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Fuel testing in the fast lane
Formula One™ racing drivers hurtle round the track at several times the highest speed most ordinary motorists experience. The efficiency and power their engines deliver depend partly on the fuels and lubricants scientists develop for them. Shell scientists transfer technological advances made on the racetrack to the road.
Fernando Alonso screams round an F1™ circuit in his Ferrari. Inside Shell’s trackside lab, scientists in Ferrari lab overalls analyse samples of used lubricant from an earlier practice run. Cara Tredget and her team are monitoring the lubricant’s condition as Alonso puts his car through another punishing race weekend. What they learn could help improve the way ordinary cars perform.
In their search for improved efficiency and performance, car-makers are building increasingly sophisticated engines that require more advanced fuels and lubricants. Shell’s long-standing technical partnership with Scuderia Ferrari helps develop them.
“The intense environment of F1 leads to much faster advances in the development of road fuels and lubricants,” says Cara, Shell Technology Manager.
Through their work with Ferrari, Shell scientists formulated high performance fuels containing molecules that reduce friction, boosting efficiency. The same friction-reducers included in Ferrari F1 fuel are used in Shell V-Power Unleaded road fuel.
Shell scientists also developed engine oils with advanced detergent that disperses dirt particles. First tested on the track with Ferrari, they are now found in Shell Helix Ultra motor oil.
Changing race rules also spurs fuel development. For instance, since 2008 F1 fuel must contain a minimum 5.75% biofuel component. One of the components available to Ferrari is an advanced petrol-like biofuel converted directly from plant sugars by Virent, which has a joint technology programme with Shell.
Scientists learn more rapidly about its performance, such as how much energy it delivers when burnt in the engine. This could speed its development towards commercial production in the future.