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203 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was talking to the ex head of fuel & oil for an extremely well known F1 team last night and asked which oils he recommends for our engines.

He commented that the only ones he would ever use were Shell Helix Ultra and Agip.

That's about all I have to report, but bearing in mind his background (he develops fuels and oils for a major oil company) I know what I'll be putting in at the next service !


203 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
maseratifan said:
Agip? yeah, right. haha
Well considering his background and the fact that he spends all day testing engines and different oils in extreme conditions and under different loads, I'd take his judgement over my limited knowledge any day ;)

237 Posts
Sorry for being flippant. I have spoken with Dr. Haas about Oil and he was less enthusiastic about Agip compared to other products.

If you have the stomach for it here is a condensed version (I can only post 20K words) of his absolutely fabulous treatise on the subject. For the full thing go to at the following link:


About the author:
Dr. Haas is a physician and surgeon. He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in biochemistry with honors. He studied motor oils since high school where he did independent studies on this topic. He studied the properties of viscosity.

When he was a general surgery resident in Chapel Hill he studied the flow mechanics of human blood. Today he continues his research by discussion of oil products with chemists in the field and chemists from the oil manufacturers.

Chapter One - Motor Oil 101

The greatest confusion is because of the way motor oils are labeled. It is an old system and is confusing to many people. I know the person is confused when they say that a 0W-30 oil is too thin for their engine because the old manual says to use 10W-30. This is wrong.

More confusion occurs because people think in terms of the oil thinning when it gets hot. They think this thinning with heat is the problem with motor oil. It would be more correct to think that oil thickens when it cools to room temperature and THIS is the problem. In fact this is the problem. It is said that 90 percent of engine wear occurs at startup. If we are interested in engine longevity then we should concentrate our attention at reducing engine wear at startup.

Oils are chosen by the manufacturer to give the right thickness at the normal operating temperature of the engine. I will say this average oil temperature is 212 F, the boiling point of water. On the track that temperature is up to 302F. It is important to realize that these are two different operating environments and require different oils.

One thing that is no longer important is the ambient temperature. Older automotive owner manuals often recommended one oil for the summer and another for the winter. This is still necessary for air cooled engines but is no longer a consideration in pressurized water cooled engines. These engine blocks are kept at around 212 F all year round. The oil is around the same temperature as well. This allows for a single weight oil all year round. Again, this is not the same as on the track where the coolant temperature is slightly higher and the oil temperature is much higher.

The automotive designers usually call for their engines to run at 212 F oil and water temperature with an oil thickness of 10. This is the viscosity of the oil, not the weight as labeled on the oil can. I want to stay away from those numbers as they are confusing. We are talking about oil thickness, not oil can labeling. This will be discussed later. Forget the numbers on that oil can for now. We are only discussing the thickness of the oil that the engine requires during normal operating conditions.

The engine is designed to run at 212 F at all external temperatures from Alaska to Florida. You can get in your car in Florida in September and drive zig-zag to Alaska arriving in November. The best thing for your engine would be that it was never turned off, you simply kept driving day and night. The oil thickness would be uniform, it would always be 10. In a perfect world the oil thickness would be 10 at all times and all temperatures.

If the thickness of oil was 10 when you got in your car in the morning and 10 while driving it would be perfect. You would not have to warm up your engine. You could just get in the car and step on the gas. There would be little wear and tear on you engine, almost none. Unfortunately the world is not perfect.

The night before when you drove home from work the car was up the the correct operating temperature and the oil was the correct thickness, 10. Over night the engine cooled to room temperature and the oil thickened. It is 75 F in the morning now (I do live in Florida). The oil thickness is now around 150. It is too thick to lubricate an engine designed to run with an oil having a thickness of 10.

It is time to introduce the concept of lubrication. Most believe that pressure = lubrication. This is false. Flow = lubrication. If pressure was the thing that somehow lubricated your engine then we would all be using 90 weight oil. Lubrication is used to separate moving parts, to keep them from touching. There is a one to one relationship between flow and separation. If you double the flow you will double the separation pressure in a bearing. The pressure at the bearing entrance is irrelevant.

