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Times Online: A prancing horse and a yellow shell make Formula One’s perfect blend

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March 17, 2007

James Penfold on a partnership that has endured through the years between a car manufacturer and its favourite petrol

The 2007 Formula One season marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of Ferrari and another chapter in the unique and successful technical partnership between Ferrari and Shell – a formal link-up which was originated only three years after Ferrari was established. Since that debut race together in the first-ever round of the Formula One World Championship in 1950, Shell fuels and lubricants and the technical experts who develop them have been an important element in the Scuderia’s success.

Shell powered Ferrari to its first ever Formula One victory in 1951 when José Froilián González, of Ar-gentina won at Silverstone in a Ferrari Type 375. Since then, Shell and Ferrari have contested more than 395 Formula One races together, winning 135 of them in what is now one of the oldest technical partnerships in motorsport history.

Shell has powered seven teams in its long involvement in Formula One, including a very successful period with McLaren, but the relationship with Ferrari, which was reestablished in 1996, stands out. The Italian racing team fuelled by the Anglo-Dutch mul-tinational has been awarded more than 2,000 world championship points. During the relationship with Shell, Ferrari has won 11 drivers’ titles, including five for Michael Schumacher, and eight constructors’ crowns.

During Schumacher’s 10 seasons at Ferrari, when he set himself apart as the most successful racing driver of all time in Formula One, the seven-times world champion from Germany used over 181,000 litres of Shell racing fuel to power him to no less than 72 grand-prix wins.

When you fill up at a Shell garage – as 20 million people do in over 90 countries every day – you may be forgiven for assuming that what is coming out of the nozzle and flowing into your fuel tank has nothing to do with what Shell does on the race track. But you would be wrong, because Shell V-Power Formula One fuel contains 99 per cent of the same types of components as the Shell V-Power for your car on the road. Only the Shell Helix race lubricants in the engine of a Ferrari are designed especially for a Formula One car.

The principal of “track to road” is a key driver for Shell in its technical partnership with Ferrari and the company is very proud of its record in using its participation in Formula One as a test-bed to constantly refine and develop the technology behind the products it sells to its customers on the forecourts of garages from South America to Australia and from North America to Russia.

But of course there are one or two differences between what your car needs on the road and what Kimi Räikkönen or Felipe Massa will require in the Ferrari F2007 as they campaign this season for yet more championships for the Scuderia.

Formula One Shell V-Power fuel contains over 250 different components which have to be carefully blended for the perfect mix of power and response. Shell hydraulic fuel in race cars must be exceptionally clean and has to be filtered down to three microns, finer than the width of a human hair, to remove all contamination. Engine oil, meanwhile, has to cope with temperatures which can exceed 300 degrees centigrade and the oil is sprayed on the underside of the pistons to keep them cool, something which ensures they can last the full race distance.

In order to meet the extreme demands of Formula One, fuels and lubricants must be tailored to the specific requirements of every track. It is not a case of just “filling up” with Shell V-Power race fuel at a pitstop – what goes into a bright red Ferrari during a seven-second stop at Monza is quite different to what goes in at the Sakhir desert track in Bahrain.

Shell tackles the unique demands on its products for racing with a pur-pose-built travelling Shell Track Lab which is assembled at every grand prix and in which Shell technicians are able to analyse over 40 samples of Ferrari’s fuel and oil in the course of one race weekend. The equipment is so sophisticated it can detect contamination in a fuel sample equivalent to finding a cup of sugar in Loch Ness.

The challenge for Shell V-Power fuel in the unforgiving environment of Formula One is to provide Ferrari with a blend of power, fuel economy and responsiveness and the mix constantly changes according to the demands of the track, climatic conditions and other factors. At Monaco, for example, the fuel required must be geared to performance – drivers need to achieve maximum speed very quickly on very short straights. At Monza, however, a more traditional track with long straights, it is necessary to sacrifice some of the power to provide better fuel economy.

The length of Shell’s involvement in the sport is one of its strongest assets. Not only do Shell technicians have data on every race during any current season, they also have historical records going back 10 years which help them to identify problems and brief Ferrari engineers before anything goes wrong. This has been an important element in ensuring that Ferrari remains one of the most reliable constructors in Formula One with a low incidence of engine failure.

Just as you will be looking for opti-mum performance from the Shell V-Power road fuel in your own car, so the Schumachers, Massas and Räikkö nens of this world do too from the race formulation; not only has Ferrari been the beneficiary, through its unique relationship with Shell, but Shell’s customers have benefited too.

