Having first entered Formula One in 1995, PETRONAS celebrates 20 years of competition in 2015 – and a double decade of experience in honing its fuel and lubricant expertise for the race track and the road.
PETRONAS has been central to the team’s performance since becoming Title Partner and key Technical Partner in 2010, with a dedicated technology team working on the design, development and delivery of bespoke PETRONAS Primax race fuel, PETRONAS Syntium engine oil, and PETRONAS Tutela fluids – testing chemistries in real engines to deliver ultimate performance.
Following the announcement of revolutionary regulation changes for the 2014 Formula One season, PETRONAS spent more than three years working closely with the Team to engineer a brand new range of customised fuels and lubricants with a competitive edge in the new Hybrid era. The success story of 2014 proved that they were on the right track with their formulations.
Now, with a limit of four Power Units per driver, per season in 2015 compared to the five permitted in 2014, the demands on both PETRONAS Primax fuel and PETRONAS Syntium lubricants are greater than ever. The key to meeting these challenges has been PETRONAS Fluid Technology Solutions – an intelligent approach to fluid requirements that maximises performance through tailor-made product offerings and expert services.
For the new season, PETRONAS has developed a fuel which enhances protection of the engine, provides better combustion and improves driveability. The fuel prevents engine damage by cleaning and protecting the critical high-pressure direct injection system and sensitive engine parts; the fuel formulation has been optimised to provide better combustion by enhanced energy release; and the advanced energy formula has been designed to ensure good driveability for superior acceleration – all while building upon the efficiency gains already achieved in development for the previous season.
With its increased power per litre of displacement, the 1.6 litre Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) of the Hybrid era also runs hotter than its 2.4 litre predecessor. This requires lubricants that do not get too thin under high temperatures and resist oxidation – balanced with a requirement to minimise friction within the ICE for reduced fuel consumption.
The engine oil must therefore possess distinct thermal characteristics to withstand higher operating temperatures and cylinder pressures, and be optimised to effectively contribute to cooling. The use of Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) also brings the challenge of heat dissipation, requiring an ERS fluid that cools the system effectively. Equipped with a unique formulation to defend against extreme temperature and maintain optimum engine performance, PETRONAS Syntium proved to be a winning formula in 2014, with PETRONAS scientists also translating its advanced technology into the formulation of ERS fluid.
During the course of the 2014 season, PETRONAS upgraded its on-track chemical analysis to gain greater insight into the changes occurring in the oil within the engine under extreme conditions –crucial to the demands of adhering to a limited quantity of units per season. This has given key insights into how to further improve lubricant performance in terms of heat management, friction reduction and hardware durability. As a result, PETRONAS has formulated a new engine oil that is now undergoing testing with the option for adoption during the 2015 season.
With Formula One Power Units now aligned to downsized, turbocharged road car engines, this intensive research and development becomes particularly pertinent. Designed to enable engines to perform optimally in the most extreme of conditions, the unique formulation of PETRONAS Primax, PETRONAS Syntium and PETRONAS Tutela products addresses engine needs both on and off the race track. After all, it is not just Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who need their vehicles at their best – but everyday drivers all over the world.
“We have been working hard on all areas of the Power Unit to increase the conversion efficiency of every single system – trying to make our package more thermally efficient and produce greater absolute power”, says Andy Cowell, Managing Director, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. “The focus in this respect has been on combustion efficiency and frictional losses – be they in core parts of the ICE or the ancillary aspects of both ICE and ERS. Development of fuel and lubricants has been critical to this process and we have continued working well with PETRONAS in this respect.
“Every manufacturer on the grid did a fantastic job in 2014 in terms of achieving high thermal efficiency and therefore performance from the fixed fuel flow rate. The numbers speak for themselves: a reduction from 150kg to 100kg of race fuel; downsizing from a 2.4 litre V8 to a 1.6 litre V6 ICE; creating a package that was over 30% more efficient than its predecessor – all within a set of regulations that pushed reliability to the very limit.
“It’s very much a case of evolution rather than revolution in 2015. Where last year was a case of ‘Can we do it?’ we are now faced with a different challenge – ’How do we improve it?’ Everybody has the opportunity to change a significant portion of the Power Unit for 2015 to further improve efficiency and, once again, performance
“We’re all also pleased and excited to have another Power Unit manufacturer, Honda, joining Formula One. This is good news for the sport, for the competition, for the fans and for the automotive industry as a whole. We therefore offer them a warm welcome and wish them well. Also, we are very much enjoying working with our new partners at Lotus. They are a strong addition to our roster of partner teams and we look forward to working together in the seasons ahead”