Vodafone McLaren Mercedes prides itself on the longevity of its partnerships, and at the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix three of them reach a significant milestone. ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei have each started 300 grands prix with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
The partnership took to the grid for the first time at Interlagos on March 26, 1995, with Mika Häkkinen and Mark Blundell finishing fourth and sixth in MP4/10s powered by an all-new Mercedes-Benz 3.0-litre FO110 engine.
Two years later, David Coulthard delivered the first of the partnership’s 72 wins so far at the first race of the 1997 season, in Melbourne, Australia. The results of these partnerships have been outstanding:
· Four world championships
· 72 grand prix wins
· 20 one-two finishes
· 70 pole positions
· 81 fastest laps
Additionally, the partnership has clocked 183,972.5 racing kilometres together, led 4614 racing laps and (we estimate) carried out an astonishing 1,832,114 gear-changes.
Martin Whitmarsh, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal, said:
“300 grands prix is a significant milestone in the partnership between Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei. The technical landscape of Formula 1 has changed massively since our partnerships began, but our commitment to excellence has been constant. We all want to win.
“As the technical demands of the sport have changed, ExxonMobil have rapidly and successfully evolved their product to remain at the forefront of competition, just as we adapt our cars continuously throughout each season. It’s not just a simple case of more power and less friction; more volumetrically efficient fuel gives us a strategic advantage, too.
“Likewise Mercedes-Benz have pushed the boundaries of what is possible, with a succession of lighter, more powerful and durable engines over the course of our partnership. The 2.4-litre V8 engines we run today rev higher, last longer, and are as powerful as the 3.0-litre V10s we were using when our partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and ExxonMobil began in 1995. This is a compelling demonstration of how racing improves the breed.
“Every element of our car is subject to constant development and that includes the wheels. Enkei are world leaders in the art of creating the lightest, stiffest racing wheels.
“It’s a privilege to work with partners that share our values: proud of our performance but never content with it, always looking to do better. I genuinely believe that’s why our partnerships have such tremendous longevity.”
Jonathan Neale, managing director, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, added:
“We are long past the era of easy gains in Formula 1 and it’s a testament to ExxonMobil’s determination to be the best that they continue to push the boundaries of technical development, right down to the molecular level. The game has moved on since our partnership began in 1995: we are now only permitted eight engines per driver per season, every gearbox has to last four races, and we cannot refuel during grands prix.
“This demands a whole new order of excellence. Beyond pure performance we’ve needed to maximise fuel efficiency for strategic gains; reduce friction within the engine so that we can use smaller components, saving weight; and find ways to minimise degradation by keeping the engine and gearbox running in ‘as new’ condition. ExxonMobil and Mercedes-Benz have achieved all this and more by being relentlessly innovative.
“Success in modern F1 relies on careful aggregation of gains, however small: reducing weight and increasing performance in every area without compromising durability. Enkei’s attention to the tiniest of details has made them the perfect partners over the past 300 races.
“I can easily envisage another 300 races with ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei. They’re racers, just like us, and they’re just as committed to winning.”
2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button said:
“When I joined Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I knew I was joining the best team in Formula 1 – and when I say ‘team’ I mean the partners as well, because they’re integral to our success. In many ways when you’re actually out there driving in a grand prix, you’re on your own. You’re in radio contact with the pit wall but you have the ultimate responsibility for driving the car quickly. So it always gives me great confidence when I get in my car to know that every element of it is the best it can possibly be.
“ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei have helped this team achieve incredible levels of success. Four World Championships and 72 grand prix wins in an environment that’s more fiercely competitive than ever. They’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
2008 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said:
“The margins are so tight in Formula 1 nowadays that the difference between winning and losing can be measured in fractions of a second. Every part of the team works hard to find even the smallest advantage because it’s always worthwhile. When I won the drivers’ championship in 2008, on the last corner of the last lap, it was because everybody played their part.
“When you have partners as dedicated as ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei, you want to carry on working with them, so I’m not surprised that we’ve reached the 300 races mark together.
