Conversion of Formula 2 to electric wheel loaders

If you focus in the pit lane, you may have noticed something different about Formula 2 this season. In a move that brings with it several major benefits, this year each team is working with electric guns as opposed to the pneumatic wheel guns of the past.

The main reason for the switch is in the name of security, although the pluses include several other important benefits. Improved sustainability, increased reliability and reduced financial impact on teams are all major factors that led F2 to make the change.

“The main reason for this change is to make the pit lane much cleaner than before and therefore much safer,” explains Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel. “If you look at all the gear that teams used to have in the pit lane, there was so much with the air bottles, the portals and everything that was needed for those old wheel guns. Now we have made it much easier and much safer.”

All this equipment also resulted in considerable bills for the teams, both in terms of transporting this equipment and in terms of maintenance. With a reduction in the weight of the equipment on the ground and therefore the cargo that the teams are responsible for, the budgetary impact of electric weapons in terms of reducing bills is another big plus, as Michel explains.

Green LEDs let mechanics know when the wheel is fully assembled on the car

“With the wheeled pneumatic guns, the initial cost was high and then teams had to pay for maintenance as well. What we saw was only the cost of maintaining the pneumatic guns, which was the same cost of buying new electric guns. It makes a huge difference.

“Transporting all the equipment around the world was very complicated. We get rid of 100-200 kg of cargo, because the new e-pistols are much lighter than the portal and all previous devices. At European rounds with the team trucks and especially with flyaways and air freight, team trips are becoming much more sustainable than ever before.”

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As previously mentioned, the change will also benefit teams in competition. In addition to reducing the risk for the staff in the pit lane, the drivers should also be supported by the change. While pneumatic cannons might deliver a pit stop a fraction of a second faster, the consistency of electric cannons is a step up from what came before.

Saving a tenth of a second during a pit stop is of no use if the wheel is not seated correctly. The launch of the new wheel guns came after close dialogue between the championship and its teams, says F2 Technical Director Didier Perrin.

F2 teams no longer need airlines and pit bridges, making for a clearer and safer pit lane
F2 teams no longer need airlines and pit bridges, making for a cleaner and safer pit lane

“No one is in a better position to know what the demands of these electric impact wrenches are than the mechanics who do those tire changes every weekend,” says Perrin. “You know what makes a good wheel gun.

“As soon as we received the first prototype, we involved teams and mechanics and got them to test it to get feedback and worked with the teams to define the bushing that would be fitted to the wheel gun that would do the wheel nut holds. We worked with the teams on the ergonomics of the gun, on the position of the button that reverses rotation – from day one they were involved in testing and validation.

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“If we compare the wheel gun in F2 to the pneumatic wheel gun in F2, a pit stop with electric wheel guns in F2 will be a few tenths of a second slower than with pneumatic guns, but the consistency of the pit stop is better with the electric wheel gun. The pneumatic pistols allow you to make a quicker pit stop, but it’s difficult to make that quick stop every time. The new guns are lighter and easier to use, making pit stops more consistent for teams.”

Teams bring less gear and stops are more consistently performed with electric weapons
Teams bring less gear and stops are more consistently performed with electric weapons

With the process achieved through a hand-in-glove approach with teams, costs are reduced and freight volume is reduced, costs for teams decrease. Less cargo means the championship’s sustainability is improved, and coupled with the removal of gear from pit lane, the change makes sense on all fronts.

Michel adds that Formula 2 is committed to refining, improving and pushing technology further than before as long as there is an advantage that doesn’t interfere with the racing action.

“If we can make changes that take things in the right direction technologically and we can reduce the costs that teams have to incur, that’s the right move. We need to have that kind of approach now and not get stuck in the way we’ve always done things. We’ve always been very efficient at things like this. We continue to develop.”

Along with the launch of Advanced Sustainable Fuels in partnership with Aramco, the 2023 F2 campaign is pushing the technological frontiers for the future of single seater racing.

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