Arguably the most glamorous sport in the world, Formula One (F1) is all about advanced engineering. This is true at every level, from the aerodynamic design of the car, the performance of the engine, the construction of the tyres and the drivers’ helmets, right through to the media coverage on TV.
Unsurprisingly therefore, the oils used in F1 cars are engineered to the nth degree.
With oils and lubricants one of the unending essential factors of a successful F1 single-seater, they ensure the optimal performance at every step in the process can shave thousandths of seconds off a lap time. Anyone watching the 2014 battle between Mercedes’ silver arrows Rosberg and Hamilton will know how vital even this fractional time difference can be.
Equally unsurprising is the fact that the biggest teams in the sport jointly develop their oils and engines in partnership with some of the biggest names in the oil manufacturing industry. With Ferrari closely associated with Shell and McLaren with Mobil, this ensures that the power unit in each car is lubricated to perfection.
This is certainly the case with McLaren. One of the most successful teams in F1 history, they have been in partnership with ExxonMobil for many seasons. Closely aligned in many technological areas, the oil composition is a critical influence to the performance of the engine and the gearbox; both of which now need to last at least three/four and six races respectively.
Ferrari has one of the longest associations in sport with its oil partner Shell, and the relationship remains dynamic. At Singapore in September 2014, the two presented the newly developed, higher performing oil Shell Helix Ultra. Derived from natural gas rather than crude, efficiency levels have been improved.
As well as improving power and fuel efficiency, oil brings more to the F1 table. Performing an essential diagnostic task, technicians are able to monitor metal traces in the oil to analyse engine wear rates.