Formula 1 (F1) is one of the world’s richest sports, with races taking places across the globe and played to huge TV audiences – bringing in billions of advertising dollars.
Not only that, but both the oil giant and racing series are both trying to move away from fossil fuels and make themselves more sustainable by tackling their high-profile carbon footprints.
Aramco has been a strategic partner of the Aston Martin Racing (AMR) team since 2022 and as a global sponsor of the sport has been pushing the boundaries in fuel performance and cleaner transport technology ever since.
The bold ambition is to produce cars powered entirely by sustainable fuels and achieve net zero as a sport by 2030.
There is no reason to believe this will not happen. F1 has a track record for automotive innovations that find their way into the street cars we drive every day. These include:
- active suspension
- traction control
- semi-automatic transmissions
- carbon fibre
- anti-lock brakes
- kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS)
Success in F1 is built around incredibly fine margins and being able to adapt to changing regulations in the sport, and Aramco is tasked with developing advanced fuels and lubricants for AMR’s new engine partnership with Honda that begins in 2026.
That date is significant as that is the deadline set by F1’s governing body for power units (engines) to run on 100% sustainable fuels, as part of its plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.
The hope is that this sustainable fuel will not only be suitable for racing cars but also compatible with most road cars.
“It's been a fascinating challenge,” says F1’s Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds. “At the time I was first talking to people about this, no one knew what I was talking about, and to be honest, I’m not sure I did, so I've done an awful lot of research.
“We've worked closely with the FIA [F1 governing body Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile], who have got a couple of very good fuels specialists, and we've had a lot of help from our partner Aramco.”
The new fuel will mean that no new fossil carbon will be burned, with carbon instead derived from non-food sources, municipal waste, or even extracted from the atmosphere.
The fuel is already being used as a ‘drop in’ for F1 cars, with around 10% being added to 90% of traditional fuel – much like current applications of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
“The 10% of ethanol that we’re putting in now is entirely sustainable,” adds Symonds. “There are lots of different types of ethanol, which vary in quality, but this is a true green ethanol – so fully sustainable.”
From 2026, that ratio will ramp up to 100% sustainable fuel created by Aramco in two plants – one in Saudi Arabia and another in Spain.
There are other regulations and changes for 2026 that will make the cars more efficient.
More electric energy will be recovered from the car (such as from braking), and that will help reduce the amount of fuel required. A decade ago, each car used 160kg of fuel per race on average. In 2026, F1 is aiming for just 70kg.
As well as advancements when it comes to sustainable fuels, Aramco will be hoping for greater sporting success too.
The relationship between Aramco and Aston Martin has been strengthened following the extension of a five-year partnership between the two and the news that the team will now be known as the Aston Martin Aramco Formula One Team – ready for the new season which starts in Bahrain on 29 February before moving to Aramco’s home circuit in Jeddah on 7 March.
As Nabeel A. Al-Jama, Aramco EVP Human Resources & Corporate Services, says: “Aramco’s expertise and technology can contribute to advanced car performance, especially with our development of advanced fuels and lubricants.”
Aston Martin finished fifth in the constructors championship in 2023 (behind the dominant Red Bull Team, Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren), with veteran driver Fernando Alonso taking fourth place in the drivers standings, beating both Ferrari drivers in the process.