A special Shell team of more than 50 scientists and engineers is tasked with formulating and testing fuels and lubricants for Scuderia Ferrari in Formula One. The work they do for the Shell Formula One programme is crucial in delivering a competitive edge to the team.
Now, mid-way through the 2014 season, what impact are the new regulations having on the teams and their drive for success? Talking to the people involved, we see that these challenges mean even more pioneering developments from the men and women working on Shell’s 2014 Formula One products.
Although drastic, the new regulations have an important role in aligning the sport with the automotive industry.
“The issues that are changing in the global vehicle market – engine downsizing, hybridisation and pressures on energy and CO2 – are the same as those being addressed in Formula One,” says Guy Lovett, Shell’s Technology Manager for Ferrari. “This means that the technology and innovations that the teams and their technology partners, like us at Shell, design need to be relevant to the everyday motorist and can be used in the development of products for ordinary passenger cars.”
Development for the 2014 season began in 2011 when the new regulations were first announced by the FIA, Formula One’s governing body.
For Mark Wakem, who looks after Shell’s engine lubricant development for Ferrari, the reduction in the number of engines allowed per season from eight to five has presented a unique challenge. Finding the right blend of lubricant to ensure maximum power and engine durability is the key to success.
“When it was unregulated, a race engine had a life of about 400km, or a race distance. Now, about seven or eight years later, a race engine needs a life of 4,000km, so that’s a factor of ten that it’s gone up by,” says Mark. “It took road car engines maybe 20 or 30 years to increase their life by that much. This is what we mean when we talk about accelerated development.”
Mike Evans, who manages Ferrari fuel development at Shell, has faced a similar challenge in delivering the same performance from less fuel.
“The cars are doing close to the same lap times at the races but they’re using around 30-40% less fuel.” Turn-around times have to be fast according to Mike: “The fuels can be introduced in a matter of four, five or six weeks from first testing to being raced. That is a really short lead time in an industry in which fuel development can take years.”
Just a few months into the 2014 season the team had produced upwards of 50 development fuels, a number that will likely double before the 19-race competition ends. The work of the team may set a rapid pace but it also gives them the scope to be as innovative and groundbreaking as possible.
Realising the rewards
“It’s intense, but really rewarding because you see the results of your labour really quickly, almost in real time,” says Guy. He believes the success of the team is gauged in relatively straightforward terms. They need to ask: “Does the car go faster with our fuels and oils?”
For Guy and the team, getting back positive results is an extremely rewarding part of the job: “Hearing that there is a positive performance gain from an oil or from a fuel in terms of brake horsepower is incredible. You’ve put in so much effort and when you see the performance increases that can be realised, it’s really special.”
The first race of the season might be the beginning of the competition, but for the Shell engineers and scientists working on the Formula One programme it’s another chance to witness their innovative work make a difference on the track.
“There are a limited number of Formula One races per season,” says Mark, “but the development is never ending.”
|2014 Formula One technical regulation changes at a glance||2013||2014|
|Engine size:|| |
1.6-litre V6 fitted
with a turbocharger
|No. of engines per driver per season:||8||5|
|Fuel limit per driver per race:|| |
but on average 160kg
|A limit of 100kg|
|Energy recovery system:|| |
Kinetic Energy Recovery System offering
80bhp for just over six seconds a lap
Two energy recovery systems offering
160bhp for about 33 seconds a lap