Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence

Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence
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In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton held off the relentless pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win his record-extending 96th F1 race.(Twitter: @LewisHamilton)
Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence
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The 2021 Formula 1 season has seen the reigning champions introduce an all-new Power Unit, featuring work of a three-party team including Petronas. (Twitter: @PET_Motorsports)
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Updated 30 April 2021

Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence

Oils, innovation and faster cars: How Petronas fuels Mercedes’s relentless pursuit of Formula 1 excellence
  • Andrea Dolfi, head of R&D fluid technology solutions at the oil and gas firm, tells Arab News how his work impacts performance and race results

Speak to Andrea Dolfi for a few minutes, and chances are you’ll never watch another Formula 1 race in the same way again.

For a start, you’ll know just what the Petronas part in reigning constructors world champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team really stands for.

Dolfi is the head of R&D fluid technology solutions for motorsports at Malaysian oil and gas firm Petronas Lubricants International. Every time Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line first, chances are Dolfi and his team have played an important part in the victory.

The 2021 is already promising to be one of the most exciting in recent years, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas team principal, Toto Wolff, said before the recent Italian Grand Prix that Red Bull’s car arguably has the edge over his own team’s.

Dolfi shrugs off the suggestion.

“I’m not that convinced that we have such a huge gap to be closed,” he said. “I’ve seen this kind of statement from Toto many times in the past, and he does it to keep the team motivated. Overall, this is an opportunity for us to do even better, to be even more motivated.”

In fact, he welcomes the competition.

“It’s good for the sport to be honest with you, that somebody is behind our back,” Dolfi said. “I find it a very healthy situation to be in. It’s very good, we have a good season ahead.”

In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton held off the relentless pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win his record-extending 96th F1 race. In Imola, the seven-time champion somehow recovered to finish second after his race looked to be over when he spun into the gravel and hit the barrier. That he leads the drivers’ standing in a supposedly lesser car is, according to Dolfi, testament to his genius.

“The guy’s so motivated, he’s not second to any of his much, much younger colleagues,” he told Arab News ahead of Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix. “In terms of hunger, and willingness to strive for the best, he’s really an amazing performer. He’s able to compensate the gap with his talent.”

FASTFACT

In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton held off the relentless pursuit of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win his record-extending 96th F1 race.

Credit too goes to Hamilton’s team, Dolfi says, particularly to his strategist James Vowles.

“Vowles and Lewis are quite a well-established type of mini-team, they’ve known each other for a long time,” the Turin-based Italian said. “(Vowles) is bright chap, he knows his stuff. He’s shy, you don’t see much of him in the spotlight, but he’s a bright mind, strategy wise.

Dolfi has a background in chemistry and a Phd in biophysics, and his expertise goes beyond ensuring Formula 1 cars run smoothly, and very, very fast.

“Strangely enough my first career step was in a major pharmaceutical company dealing with vaccines, which are very much in fashion these days,” he said.

After working for a chemical company and living in the UK for six years, he joined Petronas in 2011. In 2018 he became head of research and development of fluid technology.

“I’ve gone through different roles but always had the responsibility of the motorsport activities as far as fluids are concerned,” Dolfi said. “We deliver five functional fluids to the Formula 1 car. The fuel, the engine lubricant, gearbox lubricant, the hydraulic lubricant which used to activate the gear shift. Last but not least is the coolant, which is a specialized coolant for batteries.”

The 2021 Formula 1 season has seen the reigning champions introduce an all-new Power Unit, the Mercedes-AMG F1 M12 E Performance; it is the work of a three-party team of engine manufacturer High Performance Powertrains (HPP), Mercedes (MGP) and Petronas.

“You have to bear in mind that the fuel is the primary source of energy. And the lubricant’s task is to deliver reliability because there is no point in running faster unless you cross the finish line,” Dolfi said. “That’s what scores the points. You have to be faster but you have to reach the end of the race and that’s what the lubricant has to deliver along with the performances.”

