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Shell Trackside Laboratory

FEATURE CAR TECH
Bobby Ang September 30, 2015 18:37

Shell not only develops the fuel and lubricants for Scuderia Ferrari but also provides the race team with full analytical support at every race.

At least two Shell scientists attend every Grand Prix and test session throughout the year. They are an essential part of the Scuderia Ferrari team, operating out of a compact laboratory that is integrated into one of the team’s transporters in the paddocks at races in Europe and into the back of the team’s pit garage at those races where cars and equipment have to be airfreighted.

In the Shell Trackside Laboratory, Shell scientists run continuous tests on the fuel and oil used in the Formula OneTM cars to ensure that the drivers are able to benefit from the maximum possible performance when they need it on the track.

The Formula One technical regulations insist on the use of fuel with a “DNA” similar to that used in road cars, or “pump fuel” as it is known. Although the final formulations vary, the components, or “building blocks”, of the Shell race lubricants used by Scuderia Ferrari are the same as those found in the Shell lubricants available to motorists all around the world.

Indeed, these similarities are at the heart of the Technical Partnership with Scuderia Ferrari. Using Formula One as a high-speed, high-pressure test bed, Shell transfers all the relevant data acquired from one of the harshest engineering tests there is to its road going products.

The Shell Trackside Laboratory is operational from the Wednesday to the Sunday of every race week. The first day is given over to setting up the laboratory, once the team trucks are in place in the paddock and ensuring the accuracy of all the instruments used to check the fuel and lubricants. Although the cars do not go out on track on Thursdays, this is the day for establishing that both fuel and oil are to the required specification.

All Shell Formula One race products for Scuderia Ferrari are dispatched from Shell’s Technology Centre in Hamburg to ensure absolute formulation consistency and quality and to implement the latest developments on the racetrack as soon as possible. Once at the circuit, the Shell V-Power race fuel is transferred to special rigs in the Scuderia Ferrari garage, from which it is pumped into the race cars. Throughout the fuel’s journey, from production to the engine, there is an inevitable risk of trace contamination every time it is moved.

This has to be avoided for two reasons: firstly, contamination could have a negative effect on performance and reliability of the fuel and engine; and secondly, contamination might lead to the fuel no longer complying with the regulations, which could lead to the driver and team being heavily penalized. To monitor this a digital fingerprint of the fuel is taken throughout the race weekend to ensure that it falls within the regulations set out by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the Formula One world governing body. Once the cars start running on Friday, oil samples are taken and analysed after each run on track to measure the wear metal concentrations within the used oil.

This is the equivalent of a blood test, as it can inform the Scuderia Ferrari engineers about the health of their engines and highlight any signs of excessive wear on components and give an early indication of any potential problems. The sampling and analysing continues as things get serious on Saturday with drivers pushing engines to the limit in the grid-deciding qualifying session. Final checks are allowed prior to the race on Sunday, one of the few tasks permitted under Parc Fermé conditions.

Should the scrutineers decide to sample the fuel in a Scuderia Ferrari car or rig before or after the race as part of its random testing, Shell also takes a sample to ensure that the results are consistent. After the race, further oil samples are taken, analysed at the track and then sent back to the Shell laboratories in Hamburg for further analysis and their findings are shared with the Scuderia Ferrari engineers.

About Bobby Ang

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