The room is small, perhaps not much bigger than your own garage. However, within it are two of the most extraordinary cars on earth, being diligently tended to by a team of skilled and passionate professionals. For Scuderia Ferrari, the most successful team in the history of Formula One, the pit lane is the only place that matters over the next three days.
Practice Makes Perfect for Ferrari
48 hours before the race begins is arguably the most important part of the weekend. Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race are obviously the focus of the fans, gathered in their thousands at the racetrack, on top of a global TV audience of millions. However, it’s the often-overlooked and comparatively unglamorous Friday practice sessions where the race can be won. The teams put in their hardest work during these sessions, and the Shell Track Lab, working with Scuderia Ferrari, is no exception.
Scuderia Ferrari driver and two-time Formula One Champion Fernando Alonso knows the importance of the work of the Shell Track Lab. “The work that they do in the lab is crucial at every race, analysing the fuel and oil for every single run we do. So many things can happen in a weekend, so we need the best people with us. I think that with Shell working with us every weekend, we are in good hands,” he said.
Driven by data
Formula One is an unforgiving sport of high pressure, high stakes and high technology. Attention to detail is paramount, and anything that can affect the car’s performance is noted, gathered and analysed. Before the engine is even running, the team meticulously studies the data – track temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction.
While the few photographers and handful of camera crews await the emergence of the drivers for the first session, The Shell Track Lab are more concerned with how the data to be gathered can help them prepare for the rest of the weekend.
“Shell, on the lubricant side, can help us protect the engine,” said Marc Gené, Scuderia Ferrari’s test driver. “Shell also help a lot to increase the power and performance of the car. But now you have to use the same engine for many races, reliability is very important. Ferrari, in 2012, was the most reliable car in Formula One. We can all be very proud of that.”
The secret to success
As the car completes its first few practice laps, the mood in the pits is relaxed. The scenes couldn’t be further removed from the madness of a race-day pitstop, as a dozen or so team members follow the track events through a series of screens and monitors. When the car finally thunders into the pit lane, both the engineers and the Shell Track Lab technicians get to work.
Mike Evans, Shell’s Formula One Fuel Projects Leader, outlines the important of the lab: “The fuels are optimised to give the best performance – this can be fuel efficiency or power at high temperatures and high speeds. There’s always demands put upon the fuels, so we work closely with the engineers in Maranello [where Ferrari’s headquarters are located] to ensure the fuels are optimised to work in any condition.”
The only preparatory detail they overlook is the ceremonial champagne spraying – but as Formula One’s most successful team, they don’t really need the practice.