Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne has targeted another points finish for the team in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix to consolidate fourth position in the 2002 Constructors' World Championship. Although the recent...
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne has targeted another points finish for the team in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix to consolidate fourth position in the 2002 Constructors' World Championship.
Although the recent German Grand Prix on the newly modified Hockenheim circuit proved disappointing for the team, Gascoyne believes problems masked the car's true level of performance.
"The combination of Jenson's misfire and Jarno's blistered first set of tyres meant we struggled early in the race," said Gascoyne. "But Jarno was very competitive on the second set until his accident, and we are confident that he could have scored a point in spite of his initial problems."
The three-week break between races, which included a five-day holiday for the race team, has seen the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team pursuing development of the R202. The Team will introduce minor chassis and aerodynamic modifications, but the most significant step forward will be the introduction of an up-rated engine for qualifying.
"We have to look to make sure we get a points finish to consolidate our championship position," Gascoyne said. "I think the circuit will suit the car much as Monaco did, and the high track and air temperatures throughout the weekend should ensure that Michelin are competitive."
Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds concurs: "I expect to be as competitive in Hungary as we have been everywhere else this year. Given the characteristics of our car, there is no reason why we shouldn't go well."
Little-used throughout the year, the tight and twisting Hungaroring poses several significant challenges for the Team's engineers. With overtaking nigh on impossible during the race, qualifying position is all-important. However, finding the right set-ups for qualifying and the race is made more difficult by the circuit's changing characteristics, with lap times falling quickly as grip levels increase throughout the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday.
"The main thing about the Hungaroring is that it is a very, very low grip circuit," said Symonds. "It is very dusty and very dirty so we really need to concentrate on qualifying position because, with the possible exception of Monaco, this is the hardest circuit of all to make up positions in the race.
"It is absolutely right to say that the circuit is like Monaco in that lap times tend to get better as the day goes on and therefore any change you make is rather hard to quantify. Even factors like tyre choice can be very difficult on Friday because of the slippery nature of the circuit."
However, low grip does not automatically bring low tyre wear. The long, constant-radius corners of the Hungarian circuit, combined with the need for good traction from low-speeds, place real strain on the tyres. Indeed, even the electronic control systems designed to maximise car performance can potentially hamper the teams' efforts.
"Whilst the circuit is very slippery it can also be hard on tyres because of the amount of cornering and the fact that the corners themselves are very long," added Symonds. "The tyres are given a very tough time: at the front, this is because the car will tend to understeer in long corners, while at the rear we see a lot of wear owing to the traction required out of the slow turns.
"This is tricky to set the car up for. Whatever we do to minimise the understeer will have an effect on traction and the fine balance between these two factors is quite difficult to find. Indeed, traction control systems mean it is easy to simply work on the understeer and let the electronics take care of the back end. This, however does not help as traction control systems can only reduce the ultimate power that you put on the road which does not maximise the car's potential. We always need to work to maximise the car's overall performance, rather than just relying on the system."
Once again, the team's Michelin tyres will be a key factor, but the hot conditions expected in Budapest should suit the soft compounds required at this circuit.
"The balance between the tyre manufacturers is something of a moving target," said Symonds. "I fully believe Michelin will produce a very competitive tyre here but as with all compounds at the soft end of the range, the challenge is to manage them correctly to achieve both a good race and qualifying performance."
With five races of the season remaining, development on the R202 will continue up to the final race in Japan, in parallel with development of the 2003 challenger. In the binomial organisation of the Renault F1 Team, each car has a dedicated chief designer, which means work on next year's car has been underway since the latter stages of 2001.
Mike Gascoyne gives some insight into the process: "The chief designer of R202, Mark Smith, will be continuing development of this car right up to the final race. Under the guidance of our second chief designer Tim Densham, the 2003 project is now well advanced, with preparations underway for the new car to run during the month of November."