You may have noticed something different about Formula 2 this season if you focus in the pitlane. In a move that has several huge benefits to it, this year every team is operating with electric guns as opposed to the pneumatic wheel guns of the past.
The main reason behind the switch is in the name of safety, though the plus points include several other major benefits. Improved sustainability, increased reliability and a lesser financial impact on teams are all huge factors that have driven F2 to make the change.
“The number one reason behind this change is to get the pitlane much cleaner than it was before and, by doing that, much safer,” Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel explains. “If you looked at all the equipment teams used to have in the pitlane, there was so much with the bottles of air, the gantries and everything needed for those old wheel guns. Now, we’ve made it things much more simple and much safer.”
All of that equipment also translated into sizeable bills for teams both in terms of transporting said equipment along with upkeep. With a reduction in weight of equipment on the ground and, therefore, freight the teams are responsible for, the budgetary impact of the electric guns in terms of reducing bills is another big plus point, as Michel explains.
“With the pneumatic wheel guns, the initial costs were high and then teams had to pay to maintain them too. What we saw was just the cost of maintaining the pneumatic guns was the same cost of buying new electric ones. It makes a massive difference.
“Taking all the equipment around the world was very complicated. We get rid of 100 to 200kg worth of freight, because the new electric guns are much lighter than the gantry and all of the previous equipment. During European rounds with the team trucks and especially for flyaways and airfreight, team travel becomes much more sustainable than ever before.”
As previously mentioned, the change also benefits teams in competition. Along with reducing risk to personnel in the pitlane, the drivers are also set to be aided by the change. While pneumatic guns might deliver a pitstop a fraction of a second quicker, the consistency of the electric guns are a step forward versus what has come before.
Saving a tenth of a second in a pitstop is of no use if the wheel does not attach properly. The introduction of the new wheel guns has been made following close dialog between the Championship and its teams says F2 Technical Director, Didier Perrin.
“There is nobody better placed to know what the requirements are for these electric wheel guns than the mechanics that are doing these tyre changes every weekend,” Perrin says. “They know what makes a good wheel gun.
“As soon as we got the first prototype, we involved teams and mechanics and got them to test it in order to gain feedback, working with the teams to define the socket that is fitted to the wheel gun that holds the wheel nut. We worked with the teams on the ergonomics of the gun, the position of the button that reverses the rotation – from day one, they’ve been involved in testing and validation.
“If we compare the wheel gun in F2 to the pneumatic wheel gun in F2, a pitstop with electric wheel guns in F2 will be a few tenths of a second slower than with pneumatic guns, but the consistency of the pitstop is better with the electric wheel gun. With the pneumatic guns, you can do a quicker pitstop but it’s difficult to do that quick stop every single time. The new guns are lighter and easier to use which makes the pitstops more consistent for the teams.”
With the process achieved by a hand-in-glove approach with teams, the reduction in costs and volume of freight reduced, costs are down for teams. Less freight means the sustainability of the Championship is improved and, along with the removal of equipment from the pitlane, the switch makes sense on all fronts.
Michel adds that as long as there is a benefit that does not detract from the racing action, Formula 2 has a duty to continue to refine, improve and push technology further than before.
“When we can make changes that take things in the right direction in terms of technology and we can diminish the costs teams are having to put in, it’s the right step. We need to have this kind of approach now and not to get stuck in the way we’ve always done things. We’ve always been quite efficient in doing things like this. We evolve.”
Along with the introduction of Advanced Sustainable Fuels in partnership with Aramco, the 2023 F2 campaign is pushing technological boundaries for the future of single seater racing.