In fact the relationship between pressure and flow is in opposition. If you change your oil to a thicker formula the pressure will go up. It goes up because the resistance to flow is greater and in fact the flow must go down in order for the pressure to go up. They are inversely related. Conversely if you choose a thinner oil then the pressure will go down. This can only occur if the flow has increased.

It seems then that we should all be using the thinnest oil money can buy. This is partly true. Let me use my 575 Ferrari Maranello as an example. I drive this car around town. The manual of this car states the target pressure is 75 PSI at 6,000 RPM. The gold standard is that all engines should have a pressure of 10 PSI for every 1,000 RPM of operation, not more, not less. After all, you do need some pressure to move that oil along, but only enough pressure, not more. More pressure is not better, it can only result from the impedance of oil flow. Remember that oil flow is the only thing that does the lubricating.

Note that Ferrari is not saying what thickness of oil to use. That can only be determined by experimentation. My engine oil temperature is running around 185 F as I drive around town on a hot Florida summer day. I have found that the thinnest oil I can buy that is API / SAE certified is Mobil 1’s thinnest oil. Even with this oil I get 80 PSI at 2,000 RPM. It is too thick for my application yet it is the thinnest oil money can buy. If I was on a hot Florida track in mid-summer the oil temperature would probably get up to 302 F. I will guess that the pressure would only be 40 PSI at 6,000 RPM. The oil I am using would not meet the requirement of 75 PSI at 6,000 RPM from Ferrari. I would have to choose a thicker oil for this racing situation. The oil I use now would be too thin at that very high temperature. (This is only partly true. Higher RPM running engines use thinner and thinner oils to get more and more flow. I will discuss this later).

High flow does more than lubricate. It is one of the things used to cool the hottest parts of your engine, the pistons, valve areas and bearings. This cooling effect is as important as lubrication in your engine. If your engine is running hot use a thinner oil. The flow will increase and so will the cooling. This is even more important in the racing condition.

Let us go back to the Ferrari manual. My older 550 Maranello only specified 5W-40 Shell Helix Ultra as the oil to use in all conditions. This car was designed for racing. As it turns out Ferrari now recognizes that not every owner races their cars. The newer 575 manual now states to use 0W-40 for around town situations even though Shell does not make this oil in the Helix Ultra formulation at this writing. They also recommend the 5W-40 by Shell if you insist on the Shell product. It is also the recommended oil for most racing conditions.

Ferrari recommends Helix Ultra Racing 10W-60 “for hot climate conditions racing type driving on tracks”. Note that they now realize the difference between the daily urban driver like me and the very different racing situation. These are widely different circumstances. I want to emphasize that they only want you to use this oil while racing in “hot climate conditions”. If you are racing in Watkins Glen up north use the 5W-40. If you are racing in Sebring in the middle of the Florida summer use the 10W-60. Around town in any climate, use the 0W-40.

I repeat: More confusion occurs because people think in terms of the oil thinning when it gets hot. They think this thinning with heat is the problem with motor oil. It would be more correct to think that oil thickens when it cools to room temperature and THIS is the problem. In fact this is the problem.

Motor Oil 103
Part Three. You have a synthetic mind.

Let us compare mineral and synthetic oils. I will not talk about chemical but rather functional differences. We discussed before how mineral oils are too thick at startup yet too thin when hot. The viscosity was corrected with the hot engine by adding VI improvers.

A 10W-30 multigrade mineral based oil is made from a 10 weight oil and has VI improvers added to thicken the product in a 212 F engine. It acts as a 30 weight oil when hot. It acts more as a 10 weight oil at startup. I remind you that a 10 or 5 or 2 weight oil is still too thick to provide lubrication at startup. They are all too thick at startup. There is currently no engine oil thin enough to operate correctly at startup. They all cause excessive wear at startup. Again, we are discussing the needs of my single hypothetical engine for around town driving.

