When you think of race car drivers, you think of a person going fast in a really fast car, pedal to the metal. A person that knows how the car functions and turns. The more they run the track, the faster they go, the more they drive that one car and get used to the car, the faster they go.
The more you talk to race car drivers, and the people behind the scenes the more you realize the technology and strategy of racing. Sebastian Vettel is a four-time race car World Champion; not of just any race, Vettel is a four-time Formula one World Championship race car driver. Vettel’s racing skills have been compared to Michael Schumacher more than any other race car driver. When you get to that level of expertise, you have spent time with pretty much every aspect of the racing. That involves the car, the companies, and the gasoline.
Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel talked to us about Formula 1 racing with Shell gasoline. Shell’s technical partnership with Scuderia Ferrari dates back to the time when Enzo Ferrari started racing for Alfa Romeo. It was Enzo that founded Scuderia Ferrari and sold it in the 1930s. Scuderia is Italian for a stable reserved for racing horses, in this case, Ferrari racing horses. Fast forward to 2012 and Shell has celebrated 500 Formula 1 races with Scuderia Ferrari.
When we meet Vettel, he was at a Shell gasoline station, pulling a sort of Undercover Boss segment. He is pretending to be a gasoline attendant, but it doesn’t take the patrons long to realize that he is Sebastian Vettel. Smartphones start snapping pictures, red hats and sharpies come out. It’s part of what makes Vettel who he is, the consummate professional with a human touch. I think he likes to see if he can pull off not being noticed.
A puff of Performance
Vettel answered the question with the knowledge of a tactician, someone who knows the importance of performance and efficiency. The first question I asked was about the current generation of Formula 1 cars that feature Advanced Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) which puts a premium on performance and efficiency. I call this a puff of performance. Most people who know about hybrids know about capturing the energy from braking. KERS is the ability to use batteries or capacitors and capture the kinetic energy obtained after braking, store that energy and then release it back into the drivetrain through a motor or flywheel. The cool thing is that Scuderia Ferrari (and the other Formula One cars) can store the energy and use it, strategically, when needed, say on a straight-away.
It reminds me of my electric Gocycle. When I can’t pedal it up a hill, I put the bike in second, hit the electric button and off I go.
Shell fuels and lubricants deliver a 25% of the total performance gain to the Scuderia Ferrari power. This means Scuderia Ferrari can go over half a second a lap faster with the same amount of fuel. Vettel knows that the gasoline that he uses is a bespoke gasoline, perfected right in the pit especially for his car. But if you use Shell gasoline V-Power, you are using 99% of the same gasoline that Vettel uses in his car.
Shell Motorsport Innovation Manager Guy Lovett explains what this means: “Efficiency is crucial for us in motorsport, where performance improvements are primarily found through exploiting efficiency, due to the fuel limit, so we can only go faster by getting more out of each drop of fuel.
Scuderia Ferrari Driver Sebastian Vettel understands the difference, “Our performance so far this season relies on all parts of the puzzle working together, and of course, the fuels and lubricants from Shell are playing their part – stats like this show how their expertise contributes to give us an advantage on the track.”
“At Shell, we work tirelessly with Scuderia Ferrari designers and engineers over the winter and during each season, with 21,000 hours devoted to the Formula 1 products alone. The scale of the efficiency benefits we have delivered since the end of 2014 is a testament to all the team at Shell, and truly demonstrates the benefits of our Innovation Partnership with Scuderia Ferrari in practice. Ultimately, we strive to bring improvements from the intense testing environment of the racetrack to help develop the best fuel and lubricants for drivers on the road.”
The 2017 Formula 1 cars require more power due to ‘draggier’ designs, but this year, regulations have changed, and the cars and tires are wider. What does Vettel think of the overtaking opportunity for this year, compared to last year?
Mattia Binotto, Technical Director, Scuderia Ferrari said: “It’s really impressive that Shell fuels and lubricants delivered nearly a quarter of the overall efficiency gain of our power unit since the end of 2014, and our thanks go to Shell for delivering such an improvement. To achieve ever-increasing standards of performance out of the same amounts of Shell V-Power race fuel is remarkable, and this combined with the benefits of Shell Helix Ultra race lubricants in the engine, is an important factor contributing to Scuderia Ferrari’s on-track results.”
The whole race is a well-oiled machine, including the driver. Good Luck this Sunday, Sebastian, at the Circuit of the Americas.