The forgotten star of Formula 1


At the back of the Formula 1 McLaren team's garage, nestled by the coffee machine, is one of the unsung heroes of the sport.

Head buried in a mobile laboratory, a Mobil1 oil engineer is carefully analysing 35 elements that help make up the liquid gold that's just been flowing through Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button's strained Mercedes Benz V8s.


His work, although mostly secret, is a vital part of the team's quest for improved lap times and hopefully championship points. But just how can an engine oil help McLaren's drivers on to the podium?

"In a large number of ways," Bruce Crawley, the head of Mobil1's motorsport programme told Autoblog in an exclusive interview.

"Regulation changes which saw refuelling banned made our job even more important. Focus has shifted to fuel efficiency and oil can play an important part in that.

"Our oils have helped McLaren run the race car's engine at higher temperatures which meant they could reduce the size of the radiators which in turn improved aerodynamic efficiency and reduced drag.

"We've also developed gearbox oil which dissipates heat better which has required less cooling and ducts and has also reduced drag.

"We are always looking to reduce the density of the oil so McLaren can reduce the mass they carry around. All these factors improve lap times and efficiency. If we can improve fuel efficiency with oil, less fuel needs to be carried around making the cars lighter and more competitive."

Bruce Crawley, head of Mobil1's motorsport programme

Crawley and his team of 10 engineers travel the world working at the cutting edge of oil development. His lubricants play a vital role in reducing friction in the Formula 1 cars and the pay off is more power.

With engines now frozen for the season, lubricants are one of the only components where improvements can be made, making Crawley's crew a vital part of the McLaren weaponry.

"With the engines sealed the team's ability to get more out of them is restricted," added Crawley.

"Lubricants are still a free area so we are always working on ways to help them get more power. We also work hard to ensure no power is lost over the life of the engine, so we keep a close eye on power degradation."

New Mobil1 formulas are developed for every season. Typically it takes six months for an oil to reach the race track from the laboratory, but the firm's multi million pound investment in the sport ensures a constant quest for improvement.

"Jenson and Lewis realise the importance of the work we do," added Crawley. "It helps that our mobile lab is by the coffee machine in the garage so they have to walk past us on the way there!

"What we learn on the race track is very important as it helps us formulate new products for the road. The cutting edge technology shows our scientists what is possible and they can then work to improve our everyday offerings for normal cars.

"There are a lot of similarities between the oil in the McLaren racing car and road cars. Over 60 per cent of the ingredients that we have in the F1 car's oil can be found in Mobil1 in an average road car."

Perhaps your road car has a bit more in common with the glitzy world of Formula 1 than you first thought...

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