Most casual racing fans will be unaware of the inner workings of a Formula 1 car, and Dolfi highlights the pivotal role that oil plays in how the engine performs and what the car itself even looks like.

“It is strange, but when you think about it, how can oil impact the shape and the whole aerodynamic development of the car?” he said. “You would think those two are quite (separate), but in reality one of the key challenges for the lubricant is of course to protect the moving parts from wearing off, but it also serves as a coolant.”

Delivering a higher performance means a reduction in the surface area of the radiator; a narrower car, with less drag, leads, down the line, to more Hamilton podiums.

“So all we do is basically chase performances from our fluids without compromising reliability,” Dolfi said. “We think and rethink, Apollo 13-style, to sort out issues. It’s always going on.”

Bigger challenges lay ahead for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, and indeed Formula 1, from 2022. New regulation will require all F1 engines to be powered using E10 fuels, with the aim of reducing the CO2 footprint by 50 percent compared to 2018.

Will performance be compromised?

“I don’t think so,” Dolfi said. “Let’s put it this way, whatever you lose in terms of performance, and I’m not so sure you lose (much), you can compensate because the power unit is a very sophisticated, dynamic piece of equipment, it’s so complicated. And there’s lot that can be done to adjust.”

“The 2022 step, I don’t see any issue in terms of performance as far as we are concerned right now.”

Dolfi says that he and his team are constantly interacting with the Mercedes management team, including Wolff himself. There are monthly and quarterly meetings, and work continues throughout the winter break.

“Formula 1 is always on,” he said. “In-season, off-season, there’s no rest for us.”

And as for being dragged into the whole Formula 1 lifestyle, he is very candid, saying that race events don’t often require his presence.

“I must be honest, I don’t watch every race,” Dolfi said. “However my wife does, so I hope that counts.”

For now, the target for Dolfi and his team remains to ensure Mercedes and Hamilton retain their respective titles in 2021.

“For us it’s really a matter of pride, Dolfi said. “Petronas has been in motorsports for more than 25 years, and it is really a coronation of a journey that not so many can claim, even the established major oil and gas competitors which have been around the block for more than 100 years. Petronas is my age, from 1974. We’ve gone through a very, very good journey. We started to partner with Mercedes in 2010, moving forward from BMW who had quit Formula 1, a big renowned player. But the good thing is we are a bunch of guys who are up to the challenge.”

“It’s a good combination of motivated people, a company willing to invest, unbiased views, cross-integration and inclusiveness,” he said. “It’s a good story.”


Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Updated 5 min 50 sec ago

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics
  • Ali Al-Khadrawi’s training will be overseen by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation

Saudi Arabia’s top table tennis player Ali Al-Khadrawi is set for a third and final training camp ahead of his participation in the Tokyo Olympics in July, the Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

With Tokyo 2020 approaching fast, the last stage of his preparation will be approved in the coming days then overseen by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation in the weeks that follow.

Al-Khadrawi’s first training took place in Al-Ahsa region, where he was joined by other members of the Saudi national table tennis team. The second phase was completed last Tuesday in Dammam.

The third stage of his preparation is expected to be abroad, with the place and time to be announced on Tuesday.


Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash
Updated 15 May 2021

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash
  • Djokovic and Nadal last played in the 2020 French Open final, which the Spaniard won
  • Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them

