Sebastian Vettel’s demo run with the Williams-Renault from the 1992 season was one of the emotional highlights of Sunday’s race at Silverstone. Nigel Mansell had won his only world title with the FW14B and the noise the car made sent goosebumps to many fans in the stands.
The highlight: Vettel, a fighter for climate and environmental protection, did not fill up the Williams with petroleum-based petrol, but with a CO2-neutral fuel. And that without having to rebuild the engine. True to the motto “Race without Trace”, i.e. “racing without leaving any traces”.
Vettel bought the FW14B at auction house Bonhams in 2020. The purchase price was not published at the time; a year earlier, however, a car of the same type had been sold for around three million euros.
Because the car is privately owned, Vettel can do whatever he wants with it. However, a conversion for use with e-fuels was not necessary at all: “We left everything as it was,” he says in a video on his website sebastianvettel.de. And: “With this technology we are able to keep our story alive.”
Price per liter: 5.95 euros
Vettel bought the CO2-neutral fuel for 5.95 euros per liter from the Berlin company P1, which produces in Belgium. He explains: “The price will be cheaper through more efficient production, which means decentralized production wherever there is an abundance of renewable energies.”
Because e-fuels are created with the help of electricity from, for example, biomass and the extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere. The catch is the high power consumption during generation. Therefore, according to Vettel, the energy used must be renewable, for example from “offshore wind farms in Denmark, sun in the Sahara or thermal energy in Iceland”.
Combustion engines powered by e-fuels are therefore far less efficient than classic electric cars. However, e-fuels are considered a sensible alternative for the climate-neutral operation of millions of used cars in the transitional generation. And e-fuels could also represent an alternative to fossil fuels in motorsport.
Formula 1 will convert in 2026. Vettel questions why this isn’t faster: “I’m not the one making the decisions. But we don’t have any time to waste. I realize that not everyone agrees to change that sooner. But ultimately that would be exactly that to change it sooner, probably the right decision.”
Already cheaper than Formula 1 racing fuel
Vettel tried to prove that this was possible with his demo run. The Renault engine in the Williams FW14B puts out an estimated 750 hp – and ran perfectly fine on the CO2-neutral fuel alternative. 5.95 euros per liter is also a price that Formula 1 can afford. The racing fuel currently used is even more expensive.
Vettel’s former team boss Christian Horner is a fan of e-fuels because it could make it possible to continue using spectacular and loud engines in Formula 1 in the future: “I think it has to happen. I had goosebumps! People still go to the Rolling Stones. The sound is part of the DNA of Formula 1. We shouldn’t ignore that.”
For Vettel, the demo run was an emotional experience. Exactly 30 years ago his FW14B had won at Silverstone with Mansell at the wheel – and it was Mansell who was waiting for him afterwards. “That was something very special for me,” says the four-time world champion. “I felt like a five-year-old again. The sound made me feel like I’d gone back in time 30 years.”
“It proved that we can evoke emotions with the sound, but that we can also do it in a responsible way. That was very important to me. When the idea came up to drive the car here 30 years after Nigel’s win, I thought think about how best to do it. And I’m very proud that we managed to do it,” said Vettel.