Italian GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: Last week saw some controversy over the tyre regulations. How do you view it? MG: From our perspective, the challenge consisted in...

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: Last week saw some controversy over the tyre regulations. How do you view it?

MG: From our perspective, the challenge consisted in reacting to the clarification. Michelin worked incredibly hard to prepare a new shape tyre for testing last week at Monza, and all credit to them. Indeed, the most satisfying thing was that when we began running with this new specification, we actually found a small performance advantage compared to the old design.

Q: How do you expect the team to perform at Monza?

MG: Monza is the only very low downforce circuit left on the calendar, and we spend a lot of time preparing for it: up to two or three weeks in the wind tunnel in total. The result is the low downforce package which we tested last week, without any problems at all. To be quick at Monza, you have to be fast down the straights, of course, but there is time to be found under braking and in the corners. The car's performance in the high-speed corners is excellent, and that will definitely be an asset. In terms of results, I think that given the perceived strengths of our package, people may be tempted to write us off. My answer would be to expect us to spring a few surprises...

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering

Q: This weekend will see the race debut of a new Michelin tyre. What are your expectations?

PS: In general, I think the whole affair has been something of a distraction over a minor issue. Changes have been made to the tyres, we tested them last week at Monza and we were able to quickly understand their effects in terms of speed and balance. Indeed, running the new profile, we found ourselves to be slightly faster. In terms of the overall playing field, I certainly don't think it will provoke any change in the status quo between the manufacturers.

Q: Every team on the grid tested at Monza last week. In light of this, how beneficial can you expect the two-hour session to be?

PS: Owing to the fact that, along with the other teams, we have just conducted four car-days of testing just over a week before the race, we cannot expect the two hour session to be the extreme advantage it has been elsewhere. Having said that, a test like Monza is always busy, with lots of red flags, and you never quite finish everything you set out to do. That extra time will also allow us to round off the final details we didn't take care of last week.

The Engineer's View, with Pat Symonds

Whatever else might be said, Monza cannot be considered to be anything but a power circuit: 70% of the lap is spent at full throttle, around 13.3% under braking and 16.7% cornering. Those figures alone demonstrate how important straightline performance is, both in terms of power but also finding an efficient low-drag set-up. While fine- tuning our low downforce package last week in testing, we were able to run a number of different configurations and have now settled on what we believe to be the best compromise between low drag, reasonable levels of downforce and good stability.

What these figures also reveal, though, is that there almost as much of the lap is spent under braking as in cornering. Braking receives particular attention at Monza, not just because it is particularly hard on brakes but also because there is time to be found in this area.

The number one priority for the brakes is obviously to keep them cool: the cooler they are, the lower the rate of oxidisation (wear rate) throughout the race, which in turn makes the brakes more consistent and maximises your chances of finishing. If achieving this cooling means incurring a penalty in terms of drag, by running larger brake ducts, then that is a sacrifice you have to be prepared to make.

As for performance, the brakes require good initial bite under heavy braking, in spite of the fact that the discs will cool down the straights. They must also maintain good performance all the way through the braking phrase, avoiding brake fade and ensuring the balance between front and rear remains consistent throughout. The low downforce levels mean braking stability is a key factor, not just in terms of lap time, but also for enhancing the chances of finishing: good stability means predictable performance, and that is crucial for the driver to set good, consistent lap times in race conditions

Indeed, the difficult compromises that need to be made mean Monza is actually one of the trickiest circuits at which to find a good set-up, in spite of its apparently simple profile. For example, good turn-in on corner entry is crucial. This is always an important factor, of course, but at Monza, things are doubly complicated, The car is extremely light on downforce, and therefore naturally very unstable; furthermore, the braking events are particularly severe; and finally, not only does the car need to transfer its weight well in these difficult conditions in order to achieve good turn in, it must also then cope with riding the kerbs well on corner entry and exit.

Indeed, the kerbs are essential to a good lap time. At Imola, we felt the car was below where it should be in terms of its performance over the kerbs, and since then we have done a lot of work in that direction. That work has been brought to fruition for the race and although we still have a long way to go, we have definitely improved in this area since earlier in the season. Ironically, though, in spite of the high-speed, low-drag set-ups, Monza is a particularly difficult circuit at which to overtake, and the circuit design means it is actually quite easy to protect your position down the straights.

Through the Parabolica, the second Lesmo or the final part of the Ascari Chicane, it is very difficult to follow closely enough to make a move into the next corner: indeed, in the past, we have seen cars run with relatively high downforce levels and low maximum speeds, and those behind were unable to get past. This makes it possible to adapt quite a defensive approach to the race, and construct a strategy around defending your position.

In terms of strategy, Monza was traditionally a one-stop race, and the fuel penalty is on the low side, with ten kilos of fuel representing approximately 0.3s in lap time. However, the new rules mean it is almost certain to become a two stopper.

Engine Preview, with Denis Chevrier

Q: Denis, Monza is commonly perceived as an engine circuit: how tough is it?

DC: Monza is the circuit at which the cars spend the highest percentage of the lap at full throttle of the whole season, although the maximum single period at full throttle is fifteen seconds, less than we see at Indianapolis or Suzuka, for example. From the engineering point of view, the strain the engine is under means we must be extremely careful in how we use the engine, keeping strict control on temperatures and things like over-revving.

Q: Presumably, power is the key characteristic required from the engine?

DC: A powerful engine is fundamental at Monza. While torque is less important, power at high revs and reliability are critical: the circuit is particularly sensitive to power, and a given increase in power can bring three times the gain it would at a circuit like Monaco. However, the engine also has its contribution to make on the handling side: the nature of the throttle response can have an impact on the car's balance, and a progressive engine will disrupt the car less as the driver gets on the power exiting the high-speed corners.

Q: What developments will be used on the engine?

DC: We tested a new cylinder head at Monza last week, and it was a step forward compared to its predecessor. We hope to be able to use this component on Sunday but, with the homologation process still underway, we cannot yet confirm that the race engines will include this development.

-renault-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne