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?ů‘ťľ‘šůs 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 ?ť?ķ40m, 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?ů‘ťľ‘šůs fuel wizards
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