“There are incredible things we almost take for granted these days thanks to ExxonMobil and Mercedes-Benz. I’m only allowed eight engines per season, but ever since I started in Formula 1 I’ve never retired from a race with engine failure. That’s 96 races. Long may it continue.”
300 not out: the history of our partnerships
In 2002, ExxonMobil introduced SuperSyn anti-wear technology to Mobil 1, an important step forward in ensuring durability and peak performance. Beyond flagship technologies such as this, ExxonMobil has rapidly and continuously developed its product year on year. More volumetrically efficient race fuels enable the cars to run longer with a lighter fuel load, yielding a tactical advantage; and, since every manufacturer’s engines have been homologated since 2008, fuel and lubricants have become an even more critical development area. Mobil 1 now even acts as an aerodynamic aid, minimising the engine’s cooling requirements so that fewer drag-producing air intakes are needed on the car’s surface.
Darrin Talley, vice-president, Marketing & Technology, ExxonMobil Lubricants & Petroleum Specialties, said:
“Mobil 1 has been at the front of the Formula 1 grid for over 30 years. Our technology partnership with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has not only delivered world championship trophies, it has helped our scientists break racing boundaries.
“Over the course of the past 300 grands prix, we have strived to provide a racing advantage. The result is a level of performance and reliability that would have seemed unattainable when our partnership began in 1995.
“Ensuring peak performance, under extreme conditions, is a challenge we’ve risen to. Formula 1 is an excellent learning platform; the car is essentially a high-speed laboratory. And since we develop Mobil 1 racing oil in the same way we do our commercial products, the learning benefits translate directly to the oil in your car.
“As we race past the 300-grand-prix mark together I’d like to congratulate Vodafone McLaren Mercedes on their success – past, present and future.”
From having an unlimited number of engines at their disposal in 1995, drivers soon had to do more with less: one engine per weekend in 2004, then two weekends as of 2005, tightening further to the current eight engines per season.
Thanks to the close technical collaboration between the partners, the present generation of Mercedes-Benz 2.4-litre V8 engines are smaller and lighter, rev higher, and are more powerful and durable than the 3.0-litre FO110 V10 that powered Mika and Mark in 1995. Since Lewis Hamilton made his F1 debut for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007 – 96 races ago – he has never been forced out of a race by engine failure, which is a remarkable record.
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said:
"Our 300th race represents a genuine milestone. Mercedes-Benz and McLaren are now in our 18th season together but I still remember well the first negotiations with Ron and the challenges of our early seasons.
“Success came early in our third year, with David at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, and this was the first of 72 wins so far – more than 40 per cent of McLaren's Formula 1 victories. The world titles for Mika and Lewis were, of course, highlights.
“However, during 299 races, the strongest bond linking McLaren and Mercedes-Benz has been that we are all racers – and focused firmly on the future.
“Today we race not just with McLaren but also against them, with our Silver Arrows works team. The competition is hard but fair, just as it should be. And we look forward to many more successes in the future."
A Formula 1 car represents the distillation of thousands of hours of development work, which is why its final interface with the track surface – the wheels and tyres – are an integral part of the performance equation. Since 1995 Enkei has taken on the responsibility for providing the medium between the tyres and the chassis, working with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to optimise the wheels’ aerodynamic properties while reducing weight. The result is increased agility and more consistent contact with the track surface over bumps; overall, a sense of connectedness which gives the driver absolute confidence.
Junichi Suzuki, president, Enkei Group, said:
“As the pinnacle of international motor sport, the Formula 1 world championship represents the ultimate proving ground for Enkei’s products. To be a partner with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes over the past 300 grands prix has been an important motivator for us because we have a shared culture: we are both determined to win and to innovate, we are always looking for ways to improve our performance and we are totally focused on quality.
“Our partnership with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has not only resulted in world championship success on the race track, it has also enabled us to transfer cutting-edge wheel technologies to the products our customers use on the street.”
Three hundred race starts and 72 wins – so far.
What has made the partnership with ExxonMobil, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei so successful is that each one of us is dedicated to winning: proud of each win but not content with it, always looking to the next win, always trying to be better than the best.