Ferrari, fuel, and hospitality

A lot of work goes into getting Ferrari's fuel mixture right

A lot of work goes into getting Ferrari's fuel mixture right

As at last year’s British Grand Prix I was fortunate to receive an invitation to visit Shell’s fuel laboratory for Ferrari last weekend.

I was treated to hospitality at the corporate suite overlooking Copse corner, and was able to visit the Ferrari garage between Saturday practice and qualifying. Both of which provided food for thought.

If there is one point that mainstream coverage of Formula 1 often fails to pick up on, it’s that the engineers working behind the scenes are every bit as competitive as the guys that do battle on Sundays. Lisa Lilley, Shell?s technology manager for Ferrari, took us through how they work to give Ferrari a competitive advantage on the track and – just as importantly – the meticulous steps they go through to make sure their fuel complies with the stringent FIA rules.

Inevitably, have to stop yourself and wonder, if the teams were shackled to a spending limit of ??40m, could this sort of work continue? The likely conclusion is “no”.

It contrasts with the situation in Le Mans, where Shell is the official fuel supplier for all the cars. While this has still presented them with some technical challenges – for example, developing a very clean burning racing diesel fuel for Audi and Peugeot’s cars – in F1 they are striving to outdo their forecourt rivals and so the competition is that bit more intense.

Shell also supply lubricants for Ferrari which, among other things, play an increasingly important role in engine diagnostics. The oils taken from the cars after each session are analyses for traces of wear metal which can indicate fatigue and imminent breakage. Whenever a driver has an engine change, the analysis performed using lubricants is likely to have played a significant role.

Read more: Secrets of Ferrari?s fuel wizards

Hospitality

Corporate hospitality at an F1 race is an experience in itself and one which I wrote about at some length last year.

But this year was different – this time I was in a grandstand on the inside of Copse. As you often find with these things, you get a mix of people who like the sport anf grab the chance to come along, and those who just take the freebie and aren’t in the least bit interested where they are.

So, even as qualifying reached its peak of excitement, the corporate grand stand was probably the least well-filled on the circuit – the remaining guests were having lunch or trying to find somewhere to watch a rugby game which was also happening.

Over on the other side of the track were the fans filling the General Admission banks. They’d most likely got up at the worse side of 5am and trekked in from camp sites with folding chairs under their arms to grab a spot where they could catch site of the cars blasting through Copse at scarcely diminished speed.

This is just the reality of how all sports make money these days – corporate hospitality is huge business. Still, I think it wouldn’t hurt to make all recipients of hospitality at F1 races take a simple entry test: name a world champion, label the major car parts, and calculate the optimum fuel strategy on a cool day at Spa, for example.

Read more: Inside the Paddock Club with Ferrari

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17 comments on Ferrari, fuel, and hospitality

  1. schumi the greatest said on 24th June 2009, 8:32

    i had seats in pit staright a and it was incredible, during the build up to the race i could see hamilton walking around (and even better, nicole sherizinger)

    i also saw max mosley talking to norbert haug among other things.

  2. scunnyman said on 24th June 2009, 8:43

    Ok Keith let’s see if your test works on your site and see how many real petrol head geeks come on here.

    Why don’t you post your test on here and see how many pass with flying colours.

    I for one would fail the fuel test for sure lol.

  3. Ronman said on 24th June 2009, 8:58

    The fuel strategy on a cool day at spa, haha then I’ll need the aforementioned Lisa Lilley,and her wiz-engineer friends on twitter to be able to get that right…i think

    manufacturer hospitality is cool but too distracting in my opinion, but if i want to dream, I’d prefer to hang out around the pits during a race. and i envy pit lane reporters for their job……

  4. Adrian said on 24th June 2009, 9:10

    Well, the fuel thing depends on your car and driver. I would say a simple 2 stop would work best if you can manage to get the heat into your tyres and make the harder compound work with the heavy fuel load. Otherwise a 3 stop-per with a late splash-and-dash to put on the least favourable harder compound. This of course requires you to a have a front-running car and a driver who can a) put the car on pole, and b) maintain near qualifying speeds for the full race distance to make the time for the xtra stop and to keep heat in the tyres…

  5. Alastair said on 24th June 2009, 9:35

    How did you get in with Shell? I work there as a contractor and there was no way…

  6. you get a mix of people who like the sport anf grab the chance to come along, and those who just take the freebie and aren’t in the least bit interested where they are

    Sadly this is all too true. Three years ago my Dad and I snagged Vodafone hospitality tickets for Saturday due to a deal his company had done with Vodafone. We were the only ones in the wonderful hospitality suite on the inside of Priory that seemed to have any knowledge of F1. (In fact, I was probably a bit under-dressed in my Jordan F1 Team shirt ;) ).

