Technology Transfer
How F1 Aids Our Fuel
Technology Transfer

Much is made of ‘technology transfer’ in Formula One and exactly what it can offer modern motorists. In reality however, there are few parts of a Formula One car that can be directly transferred to the road as nearly every component is specifically made for the car in question. The one notable exception however, is the fuel.

The fuel used by Formula One cars is similar to fuel used in road cars all over the world. In Formula One’s recent history, there has been a concerted to effort eliminate the highly complex powerful racing fuels to bring them in line with road fuels. But what would happen if you filled a Formula One car up at a Shell service station with road fuel?

In a recent demonstration in Athens, to promote the launch of a new Shell fuel in Greece, Rubens Barrichello flew in to demonstrate his Formula One car in action.

On a disused airfield in front of 3,000 lucky fans and under the keen eye of the media, Rubens ran high-speed runs of the 1km airstrip in his Formula One car using Formula One fuel. His car performed with the high speed and quick responsiveness one would expect from a Formula One car, even touching 270kph at the end of the straight.

When Rubens pulled his car to a halt, his team pumped out the Formula One fuel in front of the watching eyes of the public and refilled the car with the Shell Road fuel. The fuel had been randomly selected from a selection of barrels that had been filled in front of the journalists earlier that afternoon at a local service station.

When his Formula One car was fired up again, Rubens took back to the track conducting more high-speed tests before coming back to the crowd to report his findings on the difference between the Formula One fuel and the Shell road fuel.

‘It’s exactly the same as our racing fuel,’ said Rubens after his second run - testimony indeed to the similarity of the two fuels.

Formula One fuel is the most tightly controlled fuel in the world. Generally speaking, it has to be 99% identical to commercial fuel, and the checks and parameters imposed on its composition allow no room for error. The rules are laid out for all the teams in the FIA’s (Féderation International De L’Automobile) technical regulations and Shell’s scientists work closely with this rule book and the FIA to find the optimum blends possible without exceeding the boundaries.

It is quite clear as to what is and is not permitted in article 19 of the FIA (Féderation Internationale de L’Automobile) Technical Regulations. The entire article revolves around the FIA’s desire to keep racing fuels similar to road fuels. In fact, 19.1.2 states that ‘the detailed requirements of this Article are intended to ensure the use of fuels which are predominantly composed of compounds normally found in commercial fuels and to prohibit the use of specific power-boosting chemical compounds.’

In a Formula One car, this modification of 1% can be felt. The car is so finely tuned over a race distance of 300kms, that slight modification in the fuel can have a large impact. Road car fuels have to serve a different purpose. They have to operate under varying atmospheric conditions, in varying engines in different circumstances, in short, differences in the fuels reflect the differences in the cars.

At the end of last year, it was decided that from the Hungarian Grand Prix all teams must have a sulphur-free fuel available for use. In 2000, the level of sulphur in Formula One fuel was reduced at the same time that aromatic additives were reduced from 42% to 35%. Sulphur-free fuel is set to become the standard for all road cars in 2009, so in its relentless effort to set the standard and drive technology forward, (Formula One has taken the opportunity taken the lead once again).

Shell now continually develops fuels and oils for Ferrari, testing them on computers, bench testing equipment and on the track. Shell’s dedicated team of chemical engineers, scientists and analysts can develop fuels as and when Ferrari requires them. This relationship with Ferrari has huge benefits for motorists everywhere, as everything Shell learns from developing race fuels and oils for Ferrari is transferred to the development of road products.

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