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In Formula One, everything is pushed to the limit: the car plus the driver, who experiences forces of up to 5g when taking sharp corners and who loses 2kg in weight during a race. This is due to g-forces and an average cockpit temperature of 50 degrees Celsius.

However, getting pole position is not only due to the ability of the driver, the design of the car or even its engine. What flows through the engine, the fuel and the lubricants used in a Formula One car can make up the tenth-of-a-millisecond difference required to snag a better position on the grid.

Scuderia Ferrari has been racing in Formula One since the first Formula One World Championship in 1950 and was involved in motorsport in the two decades prior to that. Shell and Ferrari have had a relationship since that time, starting with Shell’s partnership with Enzo Ferrari in 1929. Shell powered Scuderia Ferrari to its first ever Formula One win in a Ferrari 375 F1 at Silverstone in 1951 and to date, during the partnership with Shell, Ferrari has won 12 Formula One drivers’ titles and 10 constructors’ crowns.

Cara Tredget, Shell Formula One Technology Manager, heads the Shell team of scientists that carries out continuous development and research into fuels and lubricants for Ferrari.

“I did my PhD in inorganic chemistry with the goal to join the industry afterwards. I had no idea I’d end up trackside, wearing the red jumpsuit,” she says. “I love that the work is so quick, and not just in terms of the cars.

“We are always pushing for development so fast that if we discover something good in a fuel, we can immediately blend it and send to Ferrari. It can go from the lab to being used in a race at a grand prix within a couple of months – commercial product development typically takes years.”

Once a new fuel has been tested and approved by Ferrari it then has to be approved by the FIA, Formula One’s regulatory body. Cara and the team have to work within stringent rules that govern the type and percentage of ingredients that can be used. “But that still means we have hundreds of components to play with; we can change ratios of different things to make a fuel that’s a bit more volatile, for example. Making a small tweak to the fuel can alter a grid position.”

The work never stops. At race weekends, Shell sets up a trackside lab where the fuel and lubricants will be tested a total of 70 times to make sure no contaminants have innocently made their way into the fuel. “We are very focused in the track lab,” says Cara, “but the atmosphere is electric.”

For us, Ferrari means excellence and working with such a high-level company is challenging; we have to be at our best at all times. 

So says Daniele Frustagli, Shell Global Account Manager for Lubricants Sales and Supply. He cites the common tests required by engine oil to meet the requirements of the market, but asserts that “thanks to Ferrari’s heavy testing we have to meet a high-level benchmark, so our Shell Helix Ultra is not a normal oil. It’s better than the others.”

Remi Sinai, from the Shell sponsorship team in charge of the Ferrari partnership, agrees: “We can transfer our learning from Formula One to our commercial products. So the same people who are developing the Ferrari fuel are the same people who work on the commercial product.”

The advances made together with Ferrari have enabled Shell to develop a world-class road fuel, Shell V-Power. The race fuel used by Scuderia Ferrari in the 2012 Formula One World Championship contains 99% of the same types of compounds found in the Shell V-Power road fuel. However, new developments are happening all the time – the Shell/Ferrari partnership is one that never stands still. You’d expect nothing less from Formula One.

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