    After the Qualifying, most people disappeared, and there were only a scant few who watched the GP2 race (won by a chap named Hamilton) and I think we were the only two who watched the Historic sportscars.

    Looks like you had a great time!

  7. Bigbadderboom said on 24th June 2009, 10:28

    Glad you seemed to enjoy yourself Keith, unfortunate about those corporate empty seats, but that is the way of the world I guess!!!

  8. Dougie said on 24th June 2009, 10:38

    A great and very interesting article Keith, but I just have to comment on one paragraph.

    Inevitably, have to stop yourself and wonder, if the teams were shackled to a spending limit of £40m, could this sort of work continue? The likely conclusion is “no”.

    What you appear to be advocating here is that the big teams are allowed to continue to spend as much as they like to find the smallest advantage. Therefore the small teams are just there to “make up the numbers”. I don’t really consider that fair competition. Even with the reduced costs advocated by FOTA its the same debate, can they afford to spend on fuel mixtures?

    I guess a suitable solution would be that fuel companies are to supply more than one team, and supply the same fuel to them all. However, that reminds me of the old Ferrari/Bridgestone relationship where the other teams supplied really suffered on tyres perfected for the Ferrari.

    The flip side of course is that would we have these “special” fuels on the forecourt (i.e. Shell Optimax, BP Ultimate etc) without the work they do on the circuit. I guess not. But then, was it the work on the F1 cars that gave us Optimax, or work on the Fiorano track with the road cars that produced it… my gut feel is the later.

  9. spanky the wonder monkey said on 24th June 2009, 10:56

    i thought the fuel strategy question was the easiest. put enough in to get to the stops and then enough to get to the finish. see, simple! ;-)

  10. Pointer said on 24th June 2009, 11:21

    Excuse my ignorance, is there more than one fuel supplier in F1?? If so, are there *any* potential performance gains from one brand to the next?

    • scunnyman said on 24th June 2009, 11:33

      NOt sure if there is right now, but there used to be. In my opinion if there isn’t more than one fuel supplier anymore then there should be for competition reasons , as i also believe there should be more than one tyre supplier. Maybe even several suppliers for every big Item for the cars. I think that was one of the reasons the cars were so different back in the 80’s for me.

    • Wesley said on 24th June 2009, 20:08

      There are three fuel suppliers that I am aware of:Shell,Petronas and Elf.Does anyone know of more?

  11. hollus said on 24th June 2009, 12:03

    I think the best fuel strategy in a cool day at Spa is obvious: just one lap longer than the guy with the second best fuel strategy. ;-)

  12. Nik said on 24th June 2009, 15:44

    “Still, I think it wouldn’t hurt to make all recipients of hospitality at F1 races take a simple entry test: name a world champion, label the major car parts, and calculate the optimum fuel strategy on a cool day at Spa, for example.”

    Sorry Mr Big Bank, we will not be accepting your $400k for a corporate box at the Grand Prix because you failed to name the 1991 world champion.

    Never going to happen.

    I attend tons of sports in corporate boxes in the USA and I don’t think I have ever watched a full 5 minutes of a game (especially baseball). Its all about entertaining clients and friends (and drinking!) – nothing to do with sport.

    • Wesley said on 24th June 2009, 23:09

      I too have attended many events here in the States paid by the corporate dollar but,it sickens me to see people not appreciate their good fortune.I have watched all the baseball,hockey games and enjoyed.I couldn’t believe the oblivious idiots that surrounded me at the Paul McCartney concert though….box terrace seats,food,private restrooms and no one wanted to do anything but drink.Can’t you do that at home anytime?

  13. Hear what you’re saying about the corporate hospitality and I think that as international sport goes, F1 has it particularly bad. At every GP I’ve been to, almost all the best spectator spots are taken up by CH tents or exclusive seating.

    The other sport which suffers is rugby union. These days, it’s almost impossible for the average rugby fan to get hold of an England international ticket at Twickers – far too many go to corporate sponsors, leaving true fans high and dry (or forking out £££££ to touts).

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    In contrast, one sport which gets it so right from a regular spectator point of view is championship golf (where daily tickets are a similar price to F1).

    I went to the Open at Royal Birkdale last year. Yes there was CH but, at each hole, the seats available to all spectators offered as good if not better vantage points than the areas reserved for CH-ers. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to got to a sporting event which was focused on putting the regular spectator before the corporate sponsor.

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