Oil type.. Thickness at 75 F ..Thickness at 212 F

Straight 30..........250....................10

Straight 10..........30.....................6
Straight 5...........20.....................4
Straight 2...........15.....................3
Straight 0...........12.....................3 est.

A 10W-30 synthetic oil is based on a 30 weight oil. This is unlike the counterpart mineral oil based on a 10 weight oil. There is no VI improver needed. The oil is already correct for the normal operating temperature of 212 F. It has a thickness of 10 while you drive to work. It will never thin yet has the same long term problem as the mineral based oil. They both thicken with extended age.

Synthetic oils are derived in the laboratory. They are pure, usually nearly clear. I describe mineral based motor oils as a distilled, concentrated product. The impurities need to be removed from the raw petroleum. These oils are therefore less clean and contain many impurities. Again, the problem is really more of theory than practice but the difference does exist.

People repeatedly say that synthetic oils are more stable in a hot engine. I hear that they lubricate better. The answer is yes and no. Oil molecules do not break down, just the additives. Generally, the synthetic oils do not have VI improvers so have less to lose.

There are some properties of synthetic oils that actually result is less wear than with mineral oils. These help increase your gas mileage as well. Due to a reduction of internal friction of the synthetic oil your engine will run a bit cooler. Wear increases as temperature increases, all other things being constant.

A main advantage that the synthetic has over the mineral based oil is the ability to lubricate at startup. Both types of oil have the same specifications at 104 F, 212 F and 302 F. It is the startup viscosity characteristics that separate these oils. Synthetic oils do not thicken as much on cooling. They have better fluidity as the temperature drops.

A synthetic oil that is labeled as 10W-30 is less honey like as a mineral based 10W-30 motor oil at startup. They both have a thickness of 10 at normal operating temperatures. At 75 F the synthetic is not as thick. At 32 F the difference between the two is even greater. At 0 F the mineral oil is useless yet the synthetic works fairly well. Just keep the RPM to a minimum.

At temperatures below zero you will not be able to start your car with mineral oils while the synthetic oils may be used to -40 or - 50 F. Oils are so thick that the normal method of viscosity measurement is not possible. Instead we measure if the oil can even be pumped or poured. Again, we are only discussing a single category of oil, the multigrade 10W-30 API / SAE grade.

I took an except from the web about Mobil 1 oils. They compared a 5W-30 synthetic Mobil 1 oil to a mineral based 10W-30 and a 10W-40 in ice cold conditions. The engine turned over at 152 RPM with the synthetic 5W-30 Mobil 1. The 10W-30 and 10W-40 mineral oils turned over at 45 and 32 RPM respectively. Neither of those engines started.

Motor oil becomes permanently thicker with exposure to northerly winter type weather. This is more of a problem to mineral based oils. Waxes form. This is why it is a bad idea to even store a bottle of oil in a cold garage. It goes bad on the garage self just because it is exposed to the cold.

To recap, synthetic oils have similar characteristics as mineral oils at operating temperatures. The synthetic oil will however be less honey - like at startup even though it has the same API / SAE rating. Yet the synthetic 10W-30 weight oil is based on a heavier 30 weight oil while the mineral based 10W-30 oil is based on a thinner 10 weight oil. They are both similar at operating temperatures yet the 30 weight based synthetic is actually less thick at startup and much less honey - like at low temperatures. This is the opposite of what common sense dictates.

You do not need to use the exact oil type and brand that your car manual tells you to use. Oils are pretty general. They are not that different. Ferrari is married to Shell. If you call them up and ask to use Valvoline instead they will tell you that they have not tested that brand in their cars. They only tested the engine with Shell oils. They cannot comment on the performance of other oils in their engines. This is a fair statement. The reality is that the Shell and Valvoline oils of the same specification (viscosity, API and SAE ratings, synthetic or not) are very similar. ( I do have my bullet proof vest on ).

