Formula One has some of the strictest rules and regulations in motorsport, and when it comes to fuel there is no exception, no excuses.
All chemicals are meticulously monitored by the FIA, with specific power boosting fuel mixtures banned from use. Shell has a track laboratory where fuel and oil samples are taken and analysed.
Once developed, fuel is rigorously tested to make sure they comply with FIA regulations. The FIA are able to take a sample at any given time during a Grand Prix weekend, if the sample doesn’t meet the pre-approved fuel mixture, the team can be ultimately disqualified. Last year, over 800 samples of Shell Helix Oil and 600 samples of Shell V-Power fuel were analysed.
Guy Lovett is Shell’s Technical Manager who just recently started in his new role in January. RichardsF1.com correspondent Josh Kruse was given the chance to interview him and get a good insight into the tremendous working partnership between Shell and the Ferrari F1 team that has lasted over 500 races.
How do you see your current and future work with Ferrari as being of benefit to the everyday road driver?
Good question, it’s all about relevance I suppose, the work that we do really splits into two halves with Ferrari. The stuff you see here at the race track trackside analysis and then the stuff that happens upfront back at base in terms of product development.
We have in the region of 50 scientists at various technology centres in Europe working on the Ferrari program, and those scientists also work in the development for V-power for the road and shell helix motor oils for regular cars. So we ensure that the scientists that are working on the Ferrari program also have a crossover to road products.
Another thing I suppose – if you look at a Formula One car – it’s really a concept vehicle for the future, and we’re developing concept oils and concept fuels for that concept platform which is the Ferrari F1 car.
Because on the face of it a single seater open wheel racing car isn’t going to get a four-person family to the supermarket and back, but if you dig down deep into the hardware and look beneath the skin a lot of the detail like the materials, the surface finishes, all those things are being trialled, evaluated and developed at the forefront of the pinnacle of automotive engineering, which is a Formula One car are filtering through into mainstream engine technology. For us it’s an unrivalled opportunity to test our fluids and formulations in tomorrow’s automotive technology.
So it’s like a testing platform then?
Exactly, it’s the best testing platform. Not only is it the next generation of engine technology, but it’s also the extreme environment, there’s nowhere else that you’re going to get such extreme operating temperatures and extreme operating conditions.
What role does Shell play in extracting more performance when you are restricted by the current engine regulations freeze?
The freeze has been quite good for us, the amount of things that can change in a hardware is really restricted so its enabled us to really iterate and optimise formulations, both fuel and oil, against the platform that was essentially fixed in 2006 and any performance upgrades have been quite obvious to be able to quantify from the fluids that we develop for Ferrari.
So you have freedom to test new mixtures for the car?
A lot of freedom. It’s a continual development process with the engineers in Maranello. I’ve been in the role since January officially and I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time in Maranello [laughs] working with the engineers, developing the new products for this season. That process doesn’t finish for Australia; we’re always working to try and make incremental gains in performance.
How do you test the new designs and concepts? Is it during free practice or on a dynamometer?
The development process is essentially, I wouldn’t say finished but it’s come a long way by the time it gets into the vehicle before a free practice or any Grand Prix weekend.
We start it off really I suppose on a model activity, we model various products various formulations, we’re always seeking new additives, new ways of using them, new ways of building them into the formulations. We have a suite of screening tools that we use to evaluate the new formulations that are quick so we evaluate a whole host of formulations using the screen tools we can narrow them down to a few different candidates that will then supply to Ferrari and evaluate on their test benches.
We’re always using the data we gather from Ferrari from the track to continually improve but a lot of the development activity has already happened before it gets to the track.
Moving on to next year, how will Shell help Ferrari become operationally ready ahead of the introduction of the turbo engine regulations in 2014?
Ah, very exciting, ever since the new regulations were mentioned, we’ve been in discussions and working very closely with our engineers back at Maranello, on formulating, on designing and developing new formulations for the V6 engine.
Ferrari have been running a mono single cylinder engine for some time now, we’ve evaluated a number of fuels and lubricants and try to map the engine for its appetite. We’re now looking at the V6 engine on the test bed as well; we’re a long way through the development process for 2014.
So how do next year’s engine regulations affect your engine mapping?
Next year’s engine regulations are huge for Formula One, for Ferrari and Shell. Since 2006 it was more of an evolutionary process in Formula One, 2014 is a total revolution in terms of the power train systems including the engine downsize with a turbo charger, the increase in power from the electrical system, all that plays a massive role in changing the requirements and the appetite towards fuels and oils.
It is a more eco-driven era for the sport; can you play around with octane levels and biofuel?
The fuel regulations are the same as last year. Bio content is 5.75% per mass. So that will remain. But we do constantly look at new formulations including biofuel. Looking at 2014, V6 engine, downsized, turbocharged engine, octane becomes perhaps even more important than it has until now.
The fuel that we’re running in the V8 right now, will essentially be very different when it comes to the v6 because they’re different engines so they have different appetites, and that’s something that were quite a long way down the track with at Ferrari and we’re looking forward to the exciting changes in 2014.
How much influence does Shell have in shaping the sporting and technical regulations of Formula 1? For example, was Shell in favour of the ban on refuelling?
The refuelling situation was a safety one and that’s something that Shell prides themselves on, safety is number one for us, so I think it was a good move for the sport to go towards no refuelling during the race.
Actually its enabled us to bring in a new dimension which is important to us and that’s fuel economy and fuel efficiency, so I think from shells perspective it’s been a step forward for the sport.
So do you have much of a say towards the regulations going into next year?
There is an industry body; Formula One Fuels Advisory or FOFA, which we’re a member of and one of my colleagues, Mike Evans, leads that panel and they do work very closely with the FIA to developing new regulations for fuels.
A special thanks to everybody at Shell and Ferrari for this incredible opportunity to go behind the scenes of an F1 team. I would especially like to thank Guy Lovett, Richard Bracewell for giving up their valued time to show me around the garage and giving this interview. And lastly a big thank-you to Gisella Spedicato and Jill Tenner for their great hospitality.