Formula 1 Mobil 1 car

Grease technology on the Formula 1 track  


Industry insight

Conor Wilkinson, Industrial Field Marketing Advisor, ExxonMobil F&L

On Sunday nights, the Formula 1 Paddock is a busy place.

Although the crowds of spectators may have left, it’s all hands on deck for the race teams. As they strip down temporary garages, load the trucks and prepare to move the roadshow to the next exotic location, the multi-million dollar racecars are dismantled with the greatest care. For lucky observers, this provides a chance to see the internal workings of these dream machines.

At one of my first Grand Prix, I helped the mechanics as we removed the driveshaft from the rear of the McLaren racecar. In doing so, I immediately noticed the familiar bright red grease packed into the tripod joint on the chassis which, to me, looked identical to the synthetic grease I’d commonly recommended to industrial customers suffering bearing issues in cement plants or power stations.

Could it really be? The same product used to protect such a key application, responsible for delivering 750 horsepower from the engine to the rear wheels?

I would have guessed coping with the excessive temperatures of the nearby engine and braking systems would require a custom formulation, one that could ensure component reliability essential to the team’s performance. But a quick discussion with my colleague – who produced a cartridge of Mobilith SHC™ – confirmed it was indeed the same grease formulation commercially available to our industrial customers.

What’s more, the same grease technology is also used in the car’s wheel bearings, and we’d yet to suffer a wheel bearing failure in over 300 races!

McLaren-Honda trusts Mobilith SHC synthetic grease to perform in extreme conditions. When a driver applies the brakes at the end of a straight, the grease in the car's wheel bearings is under 15,000 times more pressure than the vehicles tires. In addition, the brake rotors adjacent to the wheel bearings can spike to over 850°C (over 1500°F), placing incredible thermal stress on the bearings and the grease.

Formula 1 is widely considered the pinnacle of motor racing, its technology constantly evolving as teams seek every opportunity to gain even the slightest improvement in efficiency and performance. That a commercially available grease product could perform in these conditions is a testament to the product technology of Mobilith SHC.

It is definitely a story that I’ve always been happy to share.

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