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What is ‘lift and coast’ and why were cars doing it in Mexico?

Learn all about the 'lift and coast' technique and why drivers do it

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As the lights went out and the cars went away in Mexico, we heard about the phenomenon of’ lift and coast’ once again.

The race start at the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix in which the cars had to ‘lift and coast’ to prevent tyre degradation and loss of fuel (Image Credit: Formula 1)

This is a technique that has been used for ages in Formula 1, especially back in the day when the engines weren’t as developed. When F1 entered the hybrid era, the cars started running on an engine which is not only fuel-based but also generates power. That is thanks to the electrical component in the engine, and we will get to see more of this as of 2026 when the new engine regulations come into place.

In the old F1 days, the cars ran primarily on fuel. There was always the fear that a car will run out of fuel before even finishing a race. That is why they needed to come up with ways how to use less fuel but still try to be as fast as they can. This enabled them to push at the last and crucial stages of the race, where it was all or nothing.

Here, we will be explaining to you why sometimes you’ll hear drivers being told to ‘lift and coast’. This is something that Martin Brundle was making emphasis on in Mexico and we aim to explain to you why too.

What is ‘lift and coast’?

The ‘lift and coast’ technique means that a driver lifts his foot off the throttle early before entering a corner and then coasts into it. The car’s aerodynamics and the engine braking will help slow the car down and then help it to push even more coming out of the corner.

The more turns a circuit has, then the more fuel will be consumed by the car because of constant braking and then more pushing to get out of the corner and make sure not to get overtaken or lose time. It is most noted as tracks such as Montreal, Austria and just like we saw this weekend, Mexico.

Nico Rosberg previously explained back in his driving days how the drivers find this technique as “the most efficient” when it comes to saving fuel. He said, “Lift and coast is the most efficient way to save fuel – they even did it in the 80s. I remember my Dad [Keke] doing it when he was racing with Alain Prost at McLaren. They had to save fuel because everybody was running out at the end of races. So nothing has changed there, just that it’s become more professional, more accurate, and more detailed.

“Even if you are doing it [lifting and coasting], we are still driving at the absolute limit of the car. It’s just a different kind of driving style, and even that style is very challenging. You’re still pushing like crazy, you’re just driving in a different way.”

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada is a high-fuel track which requires the ‘lift and coast’ technique (Image Credit: Sky Sports)
Why were they doing so in Mexico?

Mexico proved difficult for the cars to take care of their tyres. It was expected for the medium compound to grain quickly, however, the opposite happened. Lewis Hamilton was waiting for Max Verstappen’s tyres to fall off the cliff, while he had the hard compound on.

But thanks to the ‘lift and coast’ technique, Max minimised the amount of graining and fuel loss throughout the race. Having 17 turns and hot temperatures, the Mexican circuit requires a great amount of fuel and braking to go through.

That made the technique essential, however, it does have its downside too. When drivers lift and coast, they are not using their front tyres much. That means that they lose essential heat needed for the car to be quick and can put a driver at a disadvantage and see him lose essential time.

That is why Max was told to change the engine braking mode and that helped him to reduce the lift and coast technique. By testing it out earlier in the race, the team also acquired positive data. That was if they needed to lift and coast once again in the race, they knew that they had the grip for it. Not only, but it also ticked the grip levels of the car off their list and that meant that the tyres were also still in good shape.

So ‘lift and coast’ not only helps drivers to save their tyres and fuel, but helps the garage to get essential data on how everything is working right with the car, or not.

It is a difficult technique to get used to. In his early days, Carlos Sainz said how he didn’t really like it, especially since drivers have to do it early in the race if they want to have a positive result at the end.

He said, back in 2015, “It’s something new for me, I’ve not been used to it before in my life. It’s not something I really like because I have to do it from early in the race, you are already having to lift and coast. You have to adapt and you have to be quick, but probably the amount I was doing in some races was a bit too much in my opinion. But it’s something I have to do, and something that I have to learn.”

Featured Image Credit: Formula 1

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