Using an oil that is less thick at startup has other benefits. Let us compare a synthetic 10W-30 to a mineral based 10W-30. Both give you a viscosity of 10 cS at normal engine operating temperatures. They both thin to 3 cS at high temperatures. At 75 F tomorrow morning the story will be different. The startup viscosity of the synthetic will be 50 whereas the mineral based 10W-30 will be 75. Again, both are too thick at startup but the synthetic will cause less startup time period wear and tear. You will get a little better gas mileage too.

The synthetic lubricated engine will turn over easier. This has the effect of using less power from your starter motor. It will last longer. Your battery has less of a current draw. This will also last longer. The battery was discharged less during the start so the alternator will rob less power from your engine to recharge. The alternator lasts longer and you get a little better gas economy. The only downside of synthetic lubricants is the cost. They cost 2 or 3 times as much as mineral based oils. Never-the-less I use plain Pennzoil multigrade mineral based 5W-20 in my Ford Expedition. This oil is thin enough at startup to have many of the attributes I just mentioned.


Motor Oil 106
Part Six. A personal recommendation. (Updated in 2007)

These are the motor oils I recommend. This is based on information that I just happened to collect. I have not gotten the specifications of all oils out there. My opinion on these oils is based on viscosities. By this I mean less honey like at start up temperatures and appropriate for the required viscosity at operating temperature. I broke it down to several classes, 1-Fully Synthetic, 1.2-Race Track, 2-Semi-Synthetic, 3-Mineral (dinosaur) oils. The asterisk is my preferred from each group of very similar products. And these are usually easier to find in my experience. Remember, all oils are too thick at start up. There is no such thing as an oil that is too thin below 100 F. The thinnest motor oil made is still too thick at start up temperatures.

It seems that many engines work best with a multigrade 30 weight oil. Others would do better with a 20 weight oil and few would require a 40 weight oil. You can only determine what is best by experimenting. Admittedly I did not think my Ferrari Maranello would need a 20 weight oil. In truth I could actually use a 10 weight oil. A 0W-10 would be good but it simply does not exist for normal use. Red Line does make 2W, 5W and 10W oils (this acts as a 0W-10 multigrade oil) but they are for racing only. One Formula 1 team has actually used these very oils off the shelf from Red Line.

…..Synthetic Class…..

60 wt:
Agip Synthetic PC 20W-50 (a thick 50 wt oil)
Redline straight 60 wt racing oil (racing only, acts as a SAE 20W-60 oil)*
Shell Helix Ultra Racing Oil 10W-60

50 wt:
Castrol Syntec 5W-50
Penn Synthetic 5W-50
Red Line 15W-50*
Shell Helix Ultra 15W-50

40 wt:
Amsoil 0W-40
Castrol European Formula 0W-30 (a thicker 30 wt oil, almost a 40 wt oil)*
Mobil One 0W-40

30 wt:
Mobil One 0W-30
Penn Synthetic 5W-30
Red Line 5W-20 (a thick 20 wt oil)*

20 wt:
Mobil One 5W-20*
Valvoline SynPower 5W-20

…..Race Oils for Street Use…..
Use these when continued sump temperatures over 240 F are expected.

60 wt:
Redline straight 60 wt racing oil (racing only, not for the street, acts as a SAE 20W-60 oil)
Shell Helix Ultra Racing Oil 10W-60
Valvoline SynPower 20W-50

50 wt:
Castrol Syntec 5W-50
Shell Helix Ultra 15W-50

40 wt:
Red Line 5W-40
Shell Helix Ultra 5W-40

30 wt:
Red Line 10W-30

20 wt:
Amsoil 5W-20
Red Line 5W-20

…..Synthetic Blends…..

