By Mridubha Kumar
To celebrate India’s inaugural Grand Prix on October 30, Shell Lubricants, the motor oil trusted by Scuderia Ferrari since 1947, recently organized a rare photo exhibition at the British Council in New Delhi that showcased a collection of pictures showing Scuderia Ferrari and Shell's partnership over the years in F1.
Made to resemble a starting grid, the entrance to the exhibition was an extraordinary sight that raised curiosity among the motley media gathered. And, with this event, the most successful team in the sport’s history started the build-up to the Indian Grand Prix.
Clad in a Ferrari suit, Formula One project manager for Shell, Ian Albiston, lifted the curtains on the exhibition in a very stylish and unique way, one must say. As he loosened the cap of a bottle of Shell oil, the chequered flag-like shutter lifted to unveil the photo exhibition that was made in a set-up themed on a race track.
Upon entering, it was a journey reliving the F1 evolution. From the oldest photo, that of former Ferrari driver Mike Hawthorn sitting in Ferrari D50 that got him the 1956 world championship title, to that of the team’s mechanics with the current challenger at the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix.
Over the years, the world’s highest class of single-seater has seen various changes as it grows bigger and better. It has ventured into new areas, such as a largely motorsports-ignorant India, which country head of Shell Lubricants in India, Donald Anderson, sees as a “big opportunity for F1 and Shell and a turning point for motorsports in India”.
F1 moved from front to mid-engine cars, a more round and bigger looking challenger transformed into a compact and narrow one. Slick tyres were introduced as opposed to road tyres in the sixties, front and rear wings came in, and introduction of the modern format of the high nose improved aerodynamics and downforce.
This metamorphosis, one witnessed all over again, while Albiston shed light on “over 60 years of shared passion for performance between Shell and Ferrari”. While talking about Shell Helix, the oil that has powered Ferrari to over 160 race wins, he shared the technical know-how and gladly answered questions about fuel, technology and Ferrari’s rendezvous with India.
“We (Shell) have had 60 years of sheer passion with Ferrari. We celebrated our 450th race last year with Ferrari, and are now onto the 470th. That shows how strong the partnership is,” he said.
When asked how the team is gearing up towards India’s debut on the F1 calendar, Albiston said, “There is a strong buzz between Shell and Ferrari. It is always nice to go to new venues, it’s always a challenge. We at Shell are confident our products will work fine in India. We are all confident the car will be fine. We are looking forward to it when we come back in six weeks’ time.”
While India prepares to play host to F1, the big guns of Formula One are yet to engage with the Indian public in a big way. The smell of burning rubber of the Ferrari, the sound of its roaring engine and a bustling F1 paddock is still some weeks away but it paved the way, nonetheless, for a team which has enjoyed the largest presence in India, where F1 is largely seen as an elitist sport.