As the official technology partner to the Renault Formula OneTM Team, Castrol is working with the team in their fight to rise up the grid.
Whenever the Renault RS19 hits the track during the 2019 Formula One season, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg know that the car has been optimised to extract every ounce of power from its Renault F1® Team turbo-charged four-stroke, 1600cc engine. Aside from the work of engineers at Enstone in the UK and Viry-Châtillon in France, Renault F1® Team works in collaboration with Castrol engineers at Castrol’s global research and development centre in Pangbourne, UK and trackside. The aim? To drive performance and endurance to new heights.
“Anything we can do through bespoke oil technologies that just adds that incremental gain to their performance, just knocks thousandths of a second off those lap times and gets them closer in qualifying, gets them to the end of the race faster,” Will Pickford, Technology Manager, Europe and Africa at Castrol, says. “That’s what we’re aiming to do.”
Co-engineering oil for Formula One must break normal limits by combating the three enemies of engine performance – friction, failure and aeration. Friction between the surfaces of an engine robs it of power and demands more fuel for performance, and with fuel limited to 110kg for 2019 that cannot happen.
“Gone are the days where you could burn as much fuel as you like and refuel, Pickford says. “Lowering that friction means using less fuel to get the same amount of power output.”
Engine failure is dramatic, highly visible on track and costs both loss of championship points and brand reputation. “The oil is an integral part of the engine”, Pickford adds. “Those engineering surfaces, the materials, the finishes, and the interaction with that oil is part of one design that we work with the engineers on. We need to make it last.”
Finally, there is oil aeration, a peculiarity of high-performance engines, particularly high revving engines. “If you think about it, nothing whisks up an oil and gets air in oil better than something very high revving,” Pickford adds.
The Benefits Of Co-Engineering
Formula One demands the best teamwork and team performance, and the work starts long before the cars hit the track. Over the long off-season, designers and engineers strive to extract the maximum performance from both the chassis and the engine. Formula One is technically ahead of the curve to the rest of the industry. In standard road cars, oils are becoming thinner with demand for better fuel economy. Formula One is one step ahead. The materials and componentry used wouldn’t necessarily be considered for mass production.
For Castrol’s work on the engine it is not about supplying a high-performance engine oil, it is about working in partnership with Renault F1® Team to increase performance and reliability in a process they call co-engineering. Ultimately, fluids are specifically designed for Renault F1® Team, not even wider Formula One.
Meeting Tougher Regulations
In a world where people and machines have to run at 100 per cent performance, every aspect of Formula One hardware is crafted, tested, tweaked and wired
to incredible standards. All oil used at a Formula One weekend needs to conform to FIA regulations, specifically Article 20 of the technical regulations, that mandates viscosity levels and ensures that engine oil is designed and intended to be a lubricant, and not for any other purpose. “These oil regulations are in their infancy, and they were put in place to stop anyone considering using engine oil as an additional source of calories to burn in the engine,” Pickford explains.
“Not Only Are We Trying To Make Those Engines Last As Long As They Need To, We’re Also Looking To Continually Improve The Performance Gain.”
Castrol has a big a voice in the regulations as a member of the Formula One Fuels Advisory Panel (FOFAP), a body comprising oil suppliers from within the sport. There are also regulations about what additives are allowed but that still allows plenty of scope for technology development.
The regulations, although they’re the same base engine make-up, have changed year on year. Three years ago, you were allowed five engines per season, now you are only allowed three. In basic numbers that means that engines now need to last 40 per cent longer, and not just survive but function at the same high specification as they did when new. “It was hard last year, it’s even harder this year,” Pickford explains. “Not only are we trying to make those engines last as long as they need to,
we’re also looking to continually improve the performance gain. It’s no use standing still on power because in effect you’re going backwards because everyone else will be going forwards. It’s a very difficult challenge. You need an incredibly strong oil to be able to make these engines last.”
Keeping Pace Track Side
Once that technology is deployed on the vehicle, Castrol’s work continues. When the RS19 is finally deployed on track, Castrol is on-hand with full mobile trackside support, working closely to analyse performance and oversee quality control. The team is constantly tracking against data and expected gradients and flagging things so the team can react quickly. Trackside tasks include quality checking everything that has been delivered to the race track, barrel by barrel and monitoring progression of wear on those engines to see whether they are within the expected limits.
“Once the cars are running on track, then throughout the weekend, every time the cars come in, be that from the first installation or the end of every session, it’s our team that are amongst the first people to descend on the vehicle. “They will extract an engine oil sample for testing. Within two, two and a half minutes from the cars arriving in the garage, we can pull an engine oil sample, prep that sample, run our analysis and have the data output from it to tell the team what the condition of that engine is.”
From the concentration of metals such as iron, copper, lead, titanium and zinc, it is possible to tell Renault F1® Team engineers where the engine wear is coming from and at what rate it is wearing. “We plot those concentrations in parts per million against the engine mileage and what we see is a trace of elemental composition increasing over time which is perfectly normal,” Pickford continues. “If we start seeing an element or several elements going high, that’s an indication that something’s going on in that engine. It is essentially a blood check of the engine condition. In terms of Formula 1, by regulation, the team are not allowed to open the engine to see what’s going on. By taking that engine oil sample, they can do that blood check on the engine without going into the engine to see what’s going on.”
The aim of all this effort is to make the team perform at their absolute best. What Castrol is also doing is taking what it learns from motorsport and putting it back into its product development teams so that the Castrol EDGE customers use on the road benefits from all that knowledge and know-how from Formula One racing.