BLOG: Shell V-Power & Ferrari: "A Special Relationship" Part 2: Fuel's Gold

As part of our recent trip to the F1 GP at Spa-Francorchamps, Shell gave us behind the scenes access to their 50-strong members of staff who accompany the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team to all 19 GP's in a year – as they have done since Shell powered Ferrari to its first ever Formula One win in a Ferrari 375 F1 at Silverstone in 1951.

In the six decades since then, using Shell fuels and lubricants, Ferrari has won 12 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship™ Drivers’ Titles and 10 Constructors’ Crowns. It is, as the teams are rightly proud to say a "very special relationship."

This exclusive Shell-Ferrari backstage experience gave us a unique insight into the work they do developing the V-Power F1 race fuels for each race, testing and developing the Helix motor oil and lubricants that run in the (80,000 component!) F14 T F1 car (and also road-going Ferraris), and how the 21,000 hours of R&D that go into fuel and lubricant research each year end up in the V-Power Nitro + we can buy for our road cars at the garage pumps.

As with most things in C21st F1, the scale and style of Shell's operation is utterly incredible – it's like something out of a science fiction film. At each GP, Shell has a trackside laboratory behind the pit garages (complete with Sci-Fi 'swishy' door!), loaded with the very latest state-of-the-art analysis equipment and at least three dedicated scientific staff. The Shell team first create the race fuels (made up of over 200-250 components) then these guys and gals in white coats analyse more than 40 samples of oil from the Scuderia Ferraris and 30 fuel samples, each event.
The team of brainiacs are also responsible for supplying over 30 samples to the FIA – during each race – to make sure all race fuels are fully compliant with regulations... F1 fuel is the most regulated motorsport fuel on the planet.
An RDE (rotating disc electrode) oil analyser – which uses a technique called optical emission spectroscopy (OES) – detects any increased concentration of wear metals in the oil and warns the team if there is excessive engine wear. And a gas chromatograph detects contaminants in the fuel. This machine is so sensitive it can detect contamination equivalent to finding a raindrop in an Olympic swimming pool!

The work Shell does here is critical to Ferrari's success. Sure, by their own admission (Fernando Alonso said before the race: "We know we are not the fastest"), they are not race or championship winners this year. But they are scoring points, regularly. In fact, the Scuderia Ferrari team holds a record by scoring points in 67 consecutive races now. And Ferrari also completed the 2013 season without any race-ending technical problems. This record has got a great deal to do with the reliability and analysis work Shell do behind the scenes.

Of course, lubricants and fuel are hot topics in Formula One this year because new technical rules put a premium on reliability and fuel efficiency. Each driver can only use five engines this season compared with eight in 2013. And, with the smaller, turbocharged (and electronic recovery linked) "downsized boosted" engines, operating temperatures are much higher, with the V6 lumps reaching insanely high temperatures of over 300°C (and the turbos over 1,000°C!). Your road car is super hot over 110-130°C. They also have a radically different "fuel appetite" and "fuel fingerprint" to the old 2.4-litre V8 and the older V10 F1 engines, which "liked volatile fuel with a fast flame speed." The new direct injection engines prefer a very high octane fuel, with good atomisation characteristics.

In addition to fuel changes, the Helix oil has to be different to work in harmony with the new 1.6-litre engines, with engine oil being sprayed on the underside of the pistons to keep them cool. This requires a completely different blend from the V8 and V10 days. It's all change in F1 fuel and lubricants, and Shell are at the forefront of that change.

Of course, as with all things motoring these days, fuel efficiency is key. Each car must only use 100 kg (approx. 130–140 litres) of fuel per race and this is strictly regulated, with cars returning after a race with a minimum of 1Kg of fuel.