ROME: World number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday battled past Italian Lorenzo Sonego to set up a clash with nine-time winner Rafael Nadal for the sixth time in the Italian Open final.
Defending champion Djokovic won through 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in 2hr 44min against the 33rd-ranked Italian after second seed Nadal earlier swept past American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic had earlier survived a three-set battle with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in their rain-delayed quarter-finals.
The five-time Rome winner had been trailing 6-4, 2-1 when the tie was halted overnight.
But he came back to win through 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after 3hr 16min.
Djokovic and Nadal, who will be facing each other for the 57th time, last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won.
The pair have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 3-2.
Djokovic had two match points in the 12th game of the second set of his semifinal before Sonego forced a third set to the delight of the home crowd in the Foro Italico.
The Serb saved three break points in the first game of the third set, coming back from 0-40 before powering toward his 11th Rome final
“I think I bounced back very well after the second set and 0-40, maybe if he started with a break up in the third it would be different,” said Djokovic.
“I’ve only myself to blame for not closing the match in the second set, I could have and should have.
“First of all I need to recover. I don’t have much time but hopefully I’ll have fresh legs necessary to have against Rafa.”
Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them with Djokovic leading their overall head-to-head 29-27.
Nadal is looking to equal Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.


Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0
Updated 15 May 2021

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0
  • After losing four finals, Leicester’s name is finally etched onto the cup of world football’s oldest competition
  • The team from central England is a champion again, five years after Morgan collected the Premier League trophy

LONDON: Youri Tielemans was preparing for the FA Cup final on Saturday when he received a text message with a clear instruction: Aim for the top corner.
When the ball landed at the Leicester midfielder’s feet, 63 minutes into the 140th final, a powerful shot from 30 meters was aimed just where he had been advised.
It was a sensational way to win the FA Cup for the first time in Leicester’s 137-year history, 1-0 against Champions League finalist Chelsea.
Even sweeter than the strike was Leicester being able to celebrate in front of its own fans as Wembley Stadium hosted England’s biggest crowd — more than 20,000 who tested negative for the coronavirus — in 14 months.
“Wow, what a finish,” Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said. “I didn’t dare to celebrate because there’s always VAR.”
Not that time. Instead, the video assistant review came to Leicester’s rescue in the 89th minute to prevent Wes Morgan from a moment of heartache.
The 37-year-old club captain had been on the pitch for only seven minutes when he accidentally deflected in former teammate Ben Chilwell’s cross. But one of those marginal offsides that so irritate players and fans was detected and the roars of Leicester fans were even louder than the moment Tielemans scored.
After losing four finals — the first in 1949 at the old Wembley — Leicester’s name is finally etched onto the cup of world football’s oldest competition. The team from central England is a champion again, five years after Morgan collected the Premier League trophy.
Players — such as Chelsea duo Chilwell and N’Golo Kante — have left since that improbable 5,000-1 title triumph but Morgan and matchday captain Schmeichel are still there to celebrate again, this time in a moment tinged with sadness.
Inside the jerseys at Wembley were photos of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club’s Thai owner until he died in 2018 when his helicopter crashed in flames next to King Power Stadium.
“He is always with us, Kun Vichai,” said Schmeichel before handing the FA Cup on the field to Vichai’s son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, who now runs the club.
Also in tribute to Vichai was a banner covering seats in the closed third tier at Wembley, with his quote, “Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
In a game of few chances, Thiago Silva’s slack pass allowed Leicester to score. Ayoze Pérez intercepted the clearance and Luke Thomas passed across to the unmarked Tielemans to drive forward before striking from 30 yards into the top corner.
Saves from Schmeichel as much as VAR helped to preserve the lead; he used one hand to push Chilwell’s shot onto the post in the 78th and blocked Mason Mount’s volley in the 87th.
“I’ve dreamed of this since I was a child,” Schmeichel said. “The performance today — the grit and determination — I’m so proud of everyone.”
It’s far from season over for Leicester. There’s another match against Chelsea to come on Tuesday which could clinch Champions League qualification for the second time ever. Sitting third, Leicester holds a two-point lead over Chelsea.
“Today we enjoy, and tomorrow we dust ourselves down and can’t really think about this anymore,” Schmeichel said. “Chelsea are a top-class side and are going to want revenge.”
The west London club has lost consecutive FA Cup finals, with Thomas Tuchel failing just as Frank Lampard did. But Tuchel can still win the biggest prize in club football against Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29 in Porto.
“We are disappointed and not angry with our performance,” Tuchel said.
Chelsea was a key early stop in Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers’ coaching career, with the youth team around 15 years ago. While Rodgers has won trophies in Scotland with Celtic, he fell short in English football with Watford, Swansea and Liverpool until Saturday. Now, for the first time since Harry Redknapp with Portsmouth in 2008, a British manager has picked up the FA Cup.
“The success of this team and club is getting to positions like this and competing,” Rodgers said. “The so-called bigger clubs are expected to win but our success is competing and if we can perform like today we can go and win. What a day for everyone involved with Leicester.”

