F1 News, Views and Reviews

Exclusive: How Shell Prepared Themselves And Ferrari For A Season Without Refuelling

For the first time since 1993 refuelling has been banned in Formula One.  Gone are the days of pitstops lasting 10 seconds or more, the chance of fires and the intricacies of fuel stop strategies and in their place have come 3 second pit stops as the tyre men throw on slick tyres at a lightening rate.

While those tyre men have had to work harder and train ever more with the tyres, what about the companies behind the fuel rigs?  They have had to work even harder to ensure their fuel optimises everything from power, efficiency and weight.

Thanks to Shell, The F1Fanatics Blog can bring you an exclusive look at some of the challenges surrounding the fuel company who provide their V-Power mixture to the Ferrari F1 Team.

Lisa Lilley, who is the top manager for Shell’s racing fuels department and works directly with the Ferrari F1 Team told us “The 2010 refuelling ban is by far the biggest challenge we have seen in fuel development in 15 years, but it is also a really positive one for Shell.  Over the last year we have put a lot of work into the formulation of the Shell V-Power race fuel for the new season, and our main objective has been to optimise the power and performance benefit of the Shell V-Power race fuel for Ferrari.”

Lisa Lilley of Shell Race Fuels

On top of just creating that faster fuel, efficiency is necessary so that the cars can complete the race as quickly as possible, yet the fuel needs to last them.  While Bahrain’s Grand Prix yesterday was only 49 laps, the Monaco Grand Prix is 78.  The fuel needs to work across the range of circuits to its top performance, and Shell have focussed on efficiency.  Mike Evans, Shell Formula One Fuels Development Project Leader explains, “Engines, performance-wise, are tuned to run a rich, heavy type of fuel but you can then run them on a slightly leaner formulation, which will give you a small drop in performance but it will also give you better fuel efficiency. It’s getting that balance right.”

The more efficient the fuel can be, means that the fuel tanks can be smaller and can lead to the car being lighter and thus faster in race trim.  Ferrari are well known for having one of the fastest engines in the pit lane, and when compared to the Renault equivalent in their rivals Red Bull Racing car the Ferrari engine guzzles its fuel much faster so this has been an added challenge for the fuel scientists.  Mike Evans continues “[We have been] working hard for the last nine months leading up to the 2010 season, given the latest FIA rule changes.”

The heat of the engine on the fuel has been another concern for the manufacturers, with the engines and fuel tanks in a much more compact structure than they were back in the early 1990’s, there is a good chance of the engine heat affecting the fuel.  This could occur even more frequently at races in locations such as Bahrain where the air temperature is usually around 36oC.  ,Lisa Lilley continued her explanation “Without this cooling effect, and in addition to having the larger fuel tank sitting next to very hot engines, the fuel itself will be getting hotter while it is in the car this year.”

Lilley continued, “At Shell, our fuel experts have been working since last year to meet these challenges, and provide Ferrari’s Formula One team with a custom-made Shell V-Power race fuel that can provide optimum performance even at high temperatures.”

The drivers carried out extensive winter testing of various components including fuels

So it is very evident that Shell, like other fuel manufacturers have been working very hard.  But what is the relationship between Ferrari, the most successful F1 team of all time and the Dutch fuel manufacturer?   Stefano Domenicali was very happy with the links between the two companies “The technical partnership we share with Shell is key to our understanding of fuel development. Shell has unrivalled expertise and knowledge in fuel technology, and our close-working relationship means we can constantly push the fuel to its boundaries to achieve both power and performance.

Domenicali continued “The fuel is a crucial element that has always been very important to Ferrari and the refuelling ban in 2010 means the partnership will be absolutely fundamental this season.”

The drivers too seem very happy with the work Shell have done, newcomer Fernando Alonso told us “I think we are ready.  We have some innovative new products from Shell, that we have spent a lot of the winter testing and I think we have found the right compromise.  We have to be very optimistic for the season ahead”

Team mate Felipe Massa, who has been with Ferrari for many seasons alongside both Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen added “We are using V-Power from Shell, which is a great fuel anyway and we’re trying to make it even faster and even more reliable, because reliability is really really important now.”

So, after 10 constructors championships and 12 drivers titles with the Italian giants, we would be fairly confident that Shell know what they are doing with the fuel this season, and their expertise tied in with one of the best teams, Ferrari, and two of the best drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa could provide and unstoppable force in F1.

Ferrari are pinning their hopes on two time world champion Fernando Alonso to deliver great results

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