Ongoing development of a ‘winning formula’

Every detail counts in Formula One: That enabled PETRONAS to contribute to success on the racetrack during the 2015 season

Two laptops, sophisticated analytical instruments and tiny glass test tubes containing extremely sensitive, valuable petroleum products that can make the difference between victory and defeat in Formula One compete for space in the narrow confines of the PETRONAS trackside laboratory. The work goes on behind closed doors but is of monumental importance for success on the racetrack.

PETRONAS began the race for the ‘winning formula’ 20 years ago. The Malaysian energy company celebrated this landmark year in the company’s history with a successful double title defence in the 2015 season by the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. For the second time in a row, the Brackley-Brixworth-Kuala Lumpur team clinched the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship in the premier class of motor racing this year.

But the Silver Arrows works team is not the only one to rely on PETRONAS fuels and lubricants. The Mercedes-Benz customer teams also receive technical support from PETRONAS as part of the Mercedes-Benz family.

As everyone knows, though, standing still in Formula One actually means going backwards. So, it is no surprise to hear that fuel and lubricants are also the result of continuous development. Two new PETRONAS Syntium engine oil formulas were used in the course of the season, one at the season opener in Melbourne and another, selected from eight different variants, for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. The effort that goes into testing is demonstrated by the fact that about 2,600 litres are needed for the validation of a new engine oil in performance and long run tests on the dyno and during track testing.

Two new PETRONAS PRIMAX fuel formulas were also used during the 2015 season. The first was utilised in the period from the season opener to the Belgium Grand Prix, while in Monza, a new fuel was introduced which was selected from 42 possible variants after extensive testing. In addition, a new PETRONAS Tutela ERS lubricant was introduced at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

This meticulous, intensive development work was more important than ever in 2015, since it was not only the second season of the new V6 Hybrid turbo engines era, but also the permitted number of Power Units per driver was reduced from five to four over the winter – a new challenge for the scientists at PETRONAS, which they mastered in conjunction with their colleagues at Brixworth.

Nothing was left to chance. Various engine oil and transmission oil samples were taken from all four teams and analysed directly at the race track during the season. Two distinguishing tests were used: A SPECTROIL study for metals in the lubricants and gas chromatography to confirm the fuel’s conformity with the sample lodged with the FIA. 24 engine oil and nine transmission oil samples are usually taken per car per race weekend. Along with other samples taken in spot-checks, this amounts to an impressive total of around 350 tests per weekend. In addition, some 60 to 70 fuel samples are taken per weekend.

R&D work into new fuels and lubricants does not stop at the track. The same expertise that makes the Silver Arrows faster and more reliable also benefits ordinary vehicles in everyday traffic. The team of scientists at PETRONAS uses Formula One as the ultimate test laboratory in order to maximise performance, efficiency and durability through the use of technically advanced fluid technology solutions, while reducing fuel consumption at the same time. In both areas – on the race track and on the road –Mercedes-Benz and PETRONAS are already working flat out to prepare for 2016 when the race for the ‘winning formula’ enters the next phase.

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