60 wt:
Castrol Syntec Blend 20W-50

50 wt:
Valvoline 20W-50

40 wt:
Agip 4-Synt 10W-40
Valvoline Durablend 10W-40*

30 wt:
Castrol Syntec Blend 5W-30
Motorcraft Blend 5W-30
Valvoline Durablend 5W-30*

20 wt:
Motorcraft 5W-20*
Valvoline Durablend 5W-20


50 wt:
None recommended - all relatively too thick at start up.

40 wt:
Penn regular Multigrade 10W-40*
Valvoline All Climate 10W-40

30 wt:
Penn regular Multigrade 5W-30*
Valvoline All Climate 5W-30

20 wt:
Penn regular Multigrade 5W-20
Mobil Clean 5000 5W-20*

If while on the road you are forced to add oil there are rules. Let us say for example that our engine has synthetic Mobil One 0W-30. Use the same type and brand if you can. If you are using Mobil 1 then it is acceptable to mix different grades but use a close grade when possible. It is not a good idea to mix say 1/2 your oil tank with 0W-30 and 1/2 with 15W-50 Mobil 1. If there is no Mobil 1 available then use the mineral based Mobil oils next,.

The last choice is to mix a synthetic of another brand. They should not react adversely if mixed but it may dilute additives. This is not a good combination. Use this combination if you must but only until an oil change can safely be performed some time soon.

I personally used 0W-20 Mobil 1 in the 575 Maranello and for the first oil change I drained the Murcielago’s (OEM) 5W-40 Agip and replaced it with 0W-30 Mobil 1. The engine became much quieter. A valve tappet noise disappeared. I am now using the 5W-20 Red Line in the Lamborghini. Used oil analysis shows that this oil works well for my non racetrack application. The same oil went into my Maybach 57. My Enzo Ferrari calls for the Shell Helix Ultra racing 10W-60 but I am using the Castrol Syntec European Formula 0W-30. This is different than the easy to find plain 0W-30 Syntec. It MUST say European Formula across the front of the label. I buy it at AutoZone stores but it is often mixed with the plain stuff.

773 Posts

thanks for posting, really good, and needed subject. all that have contributed, thanks for your input. i chose moble one, it is the only one available in lexington kentucky, you'all

54 Posts
Slippery Slope

Interesting but long winded article. The good doctor is not in the oil industry.
I have been in it for 30 years. Without being specific as to my position, I can give this bit of "OFF THE RECORD" advice:

For modern Maseratis use 5/40 Synthetic true PAO oils EX:European Full Synthetics- Red Line,Helix,Castrol,Agip,Amsoil.[I DO NOT WORK FOR ANY OF THESE COMPANIES]

Convetional 0w-20,5w-20,5w-30 and 0w30's SL rated oils are GARBAGE!

At the last SAE world confrence held, the SAE members walked out of the meeting in protest when the new EPA mandates for oil were made. There is huge backward combatibility problem with these oils. Toyota just lost a multi billion dollar law suit because of this{CHECK ONLINE}. VW and Audi are next.
All of the ILLSAC and SAE tests have been reduced to get these oils to pass.
I am sure the Dr. Hass knows many things about the medical industry that we will never know either.

2006 Maserati GranSport
2003 DucatiST4s

909 Posts
"I took an except from the web about Mobil 1 oils. They compared a 5W-30 synthetic Mobil 1 oil to a mineral based 10W-30 and a 10W-40 in ice cold conditions. The engine turned over at 152 RPM with the synthetic 5W-30 Mobil 1. The 10W-30 and 10W-40 mineral oils turned over at 45 and 32 RPM respectively. Neither of those engines started."

I'm curious about where his research has come from.. I run 10w30 mineral based oil in my car year round, and it has started every day this year, down to sitting for the weekend with -20deg nights. Hell we had like two weeks that the temp never got above 0 deg f. Sure it cranks over slowly, but it still started every time.

On the other hand that oils against oils article is pretty good. The dyno results broken down by oil brand are pretty interesting. Also interesting was showing essentially identical oil temp and pressures for a pretty broad range of weight ratings and even mineral to synthetic.
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