Shell’s passion for its role in Formula One comes over loud and clear when you talk with Juan Carlos Pérez, the general manager for global sponsorships at Shell Brands International AG. A committed motorsport fan who loves both Formula One and Mo-toGP, Pérez jokes that, with fellow countryman Juan-Pablo Montoya having departed Formula One for NASCAR in the United States, he is now the last remaining Colombian in the sport.

Pérez has worked for Shell for 19 years and has been managing Shell’s relationship with Ferrari for the past five years. He has no doubt about its value to both Shell and its customers. “We measure the value based on the objectives which we set out for this technical partnership which, indeed, is one of the longest in the history of motor sport,” he says. “Our main objectives in the relationship are in the area of technology transfer from the track to road which, of course is natural for these types of technical partnerships in Formula One.”

As Pérez points out, the link between the two companies goes back even earlier than the first Formula One championship because Shell was involved with the legendary Enzo Ferrari as early as the 1930s. “I think that with the Ford company having left Formula One in 2004, Shell and Ferrari have the longest history in the motorsport world,” Pérez explains. “If you go back in the pages of motorsport books, it is always very consistent that you see the Ferrari logo and the Shell logo in the 1930s, the ’40s and the ’50s.

“The relationship actually started with Enzo Ferrari when he was a racing driver for Alfa Romeo in the 1930s. Then, when he decided that he was not such a good driver and would make a better manager, he created his own Scuderia in Modena. We have a beautiful picture of the first house and the first office of the Scuderia Ferrari in Modena in the 1930s and, at that time, you can already see in front of the office, two fuel pumps branded Shell and a Shell-branded truck.”

But why did Enzo choose Shell? Was it simply that his local garage happened to be a Shell establishment? Not so according to Pérez, who says the Ferrari founder specifically chose Shell and explained why in several interviews conducted during the 1950s and 1960s.

“At the time there were other brands available in Italy,” Pérez explains. “The answer that he consistently provided is that Shell was giving him the best technology that he could find in the marketplace and, from the very beginning, he always acknowledged that technology was more important for him than financial contributions from an oil company.”

Linking Shell’s work with Ferrari with the products it supplies to its customers has always been at the heart of Shell’s activities in Formula One and the company lobbied hard in the 1970s to ensure that the lubricants and fuels used on the race track were based on the same technology as those found in Shell outlets.

“We did this not only because of the safety elements – people were using explosive blends with ethanols and aviation fuels – but also because this is the way we can really justify all the investment in the technology we use in Formula One,” Pérez says. “It only works for us if that technology is relevant for the consumers when they go and buy our products.”

With a freeze in place on engine development in Formula One this season and all 11 teams using a single tyre supplier, the challenge for Shell remains to provide Ferrari with the very best fuels and lubricants for the F2007 cars but especially the latter with engine reliability a key issue. “It is particularly challenging for the lubricants this year because of the new regulations on the engines and we feel that this season, through lubricant formulation, we can add more value to the team in terms of not only additional performance and power but also extended reliability which is a key factor in Formula One these days. For us reliability is, if not more important, then certainly as important as power. That’s what we try to balance and its this experience that we try to transfer to our fuel and lubricants for the road,” Pérez says.

Of course, for everyone at Shell and Ferrari this will be a very different year without the towering presence of Schumacher leading the team he calls his own family. But Shell is delighted that the German legend has agreed to continue his association with the company and will continue his work as a Shell brand ambassador.

“It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to work with such a champion,” Pérez says. “Michael brought for the Shell-fuelled Ferrari team, of course, not only several championships and additional awareness of the sport in Germany which is one of our key markets, but he has also been a brand ambassador for the 10 years he has been in the team. He is now working with Scuderia Ferrari in a consultancy and advisory role and we still have a commercial relationship with Michael in which he will continue to be a brand ambassador for Shell and Shell products.” Pérez will be at every one of the 17 tracks this season helping to ensure that the next chapter in Ferrari’s historic relationship with Shell is another successful one. And he never tires of the challenge.

“The aspect that attracts me in Formula One,” he says, “is the technology and working out how it can be of use on the track and the road. This is true in terms of fuels and lubricants as well as electronics, tyres and brakes. You can see from developments in Formula One that there are elements which are now a reality which we could only dream about four or five years ago.” and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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