Lubricants for Competition

Formula One

Formula One

TOTAL involvement in F1

The historic partnership between Total and Renault that has lasted over 40 years is a perfect example of what a partnership should be.This collaboration in F1 began in 1977 and has always been noted for innovation and on-going dialogue allied to rapid reaction with a single aim in mind – excellence at the pinnacle of motor sport. Together we have scored 21 world championship titles and 155 victories. From the infancy of the turbo era to the V10s and V8s our fuels, lubricants, cooling liquids and greases have always provided a significant gain in power while ameliorating the overall reliability of the mechanical ensembles.This double aim is even more pertinent today as F1 enters a new era.The 2014 season sees the introduction of a major technological revolution with the arrival of a very sophisticated power train. It combines a V6 turbo with two powerful innovative energy recovery systems. In addition, double restrictions on the on-board fuel load and instant fuel consumption read-outs define the new Formula 1 philosophy – optimization of energetic efficiency. This new take will bring Formula 1 even closer to the car industry and the everyday drivers.We’re proud to tackle this new challenge with Renault Sport F1 and our partner teams, Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Lotus F1 Team. Our researchers provide specific products for their engineering counterparts to put the Renault Energy F1-2014, among the most economical power units in the world, on the road to victory. Our F1 methodologies will then be extended to the development of ranges aimed at the general public.

TOTAL’s role in F1

1/ The role of our lubricants

Engine lubrication: our TOTAL engine oils have 3 main functions

  • They contribute to power and energy saving:

Total’s aim is to optimize energy released during combustion by limiting internal friction in the engine in which the viscosity of the lubricant plays a crucial role. It conditions the performance of the rotating assembly: crankshaft, con rods and pistons. The film of oil between the metallic parts has to be robust enough to separate the parts and ensure their movement at high-speed without any contact between them.

  • They protect the mechanical parts:

On certain mechanical components of the engine the repeated inter- metallic contacts cause a rapid increase in friction, which leads to wear, loss of power and potential failure. Another sensitive zone has been created with the introduction of the Renault Energy F1-2014: the turbocharger bearings. What is the right formulation? An oil that is neither too fluid nor too thick to protect the engine from wear, ensure the correct lubrication of the turbo bearings and prevent deposits on the hot surfaces. Additives are used because of their capacity to create an additional film that protects these.

  • They help to cool the engine:

Evacuating the heat is of crucial importance, in particular at the bottom of the pistons’groove where a temperature close to 300°C is reached. This leads to oxidation and the deposit of carbon. Temperature elevations in low volumes – around a micro litre – reach several hundred degrees in a fraction of a second. The solution? provide a good supply of lubricant to these sensitive areas and strong enough flows to evacuate the heat quickly. Achieving this aim entails optimal dimensioning of the oil pump.

Gearbox lubrication

This year the teams have to use 8-speed gearboxes (instead of 7 in 2013). Each team has calculated the staging of its gearbox,which is frozen for the season. Each gearbox must last for six grand prix.Total formulates bespoke lubricants to guarantee the life of the bearings and gears without penalising performance through losses. Our lubricants help reduce the size of the oil radiator to the minimum which, in turn, helps the chassis designers to improve the aerodynamics.

Brake liquid

It is adapted 100% to the needs of modern F1 cars: going from 300 km/h to zero in under 80 metres requires products with exceptional thermal stability.

Cooling liquid

Total has created a specific cooling liquid. As each team now has only 5 power units per season, reliability is a priority so it’scrucial to guarantee the optimal functioning of the cooling circuit, in particular concerning the walls of the combustion chamber and the turbo bearings.

Hydraulic fluid

Hydraulic fluid is a product that intervenes in the working of multiple components beyond the simple function of lubrication. A pump driven by the engine puts the fluid under pressure and sends it to the gear change control, the clutch control, operating of the engine valves and the power steering.


Grease is a lubricant with very special functions. It is used in very small quantities and it has to cope with exceptional stresses without any other cooling except the support, generally metal, to which it adheres. Thus, the grease on the wheel bearings (1 to 2 g per bearing) is submitted to extreme heat build-up because it is very near the brakes, and it has to ensure the wheel’s rotation without heating up the hub on which the wheel is centered. The characteristics of this type of grease are strong adhesive properties and optimal reduction of frictions. The transmission grease in the tripod joints of the gearbox on one side and in the wheel on the other also plays an essential role. It lubricates the parts which ensure the transmission of power from the gearbox to the wheels.

2/ The role of our engineers

  • Modelling by digital simulator

From 1D to 3D the mathematical modeling and digital simulation with the help of computer tools of how the F1 power units work are vital. Fluids, combustion, heat, mechanical components, systems with multiple interactions and interdependences, all domains are concerned. In collaboration with Renault Sport F1 our engineers have powerful calculation tools to simulate the way lubricants behave at the molecular level.

  • Analysis and diagnosis

This season each power unit must compete in five consecutive grand prix so reliability is vital. To help Renault Sport F1 and its partner teams and diagnose the state of health of each engine, Total carries out a diagnosis at the circuits at each practice session of the quality of the oil thanks to a spark spectrometer, which detects the quantities of metals present in the samples.