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Lowe returns to F1 with Sauber via Zero sponsorship deal

Former McLaren technical director and Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe has returned to Formula 1 as a sponsor of Sauber via his Zero Petroleum company.

Paddy Lowe

Photo by: Adam Cooper

Motorsport Business

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Lowe is the founder and CEO of the carbon-neutral synthetic fuel concern, whose early investors include 1996 world champion Damon Hill

Sauber uses Shell fuel and lubricants but is free to sell sponsorship to other companies in the sector. As previously reported it has concluded a deal with US brand Sunoco for the three American races.

Zero will feature on the Swiss cars at all other events for the next two years, prior to the switch to Audi identity in 2026.

Lowe was last involved in F1 as chief technical officer of Williams, leaving the job in early 2019.

“We're here mainly to just bring the message about synthetic fuel technology, and how exciting it is," Lowe told Autosport. “So of course, we look to 2026, which will be a year of bringing in 100% sustainable fuels, and those can be either second-generation biofuels or synthetic fuels.

“So we're all about synthetics, it's an incredibly exciting element for the future of F1, and the world as a whole.”

Lowe believes that synthetic fuels will have an important role to play globally in the future.

Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber Team Photo

Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber Team Photo

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“To tell you that eventually the whole world will run on synthetic fuel rather than fossil fuel may sound unbelievable,” he said.

“But it is absolutely the case. This is a problem that perhaps gets kicked around down the road too much. But synthetic fuels will become as cheap or eventually cheaper than fossil fuels.

“That's in prospect, because it's a pure technology solution, we make our fuels simply from air and water, and renewable energy, so that there is no limit to the amount that can be made. 

"It may not be in my lifetime, but the world will look back and say why just did we not just do that so much earlier?

“There's a great example, in F1, when we brought in long-life engines. If you recall, an engine used to last 300 kilometres, if you were lucky, on a Sunday. And now you have three or four for the year. Incredible. And now you look back and think, why didn't we introduce that constraint before?

“And this will be the case with fossil fuel versus synthetic fuel. So we're here to bring that message, because so few people know about it. And so aligning it with F1, is also just the most fantastic thing, because we share the same culture, the culture of innovation.

“We've seen what F1 did for hybrid, bringing along battery technology. The battery electric cars we have today would not be as they are without the developments to batteries that were made 12-14 years ago in F1, and the same will be the case with synthetic fuels.”

Paddy Lowe

Paddy Lowe

Photo by: Adam Cooper

Asked to whom Zero is sending its message via the Sauber deal Lowe said: “Wherever you go, the world is populated by real people. They're all consumers, whether they just buy fuel, or whether they run multinational companies, they're all run by real people.

“So we want to get the understanding out there because it's really so poor at the moment. And this is the best platform in the world to spread our message."

While the Sauber deal is currently a branding exercise Lowe hopes that Zero can become involved in F1 as a supplier from 2026 onwards, possibly in partnership with another company.

“We're not working with any F1 partner right now on a dedicated F1 fuel,” he said. “F1 fuels are highly optimised to the engine. So that would be a process that we're open to embarking upon, whether solely or in combination with others.

“The really exciting point other than the sustainability aspects and global warming is that these are fully engineered fuels. Every molecule is manufactured from scratch.

“So you can imagine the potential there. We have a very sophisticated chemistry, which allows us a lot of control to make the molecules we exactly want.”

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