It’s an interesting job that Guy Lovett has as Shell Technology Manager in the Shell track-side laboratory. We’ve known Guy for some time now but this year was a completely different Guy…literally. Guy is feeling good this season even though Ferrari have only won three times this year and there’s a perfectly good reason for that.
You see, all the teams were on the back foot chasing Mercedes and only Ferrari have managed to make some substantial gains against the Silver Arrows. In fact, it was a very methodical plan set by both Shell and Ferrari to make significant gains in the engine development program and they are very excited that they achieved those goals—the good news for Ferrari fans is, they’re not through yet.
Ferrari have brought a new engine iteration and its 5th fuel iteration to this weekend’s US Grand Prix. Taking a 10-place grid penalty for changing out their engine, Ferrari are playing the long game considering that Mexico or Brazil may be a better circuits for them, in terms of performance, and what better way to enter that race than with a new engine.
For Guy’s part, he and his team have been more integrated into the Ferrari program and the new title of the recently extended contract—which runs for five years—is a technology innovation partner. Guy has been part of a team who has found more performance from fuel than any previous time he’s been at the helm and there’s multiple reasons for that. In a series where fuel is highly restricted, they have magically found more power from their new Shell V-Power Nitro+ inspired racing fuel and lubricant—speaking of lubricants, did you know their oil is made from natural gas? The PurePlus product is an amazing feat in and of itself and I spent some time trying to determine just how they turned natural gas into base oil. A intriguing process.
I asked Guy if he felt they had achieved what they want so far and the answer was a resounding yes. In fact, that probably not hard to believe given that 50 Shell scientists invest around 21,000 hours each year on the program. In one race weekend alone the team analyze more than 40 samples of the oil and 30 samples of the fuel to ensure they are working properly and within FIA regulation.
One of the interesting parts of the Shell lab in the Ferrari garage is the massive database they have which adds to their ability to predict engine wear and behavior. For example, they can tell, by how much wear metal is in the oil sample, just how long an engine will last and if it is experiencing difficulty due to unusually high wear.
Guy Lovett works with a fuel that has more than 200 different components in it and imagine how critical that is given the FIA are watching and measuring every move. The system has to work well and resist the heat which can exceed 300 degree centigrade! It’s so hot that the pistons are spayed on the underside of the piston to keep them cool.
The fact is, Ferrari and Shell have a new relationship, a new program, a new fuel and possibly 32 new tokens in which to develop in 2016 with. Ferrari tell me they are very excited about this and should make serious progress against Mercedes.