How Red Bull's fuel switch could affect 2017 Formula 1 title fight

With fuel a key battleground in the Formula 1 engine manufacturers' battle, Red Bull's switch to ExxonMobil adds a fresh layer to the 2017 championship fight

How Red Bull's fuel switch could affect 2017 Formula 1 title fight

Mercedes and Petronas are F1's benchmark, but Red Bull has intimated progress is coming quickly with its new relationship.

Its switch to ExxonMobil, lured away from a long partnership with McLaren, was only announced in December.

ExxonMobil's global motorsport technology manager Bruce Crawley believes things have gelled so quickly because it had such a breadth of experience working with different engines at McLaren, having supplied products for both Mercedes and Honda turbo V6 engines.

"We believe we have got off to a really good start," he said.

"Our fuel and engine package has a decent competitive advantage, so we are quite pleased with the initial outcome to the programme, and we are pushing now for further improvements.

"The challenge with Red Bull is to determine the appetite that the engine has for our engine oil and fuel.

"We have been in F1 for 35-plus years, so we have seen a lot of engine architectures come and go.

"Red Bull were interested in working with us because they recognise that we have a proven track record in bringing performance gains.

"They are very interested in winning the championship this season, so the key is the technology partnership, and we are there to deliver performance for them."

While Red Bull and ExxonMobil opened up their dialogue on technical plans last year, commercial confidentiality and practical limits because of Renault's engine revamp meant proper dyno testing has been restricted to the past few weeks.

"If we had six months we would love it, but our development programme has been squeezed into a very short period, so that is a big challenge because day one we start off with zero data," Crawley added.

"We are very data driven, so at the start of a new programme we rely heavily on our experience and how good our initial theoretical assessments are on day one, to try to work out where we start and map the direction we need to go in."

Although the first batch of fuel and lubricants has already left as sea freight for the Australian Grand Prix, Crawley says that the pre-season test spell will be intense for finetuning what is needed for the rest of the season.

Asked how much change ExxonMobil's products had gone through, Crawley said: "The appetite of this new engine we are playing with is different to what we have been used with Honda, and the Honda engine was different to the Mercedes engine.

"This is our third engine in the V6 hybrid era, and it is not too surprising to us that they are all different, because they all employ different solutions, different mechanical design, and different materials in the engine.

"All of these factors have quite a significant influence on the engine oil and the fuel composition.

"In fact I would have been surprised if they were the same."

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