Formula 1 is the top tier of motorsport in the world and while the sport turns the drivers into rockstars, there’s thousands of people behind the scenes that play critical roles in the successes of teams. Hot on the back of a win from Aussie Daniel Ricciardo at Azerbaijan, I had the amazing opportunity to interview David Tsurusaki, the ExxonMobil’s Global Motorsport Technology Manager who plays a key role for Red Bull Racing’s F1 team.
Technology innovation and particularly motorsport results rely on having the best team. What kind of hiring policy do you employ to attract and retain the best talent?
ExxonMobil Research & Engineering hires employees directly from of the very best engineering and science universities. Our Motorsport fuels and lubricants research team is made up of some of the most experienced engineers along with a mix of hand selected younger engineers who are given the opportunity to be part of the fast-paced, innovative and exciting world of motorsport. All of our team members are honoured and privileged to be a part of the ExxonMobil motorsport programme.
How do you create a culture of continued innovation and resolve the tension between pushing hard to beat the competition and reliability?
What is interesting and different about the Mobil 1 Lubricants and Esso Synergy Fuels Motorsports team is that we have the opportunity to be very innovative and creative. We can test and work with the latest product technologies even if they are expensive or unavailable for large scale commercial use.
We are free of normal commercial product development restrictions that could take six months or longer to bring a product to market. Our work is fully supported by the organisation and we are given the ability to formulate and test multiple products, validate them on a dynamometer and field test with our race team partners. That enables us to go racing in a very short period of time with new products.
ExxonMobil is a technology company and we pride ourselves on developing high quality lubricants and fuels that are positioned to not only meet industry standards but exceed these industry standards in many places. We strive to be the benchmarks for performance in every category we participate in.
Our Motorsports team works closely with our race team partners, like Red Bull Racing for example, to supply them with our products, troubleshoot and optimise the performance and durability to get the maximum potential from every component within the engine and other areas of the race car.
Take us inside the office when Red Bull Racing has a great weekend vs a bad one. How do you review/celebrate?
Red Bull Racing is a great example of a team that understands the ups and downs of sports, especially motorsports. They fully understand that you can have a podium finish for one car and perhaps a DNF for the other. You have adversity around every corner and the team reviews and analyses the situation. It then goes into action to fix the problem or find a solution to avoid similar scenarios in the future.
The whole team are supportive of one another and are always working to improve performance. The ExxonMobil team works hand-in-hand with Red Bull Racing by running analysis on the fuel and lubricants at every race and back in our office or our labs to work to find any incremental improvement with our Mobil 1 Race Lubricants or Esso Synergy Race Fuels.
Engineering R&D relies heavily on data. Can you give us a sense of the scale of data you work with and the challenges that presents.
Our trackside technicians who work in the ExxonMobil Trackside Laboratory, located in the Red Bull Racing garage, take close to 200 fuel and lubricant samples at every Grand Prix with over 25 data points on each sample. That equates to over 5,000 data points per race weekend. There is also extensive testing data, mathematical modelling, formulation modelling and specification data produced on all test matrix products to develop just one new fluid.
Are you currently or planning on using AI/Machine Learning to assist in this data processing?
The ExxonMobil Motorsports Technology team is focused on a very select group of racing team partners and programmes so AI is not currently part of our data processing but we use or have access to some of the most sophisticated test and lubricant and fuel research analytical equipment in the industry.
Can you talk about how the developments in motorsport make their way to production vehicles?
There is a direct track to road philosophy for Mobil Lubricants and Esso Synergy Fuels in any work we do within our motorsports team. We are working to prove technology that can one day be used in a production vehicle. Optimising fuel economy with lubricants is a good example of this, as lower viscosity fluids were tested in motorsports years ago and are now common practice in production vehicles.
Our job must come with some incredible challenges. What are the biggest you’re facing right now?
We work in an industry and sport that is constantly evolving and innovating at great speed. Our biggest challenge is making sure we can maintain the balance of taking the time for quality control, for example validating a new fluid, versus delivering against tight and demanding schedules during the season. But this is what gets us up in the morning and motivates us to be an industry leader in motorsports.
We’re constantly researching more efficient ways to validate new fluids, but there are inherent challenges in working on the latest technologies in engines and powertrains. Fortunately though, we are working with some of the best racing programs in the world in almost every form of racing.