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From Track To Road: Powering The Heart And Soul Of A Winning Team

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There is a lot to celebrate this 2014 season thus far for the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One team with their title and technical partner, PETRONAS. With 11 out of 14 wins in the bag for the Brackley-based team up to the Italian Grand Prix, the team also reached a landmark three wins out of three from its three home-races; Sepang (Lewis Hamilton won the 2014 PETRONAS Malaysia grand prix, home race for the title partner), Silverstone (Lewis Hamilton wins at home at the 2014 British Grand Prix, and where the team are based) and Hockenheim (Nico Rosberg earns his first career victory on his and Mercedes’ home race at the German Grand Prix).

Now with the second half of the season in full swing, the team is leading the constructors’ standings, while its two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, have locked out the top two spots in the drivers’ standings.

But it’s more than simply celebrating a strong season thus far for the Silver Arrows and for PETRONAS. Oft times, the glamorous and flamboyant personalities of the sport have tended to eclipse the work done by a seemingly introverted team of technical minds behind the scenes. There is a lot of work being done underneath that slick silver skin of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 W05 Hybrid by one group of technological minds that are pushed to the very limits at every single race.

“More than being the title partner, PETRONAS is also the team’s principal technical resource in the area of lubricants and fuels. For Malaysia’s national oil company, the team’s successful run in 2014 comes on the back of a lot of work over the past four years as well as the culmination of technical expertise and experience built over nearly two decades,” notes Amir Hamzah Azizan, Group MD and CEO of PETRONAS Lubricants International, PETRONAS’ global lubricant manufacturing and marketing arm.

In demonstrating the level of cooperation between PETRONAS and the team, Andy Cowell, Managing Director at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains notes, “It has been and continues to be a completely collaborative approach between Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth and PETRONAS, both in Villastellone, Italy and in Kuala Lumpur – where PETRONAS’ technical teams are based.”

Rising to the Challenge

When the 2014 season was in its infancy during the pre-season testing, there was significant chatter about Formula 1’s latest evolutionary cycle, egged on by the raft of regulation changes enforced in Formula 1. The Silver Arrows had emerged as the season’s early favourites and front-runners and more importantly, providing positive feedback to the work already being done in the UK, Italy and Malaysia.

While the primary consideration of performance remains paramount to a Formula 1 team, the heavy restrictions, particularly those imposed on the sport from 2014, forces teams to be especially vigilant in ensuring that that power train is both reliable and robust. Of these, the areas that have drawn considerable attention in 2014 are the engines and gearbox.

The era of the three litre V12 monsters or the V8s of recent years have been entombed into the history books with teams now building much smaller power units. The Hybrid 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines today – while being technically more advanced, complex and far superior to their road-going relatives – are arguably resonating closer toward a future in the automotive production world, an already familiar sentiment to an oil company like PETRONAS.

Great things come in small packages goes the saying, and packs a wicked punch given that these smaller units are capable of producing well over 600bhp with an additional 160bhp through a rather clever Energy Recovery System (ERS).

The challenge is how one supplies and control all that power and torque efficiently and effectively? And, the smaller packages are more complex, therefore intensifying the focus on the core contributing components, in this case engine oil, gearbox oil and fuel.

With regulatory restrictions in place on fuel flow rates and race fuel loads, the development work on lubricants and fuel is increasingly critical in contributing to performance gains; directly influencing both the pace and real lap time performance.

To add to the already extreme operating conditions, Formula 1 engines and gearboxes today are also subjected to tighter reliability requirements. Teams are allowed to use a maximum of five power units per driver in the season and each gearbox system is expected to last six consecutive races.

Where the overall concern is on reliability, to PETRONAS this intensifies the attention on endurance and durability, and ultimately the role that lubricants and fuel play in powering and protecting the engines and gearboxes.

This means PETRONAS has to design and develop fluids that can withstand colossal forces many times greater than gravity and much higher loads. This also includes being able to perform in peak temperatures in excess of 300°C for instance and being able to withstand the intense internal shear stresses.

It is fair to say that in no prior season have fuel and lubricants played a more significant role in the performance of the cars.MYNEWSHUB


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