Also take the dirty air to account. Do you expect to race behind many opponents, or will you have a free track in front of you for most of the time? Since the former means you need to race a lot in lean mode and the latter means you can use the rich mix, you should keep the dirty air in mind.
Another factor is the weight of the car. A lighter car will be a bit faster. But carrying less fuel also means fewer opportunities to use the rich settings. You must weigh up what you prefer.
Like many things in Formula 1, the choice of the amount of fuel is a personal one. Do I want a lighter car, meaning I have to lift and coast to compensate missing fuel? Or do I want to push my engine to the maximum for the entire race? The choice is yours.
Now that you refuelled your knowledge, it’s time to burn some gas. See you on track in F1 2020.