ACTIVISM
Chelsea and Leicester took a knee before kickoff, which has been a feature of games in England since June as part of calls to eradicate racial injustice in society following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But there was some booing by fans against the anti-racism gesture that was largely drowned out by applause and cheers.
In the post-match celebrations, Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana were wrapped in a Palestinian flag amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza.

PREMIER LEAGUE
Leeds is on for a top-half finish in its first season back in the Premier League after 16 years. A 4-0 victory over Burnley was started by Mateusz Klich curling in the opener before halftime, followed in the second half by Jack Harrison and Rodrigo’s double. Fulham, one the three sides already relegated, lost at Southampton 3-1.


Al-Ittihad settles financial dispute with the Aleksandar Pesic

The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and  former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
Updated 15 May 2021

Al-Ittihad settles financial dispute with the Aleksandar Pesic

The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and  former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
  • Schedule of payments for $2m owed to Serbian striker ensures Jeddah club will not face FIFA sanctions

RIYADH: Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad has reached a settlement with former striker Aleksandar Pesic, with the club set to schedule a payment plan of $2 million owed to the player, Arabic language sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

The 28-year-old Serbian, who left the club in 2020, filed a formal complaint with FIFA calling for overdue fees to be paid.

According to Arriyadiyah’s sources, the agreement between the two parties is final, ensuring that the Jeddah club will not be hit with sanctions by FIFA.

The first of the player payments is due in the coming months.

Al-Ittihad signed Pesic in July 2018 on a three-year contract, before sending him to South Korean club FC Seoul on loan for 18 months at the beginning of 2019. The player then moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv on free transfer last year.


Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve
Updated 15 May 2021

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve
  • hampions wasted opportunity to go six points clear of Al-Shabab at top of SPL table

Leaders Al-Hilal missed a golden opportunity to take decisive step toward a 17th Saudi Professional League (SPL) title after drawing 1-1 with Al-Batin only hours after second-placed Al-Shabab had lost 4-3 in a dramatic match against Ettifaq.

A win would have put the reigning champions six points ahead of Al-Shabab with three matches left, but a stoppage-time penalty miss by French forward Bafetimbi Gomis means that nagging doubts will persist at least until round 28 of the SPL.

While Al-Hilal lead the table by four points, third-place Al-Ittihad could re-enter the title race by going second in the table, one point above Al-Shabab, with a win over Damac on Saturday.

Al-Hilal started strongly at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium and took the lead through top scorer Gomis at 17 minutes.

The expected comfortable evening for Al-Hilal did not materialize, however, and Al-Batin equalized through Mohamed Rayhi in the 29th minute.

Youssef El-Jebli almost gave Al-Batin a first-half lead when his shot just missed Abdullah Al-Mayouf’s goal.

Al-Hilal coach Jose Morais introduced Salem and Nasser Al-Dawsari for Andre Carrillo and Luciano Vietto, but despite sustained pressure could not break down Al-Batin’s defense.

The Riyadh giants were then given a priceless opportunity to win the match with the late penalty, but Gomis struck the bar with the last shot of the match.

Al-Hilal will next host Al-Ahli on Wednesday, while Al-Shabab welcome Al-Ain on the same night and Al-Ittihad travel to Abha the following day.