So on Friday 25/03/11 – to the GP I was going. The adventure included a chat with the familiar face of Stuart Humm and two new faces, Gareth Lowe (Shell trackside analyst) & Dr Cara Tredget (Shell technology manager for Ferrari). The lovely Lisa Lilley you’ll notice from past years articles has taken on another roll within Shell. Fresh people to pose the tough questions too is always going to be interesting.
Before reading on, if you remember past write ups I have done then sweet – if not then check them out as once again, I’ll be coving some different things this time around.
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The Shell Laboratory
The technical partnership has been going on for over 60 years now, which is quite impressive when you think that no other F1 team has such a partnership. Given this is for both oil and fuel, an truly amazing feat of communication, results, development and teamwork. Once again ole Berni has seen too it that there have been some major changes once again. The biggest challenges Shell face with Ferrari
- 8 engines per year, over 19 races.
- Gearboxes must be used for 5 consecutive races.
- Fuel temps over the course of the race. Temps can get up to those of a freshly made cuppa, so the temperature differential is quite substancial.
- No opportunity to cool the fuel during the race, other than refilling with fresh fuel at pit stops.
- Up to 800 samples must be taken and checked over the course of a race weekend to ensure oils don't have contamination, and engine wear. Also to ensure the fuel meets the strict standards the FIA stipulate and nothing has changed.
- 200,000 litres of fuel is blended by Shell each year for F1 race/test teams. This would last your average car 50 years. A skyline, by my rough guess, maybe around 30-35
- Shell hydraulic fluid is filtered 20 times before use to avoid contamination. The level of purity is of the highest importance.
Whilst the above might not seem a lot you must remember that each engine will do around 2,500kms, most of it flat out. Only the best fuel & oil will help something like this become achievable.
Dr Tredget confirmed the fuel/oil development is still going on in the UK, with some in Germany. Fuel production amounts have not changed but an interesting fact was they use some 40,000kg of lubricant a year. No doubt you were just as stunned as I was, that be a lot of oil. A bit more than your average 5,000km skyline service
Another very interesting point came out this year was that when in Europe and similar GP's which are not a air-travel for race teams, the Shell laboratory takes up approx 1/3 of the area. So whilst the conditions when flying to races are a bit cramped for all, when space is available there is obvious commitment to this partnership and it gives an idea of the sheer importance placed on the fuel & oil testing/analysis & development. However even in the small area as you will see in the pictures, the amazing work continues with some of best technology money can buy.
The Pit Tour
Everyone would have seen a lot pictures around about the cars, and general pit area, but it's the stuff that goes on behind the scene that really give you an appreciation and everyone race team differs in that area. The back area's were strictly a no photo part however I will tell you a few brief things to give you an insight into it all.
Everything of course has it's place. Fuel & oil drums are all over the place and of course there is ample walls of tyres to be perplexed by.
Everyone is busy with not a single person sitting on their rear lazing about. Even the drivers are busy talking to people, engineers, team members - you name it. It's simply a buzz with activity. I even had the chance to see a "mock up" pit stop being performed, one of many practices I'm told. All of it is simply breathtaking...
- A F1 car has approx 80,000 individual components.
- There is roughly 1km of cable within a F1 car
- Min weight is 640kg, including driver/fuel.
- F1 cars pull up to 4G's when cornering.
- F1 motors use oil squirters to cool pistons.
One utterly astonishing thing was just as I was leaving. Felipe was in the room filled with laptops and blokes, you'd think it was a PC Lan event... What these 10-12 guys were doing with about 20 laptops was going over every single iota of data from the car, looking for that slight improvement or issue anywhere. Now believe it or not, it does not end there. The most ridiculous part is there is a live data feed back to the Engineers HQ in Italy with some 40-50 MORE Engineers busy doing the same thing in REAL TIME, and this occurs during race day. That for me really hit home the old "This is serious business" for me.
The F1 Driving Simulator
I know this part will have high expectations, I can assure you it delivers.
I love cars, I love video games - A good portion of you have no doubt played Gran Turismo 5 - Well throw GT5 out the window - This is the business. No video was allowed, I did manage to get a few pics of the whole experience which is once in a lifetime really.
There are two types of F1 Simulator. The Portable one, and the Not-So-Portable one. I'll list the differences first
The Portable one
- Weights 350kg
- Powered by only 1 PC, which will drive 3x 42-50" monitors perfectly. So at a rough guess I'd predict that single PC to be around the 8k mark in value.
- This one has cockpit forward, and is propped up on fully mobile skeleton - It reminds you of the Aircraft Simulators that Airlines use (if you've ever seen them), but just on a smaller scale.
The Not-So-Portable one
- Weight: NFI how much, but given the fact it is not portable and the next fact, I'd say probably a bit more than 350kg
- Powered by a whopping FIVE PC's to drive the thing. I mean the stuff this thing is capable of, it could probably rival some of the medium sized research PC's in the world.
- No clue how big the thing overall is, but hell you can't move it, it has more gear - it's simply gotta be cooler than cool right?
What's the same???
- Drivers on average spend 1 day per week in them. The portable one Fernando Alonso I believe used at Fed Square for the demo on Thursday 24/03.
- When I asked the Ferrari dude running it how much they cost overall - He just looked at me and thought a thick Italian accent he said "Cost?"... So clearly these are some expensive toys.
- The thing behaves like a proper F1 car, you feel all the bumps, jolts and so on. I'm not a huge bloke but the drivers are smaller in Felipe's case... So it's sure uncomfy too, the real experience.
- Steering wheel it's identical to that of the actual car, but its pretty close.
- They have ALL the tracks PERFECTLY mapped out. You can load up whatever you want
- It's also running Windows 7
What was it like?
The car starts up and idles at around 3000-3,5000rpm. You start off in the Albert Park Pit Garage. To leave the pit garage you need to dial in "around 10,000" I was instructed and just "let the paddle out". Easier said that done when you aren't controlling the clutch by foot and you use more RPM to launch than you average RB has in terms of rev limit
Taking off out of the pits before you even come to corner one I think I've hit the limiter in each of the 5 gears. It takes me a good second to realise each time as the car just spins up that fast it's utterly ridiculous, and by now I'm just giggling like a Japanese school girl. There were other people using the simulator and pretty much every person i watched went straight off into the wall at Turn 1 the first time around, somehow i managed to get around it unscathed.
The pedals are something else. I was told they are almost the same. The accelerator is light as a feather. A Nissan Skyline pedal feels heavy by comparison like a triple plate vs stock clutch sorta thing. It's totally different.
The brake pedal - well bugger me. There is barely ANY MOVEMENT in this thing what so ever. There would be less than 5-10mm of travel, yet strangely it does not lock-up as fast/hard as you would expect and is actually quite usable which was the most impressive part I think.
I managed to complete my entire 1st lap without putting the car into a wall, gravel trap or otherwise. I wish the same could be said about my recent GTR track experiences. I'm not sure who was more surprised out of it all though, myself or Mr. Ferrari watching/advising me, either way it was intense and just bloody awesome.
After that was done, as we were in the Shell Corp Hospitality area right above pit straight, it was time to watch Practice 1 and have a beer.
I'll end it here, I could talk about this for hours on end so if you want know more and I'm around just ask me.
Thanks once again to Shell, Ferrari & Edelman for making this all possible.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this and having a look see at the pics.