Lubricants and fuels are a key ingredient when it comes to the survival of the Power Units that are now a part of the package integrated in the current configuration of Formula One. Reliability is one major factor that the suppliers have to concentrate on fully, but with the fact that efficiency is one of those aspects that is of concern, performance is still key to unlocking the full potential of the Power Units.
With the likes of Shell, Petronas, Mobil 1 and Total working alongside the top teams, there will always be development on making strides forward to get the most out of the internal combustion engine, through both meticulous analysis and component structure. The fuel that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen use in the F14 T is made up of over 200 separate components, which really puts into context the level of complexity that Shell have gone to in order to help push this new technology forward on track.
Along with fuels, oils that are provided to lubricate the internal combustion engine will also help to increase the optimization of the fuel usage during a race. Oils help to ensure protection in the engine itself, as the internal moving parts will cause friction due to the tight tolerances in the cylinders and valves. This will help to increase the potential that can be unlocked in any race situation that is being exercised.
Article 19.1.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations requires that the fuels that are used by all teams will have to be mainly made of compounds that are found in commercially available fuels used by the general public. This is as well as the teams having to have written approval from the FIA before the fuels they will use can be put into the cars in Article 19.7.2.
The fact that we are now seeing teams such as Lotus and Red Bull having new fuels brought to race weekends, which should have had the mandatory approval from the FIA, is not at all surprising. However, Ferrari and Shell are the only entities that have their own on-site laboratory in the paddock, which means that any issues can be acted upon rather rapidly.
Lucy Taylor, who is one of the Shell fuel analysts that works hard at every one of the nineteen race weekends this season, will take around thirty fuel samples during various stages of transportation. This is to ensure that there is consistency and will show up any signs of potential contamination. If the specified fuel sample that is taken by the FIA does not meet the regulations, the team that provides said sample will be automatically excluded from that race weekend.
Fuel also has an octane rating, which can be a higher indicator of performance, depending on how hard the engine is being pushed to extract the maximum for a driver to compete at the very top. However, as the rev limits have dropped significantly since the end of last season, as the engines are being pushed to around 12,000 rpm, the need for an octane rating is not of primary concern, but the composition is key to maximum results.
So, in the debate that fuels will make a difference, it may provide a slight increase of performance of around a tenth or two tenths of a second for the likes of Lotus and Red Bull this weekend, but when the fact that over 100 fuels were made by Petronas for Mercedes to test shows that everyone is keeping an eye on how fuels will make a difference.
But in my honest opinion, with the limited scope that there is when it comes to fuel developments, it may not be the main catalyst that could help to push Renault forward to counter the assault that Mercedes have made so far, but it could provide a step forward towards finding a better solution.
Images courtesy © Octane Photographic