Red Bull expects to receive a notable gain in performance at the the Japanese Grand Prix from a new fuel being introduced by ExxonMobil for the latest Honda power unit. Toro Rosso will also use the new fuel on both cars.
Honda introduced its Spec 4 power unit at the Belgian Grand Prix, with both Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers taking it by the following race in Italy. ExxonMobil has been developing a new fuel with the latest specification of engine in mind, and ahead of its introduction at Suzuka its global motorsport technology manager David Tsurusaki says it is a significant step in performance.
“It has been under development for, well I can actually go back several years for the initial testing that we’ve done to work on something like this,” Tsurusaki said. “Sometimes it takes time to get the quality of the raw materials we’re looking for to make a new fuel like this.
“The key part of it is being able to modify and adjust the fuel to fit the new Spec 4 engine, and it’s really what it was designed for. The whole idea was to try to optimize the fuel for this engine and try to get the best performance we possibly can out of the engine.
“With Red Bull I think it’s one of the biggest steps we’ve ever done. In a mature engine technology it makes it harder and harder to make that sort of adjustment, but it’s something that we’ve been thinking about and working on for quite a long time.”
Red Bull’s chief engineer Paul Monaghan says the team expects to see a clear gain from the new fuel, although he warned any improvements are relative to the competition.
“With the fuel and improvement in the ICE, we are at the fundamental core of how we make improvements with the power unit,” Monaghan said. “The lap time return is measurable. If we brought a whole new aero package — floor, front wing, bargeboards — we might eclipse this. We haven’t, so we’ll take this one and blend it with all the other parts we’ve got.”
Monaghan says there is a clear difference between Red Bull’s ability to find gains from fuel since switching to Honda power this season, compared to last year with Renault.
“If you go back, it wasn’t far off this time last year. If you recall there were two specifications of Renault engine floating around, and we drew benefit from the fact that Exxon had a fuel that would suit the last one and our competitors were better suited with another of the Renault engines. What would have been really nice to do would have been another loop of fuel development with the last of those engines. We were not afforded that opportunity.
“Whereas if you look now, you make a step on the engine — we knew the fuel was coming — so the Spec 4 engine will run with the previous fuel as we’ve demonstrated, there’s an improvement with the new fuel; then when you know how this one behaves and you would make potentially another step with the engine, etc.
“Little by little and step by step the two compliment one another and I think the strong collaboration between Exxon and Honda will facilitate this, whereas 12 months ago we were not blessed with that situation. So we’re grateful to both parties, really — one couldn’t do it without the other.”