Inside the Shell Formula 1 Trackside Laboratory

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In a recent visit to the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, I had the priviledge of a behind the scenes tour of the Shell Trackside Laboratory. Shell not only develops the fuel and lubricants for Scuderia Ferrari, but also provides the racing team with a full analytical service at every race.

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

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Whatever the product analysed in the Shell Trackside Laboratory, you can be sure that its road derivative can be found in Shell service stations all over the world. Therein lies the fundamental reason for Shell’s Technical Partnership with Ferrari. Using Formula One as a high-speed, high-pressure test bed, Shell transfers all of the learnings from one of the harshest engineering tests there is to its road going products.

Shell Trackside Laboratory activity during race weekends

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Wednesday
The Shell Trackside Laboratory is designed to be as efficient as possible in transit, maximising space on the Ferrari engineering trucks for other elements of the team’s kit. Once the trucks have arrived at the track and have been precisely positioned, the set-up of the Trackside Laboratory can begin. By Wednesday, the Shell scientists will have set up and tested the instruments, and prepared everything for
the weekend’s work.

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Thursday
By Thursday, the cars are prepared and ready to run, even though there is no track action. By now Shell will have taken samples of the fuel from the drums, the carlottas (the rigs used to transfer fuel to and from the cars) and also the cars themselves. The aim is to ensure that the fuel is still in the prime condition in which it left Shell’s Technology Centre in Hamburg and that no contamination has occurred. For the oil analyst, the task is to run samples from the cars’ engines and gearboxes.

Friday
Once the cars are on the track, fuel samples will be again be taken from each carlotta and car before the sessions, again to ensure that all is in order. After each run, Shell will take an oil sample from each car and analyse the wear metal in the sample, providing Scuderia Ferrari with an in-depth look at the condition of the engine.

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Saturday
Further tests are run on the fuels and oils throughout the morning, and the samples taken before the qualifying sessions are among the most important. Ferrari needs to be confident that the fuel is in optimum condition for the race and qualifying sessions. Equally, knowing the results of the oil analysis, and the condition of the engines, will give the team an indication of how hard it can push the engines during qualifying and the race.

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Sunday
Even though the cars are under Parc Fermé conditions, Shell can still take further fuel and oil samples prior to the race to ensure that there are no issues. Should the Féderation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) decide to sample the fuel in a Ferrari car or rig before or after the race as part of its random sampling, Shell also takes a sample to ensure that the results are consistent. When the cars return from Parc Fermé following the race, further oil samples are taken, analysed at the track and then sent back to the Shell laboratories in Hamburg for full analysis – the results of which are shared with Ferrari within days.

Shell are busy testing various blends of their new gas-to-liquid motor oils with PurePlus Technology in the Ferrari F1 engines. They plan to start using this new high tech oil in the Ferrari Formula 1 cars during the 2015 season.

Source and Images: Shell International Ltd

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