One of the under-the-radar changes that’s helped improve Red Bull Racing’s performance this year with its Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged power unit has been its switch in oil partners to ExxonMobil via Mobil 1, luring the oil giant away from its long-term relationship with McLaren.
The Red Bull chassis has been a more complete article this season and the power unit has delivered the performance to bring the car higher up the grid than a clear third best chassis. Red Bull lured Mobil 1 away from McLaren to replace Total; McLaren then switched to Castrol/BP.
It could be argued over the last month or so that Red Bull’s overall package has been consistently ahead of both Mercedes and Ferrari, and it’s witnessed Max Verstappen reel off 80 points in four races – most in the series.
For reference, owing to a spate of early season mechanical issues, Verstappen scored only 68 points in the first 14 races. But the tougher start to the season, Verstappen said, made him a “stronger driver.”
“I think since Singapore onwards, we basically gained a grid spot because of improved fuels and oils thanks to Mobil 1,” Verstappen told NBC Sports, speaking from the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
“That was our biggest performance upgrade from the engine side, compared to what we had before. It has helped us a lot. The steps we are making this year are really big.”
Mobil 1’s most recent motorsports triumphs among many in North America have come via the Stewart-Haas Racing team in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition and with Corvette Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Cup Series race from Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford while Corvette secured its second straight IMSA GT Le Mans class title with Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen sharing the team’s No. 3 Corvette C7.R.
“(F1) is a big part of our technical development and the innovation of our products,” said David Tsurusaki, Motorsports Technology Manager, ExxonMobil. “We spend a lot of time, effort and funding from our research group to develop products specifically for our Formula 1 team. It gives us an opportunity to look at future technology.
“We look at the technology in a Formula 1 engine and gearbox as cutting edge technology. If we can develop our products for the team, it gives us a heads-up on what’s coming for consumer vehicles.”
Verstappen then promptly showcased the Red Bull and Mobil 1 partnership in a series of donuts conducted at the SEMA Show on Friday night, in an older Red Bull chassis, the RB7. You can see the video, above.
Verstappen, who was making his first visit to the SEMA Show last week as part of a stay-in-North America tour before this week’s Brazilian Grand Prix, was awed by the sheer scale of the event.
“It’s really big! In Europe of course you have a similar kind of thing. But this is really impressive. It’s great to be here,” he said. “I haven’t really seen a lot from the whole thing. I need to discover a lot more to have an opinion!”
He also expanded on a Q&A he did with Formula 1’s official website noting he loves what he calls “stupid funny movies.” One that stood out?
“Step Brothers,” he laughed.