Filling Ferrari's Formula One Fuel Tanks with V-Power

Don Sherman
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To support Ferrari's two-car effort at every Formula One event, sponsor and technical partner Shell brings not only the fuels and lubricants needed for the weekend, but also experts to help keep the engines screaming and the gearboxes whirring. Lisa Lilley, armed with a PhD in chemical engineering, is Shell's technology manager for Ferrari. Fuel scientist Mike Evans and two technicians make sure the carefully blended V-Power gasoline and the Shell Helix lubricants adhere to the letter of the rules while maintaining peak performance.

Shell brings over 500 gallons of gasoline and 500 pounds of lubricants to each event in sealed containers, plus a 10-foot by 10-foot shack to store its materials trackside. A portable laboratory built into the back half of a Ferrari double-decker trailer is also transported to every race. More than 66,000 gallons of fuel are shipped around the globe throughout the racing season.

Using sophisticated gas chromatograph equipment, the Shell team tests fuel samples 40 or so times per race to make sure there is no contamination by residual fuel left in a Ferrari Formula One car's tank or by errant cleaning materials. The FIA also conducts tests to make sure that every team's fuel supply stays within strict constituent and octane limits. This year every competitor must use "biofuel" containing 5.75-percent ethanol.

Lubricant samples are drawn from the engine and the gearbox each time a Ferrari returns to the pits. A rotating-disc-electrode analyzer identifies the presence of wear metals and contaminants. Monitoring any rise of these metals allows Ferrari to accurately predict when an engine or transmission failure is imminent. That's a major strategic advantage because there's a new rule this year requiring that each engine must last two races while gearboxes have to remain in service for four events. The penalty for early removal is 10 places on the starting grid for an engine change and 5 places for a transmission swap.

While some sponsors merely tag along for the publicity, Shell's longstanding commitment runs deeper. V-Power is the lifeblood that sustains Ferrari's shriek from the starting grid to the checkered flag.

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