The purpose behind it was to provide an insight into what goes on in a Formula 1 Garage, and how this then flows into what a general consumer see’s on the shelf or at the good old petrol station!
You might think that what goes on in F1 probably doesn’t really have much in common with everyday motoring. Of all people, I’m actually surprised to say that there in quite a bit of relevance. Given I question just about everything I had some interesting questions as you’ll see later on. The representative faced with the questions was Dr Lisa Lilley. Lisa is the Shell Technology Manager for the Ferrari team. Between Lisa and the Ferrari engineers, the fuel is produced according to the needs and requirements of the car & team.
Some interesting facts part 1…
o Shell produces around 200,000 litres for Ferrari each year.
o Fuel is made in batches of between 20,000 and 50,000 in the Shell refinery (refinery is located in Britain)
o 50 staff work full time at the Shell refinery/laboratory in Britain.
o Around 2,000 litres of fuel is supplied for one GP. They come in 50 litre drums (40 drums of fuel alone)
o The Ferrari Garage is cleaner than the floors at Racepace!
So as you can probably see, fuel is pretty big business in terms of logistics and just the sheer amount of people involved, if there is this much involved for just one aspect of a F1 team, the sheer size of the rest is mind blowing.
The Ferrari & Shell partnership began back in 1996, and has remained strong ever since. It is so strong that Dr Lilley even has her own office in the Ferrari base in Maranello for use at various times of the year. For all of you wondering about E85, ill touch on that later, but for now around 5% of the current fuel is required to have ‘bio’ content, as per the FIA regulations. The regulations are quite strict, especially around what you can, and can’t do.
As a part of these regulations, the fuel is tested 30 times over a race meet to ensure that it meets the stipulated rules and there is no ‘bending’ occurring. Considering a meet lasts 4-5 days, that’s a fair amount of testing going on just to check the juice!
A key point to consider is not all the batches are the same.
As the development goes on through the year during meets, given there is no in-season testing now, one batch is not necessarily the same what will be next. Ferrari might also be chasing a specific result from the fuel which could play key parts in a championship decider as it has before with a race win for Schumacher as he gained another lap over everyone else due to fuel composition.
Shell also aid in the testing of oil for Ferrari. Samples are taken all throughout the race meet and provided to Shell engineers for breakdown analysis. Shell test for 15 different metals in the oil sample to indicate which areas might be wearing down too soon/fast and they can immediately get to fixing it. You could assume this would consist of bearings, block/bore, rings, valves, cranks and so on (try think of 15!)
Given F1 teams are only allowed 8 engines this year, this testing and knowledge has become quite critical. I was thinking to myself, if only we had this kind of rigorous testing for RB’s? Could be some money in it for someone!
You would be able to tell when the good ole bearings are playing up in your GTR before they decide to spin and make a meal of your crank, or even the good old piston rings are a bit tired because it’s detonating its guts… not that running 20psi on a stock ECU has anything to do with it…
Fact time again, I believe its part 2!
o The fuel’s created for the F1 cars are between 98 and 102 RON.
o A F1 car can indeed run on any V-Power out of the bowsers that you or I can purchase. It wont have as much power, as in a driver would notice, however it would still be quite substantial.
o 102RON might not provide the best mix for what the team is after, so they could indeed be running a 98RON fuel.
o Shelf life for the fuel is easily 6 months or more. Reason being the fuels are created with a broad application use in mind (i.e., Malaysia 35+ degrees, Australia might be 20 degrees)
o Shell have tested fuel older than 12 months, and it was in perfect condition for racing. Pity our PULP isn’t as tough!
o In reference to the above, fuels are not made track specific. It is too inefficient to create 2,000 litres just for the specific race meeting
The fuel, when you consider its being made in batches of 20,000-50,000, can be much better tailored to the F1 car as opposed to every day users like us. The point above where it can run on PULP but with reduced power is understandable, however that was the most surprising part for me that they were not using some crazy jungle juice. Ferrari wouldn’t come to the table on how much horsepower they were making but I guess finding out as much as I did, I can’t complain!
I also toyed with the idea to recommend they buy a ViPec ECU… being they will even make you breakfast, however the impression was they were doing ok…
Now for it… the BIG question – E85
Most of you seemed to be pretty keen in finding out about one thing more than anything else.
E85 and what it means to Shell & Ferrari???
So I indeed asked the tough question. Being V8’s are using it, other forms of control Motorsport are now using it… and of course lets not forget Guilt-Toy uses it, so why on earth isn’t it being brought into F1 or as a product from Shell?
Well, in relation to F1, it’s a big fat no at this stage. As the FIA are not altering the regulations to stand by Ferrari & Shell have not even toyed with E85 in a lab. Until the FIA make a mention of this, don’t expect to see it in F1.
Also think, if E85 is 85% ethanol... does the fuel component then play a smaller part? Or a much bigger part? Interesting!
As far as general production is concerned the answer was also a no. The reasoning I found to be something I was not aware of.
Shell advised if all the major fuel companies in Australia went to E85, there simply would not be enough ethanol to meet the demand. Currently with E10 there is enough, however all producers going E85 would drive the price possibly higher than the current 98 from all companies being the ethanol prices would go through the roof.
So for the time being Shell will not be going down that road. Based on this one could assume the other major vendors (BP, Mobil), to probably hold in the same fashion.
Not the answer everyone was hoping for, but at least it was answered!
Any other questions throw them at me and I can always try find out some answers!
I would like to thank Ferrari & Shell for giving me the chance to get in and find out a little bit more about the inner workings of Ferrari.
Also thanks to Edelman (www.edelmen.com.au) who extended the invite to me for this very exclusive event.
Admin, Skylines Australia