Mike Evans, Shell Formula One Fuels Project Leader, says: "There's such great advances in the fuel technology this year. We are using 30-40% less fuel, but producing cars capable of the same lap times as before. And engine reliability is up also. Ferrari test the fuels we develop on their engine hence and in their cars and give us invaluable feedback to develop the exact fuels they need each race. We then blend the fuels and send samples to the FIA to check compliance. To put this into a real world context, we have developed over 50 different fuel mixtures for the car since Melbourne (in March!), and we did 40 before that. It's a two-way R&D process and one of the strongest of its kind in the F1 paddock.
"The technology in Shell V-Power Unleaded for the road comes directly from the work we are doing in Formula One with Ferrari, but that’s not the end of the process – far from it. In Formula One you are always pushing for that little bit of extra performance and that’s a philosophy we also apply to our road-going products. At Shell, we never believe our job is done – we always look to improve."

Of course, as ever, power is also paramount in F1. Shell and Ferrari work hard together to make sure a balance between reliability, power production and engine efficiency is found, so Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in their F14 can produce the goods on track, using the 1,400-litres of Shell V-Power race fuel in 28, 50-litre drums housed in the Ferrari Scuderia paddock. 

Incredibly, despite road cars revving nowhere near the 15,000rpm limit the F1 cars do and the fuel pressure not being an insane 500 bar, the new F14 T F1 Ferrari can run perfectly well on pump V-Power Nitro +. In fact, Shell say it is 99% the same. With the exception of a few different compounds, only really the RON rating is different, at a considerably higher figure than the 99RON we get on the forecourt. But this is a closely guarded secret, so the exact nature of this RON figure, and of course the fuel blend recipe is kept under lock and key. 

"There's huge similarity between the V-Power fuel for road cars and the F1 fuel used by Ferrari," says Shell's Project and Technology scientist, Andreas Schaefer.
"In both fuels, we use powerful detergent technology to clean deposits from inside the engine which actively clean up the engine inside. And we use friction reduction technology to minimise losses, giving the maximum energy available.
"The action of the V-Power fuel is a multi-step process. First, fuel molecules link to the unwanted (power sapping) engine deposits (usually attached to the valves, see below), which are then moved, stabilised and burned up in the combustion process. It is a subtle process and we have never had any negative side effects from it.
"Shell invests approximately 21,000 hours a year into research and development to give Scuderia Ferrari the competitive edge in Formula One. We believe a great drive needs a great fuel. Shell V-Power is developed through the Shell Technical Partnership with Ferrari and designed to meet the highest possible standards, so that we can turn our innovations on the track into your excitement on the road."

To showcase the effects of V-Power Nitro +, Shell has built a dual tank VW Golf, with two external fuel tanks and the ability to swap the different fuels from each of these tanks into the engine and to either the left or right two-cylinders of the four-cylinder engine, to monitor the different fuels' effects. The team of Shell scientists brought this VW to the Ferrari driving event prior to the Spa F1 GP and strapped it to a dyno, which measures power at the wheels. 
And, witnessed with my own eyes, the bog stock 1.6-litre Golf managed a 6% increase in power to the wheels using V-Power Nitro + against regular unleaded. And the chaps on the dyno said the gains for larger capacity performance engines (especially those that are turbo or supercharged), are typically "higher still." This is my own experience with our twin turbo Audi Project S4
So, the benefits of using V-Power Nitro + appear to not just be about cleaner, more efficient engines, with reduced friction losses – but greater power and torque production too, thus justifying its additional cost at the pumps. 

Both the Helix oils and V-Power Nitro + fuel are available to buy and use in our road cars. And when you see the mind-blowing level of R&D that goes into Shell's operation with Ferrari in F1, you have to ask the question... why wouldn't I want this technology and expertise in my road car, rather than buy cheap, poor quality fuels and lubricants, which must surely be a false economy? 
After all, Shell’s Technical Partnership with Ferrari is one of the most successful partnerships (and indeed "special relationships") in Formula One history... and why wouldn't you want a dose of that under the bonnet for peace of mind, power and engine efficiency? 

See more images to accompany this story of Road Magazine going behind the scenes with Shell and Ferrari in F1 here.


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