Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne -- Technical Director Q: Mike, with two cars at the finish, six points and a wholly reliable weekend, was the Australian Grand Prix a satisfying ...
Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Mike Gascoyne -- Technical Director
Q: Mike, with two cars at the finish, six points and a wholly reliable weekend, was the Australian Grand Prix a satisfying result?
MG: Obviously, reliability had been a question mark for us -- we hadn't done the required mileage on the engines before the weekend but having said that, we had had some good results on the dyno before the race, and we thought the engines that went to Melbourne would be a step forward with regards to solving the issues we have had over the winter. That proved to be the case, and it was pleasing to put in a very competitive race performance.
Q: Overall, do you feel the Melbourne weekend gave a good indication of the Team's level of performance compared to the rest of the grid?
MG: Not really, no. We were disappointed with our performance in qualifying, and the pace car situations in the race definitely hurt us quite badly and worked against our strategy. Those factors meant we missed out on what should have been a podium finish. We are looking to be competitive with the top three teams, and I think we have the car to do that.
Q: And so how do you expect the Team to perform in Malaysia?
MG: To be honest, we were quite surprised by how competitive we actually were in Melbourne, because the circuit didn't necessarily suit what we believe the car's strengths to be. Malaysia is a circuit which places a premium on chassis handling, and we will also be introducing new aerodynamic parts on the car, meaning we have reason to be optimistic for a strong performance at Sepang.
Pat Symonds -- Executive Director of Engineering
Q: The Team has now experienced a full race weekend under the new regulations: did everything run according to plan?
PS: Generally the mechanics of the new format were very much what the team had expected but of course, the devil is in the detail and putting theory into practice was quite tricky. Overall, I think the huge amount of preparation put in by the team paid off and things went pretty smoothly. We certainly felt that we gained an enormous benefit from the extra track time that we had on Friday. Having said that we learnt some lessons from the logistics of the exercise that can be improved on at the next race.
Q: The new format has brought mixed opinions: from an engineering point of view, how interesting to work with were the new rules?
PS: I personally love change and the opportunities that it brings: I never regard it as a problem, merely an opportunity. The new rules were an extreme challenge but the hard work put in beforehand by the whole team in order to maximise our possibilities under them paid off with a successful weekend. The race itself was extremely good and certainly part of this was down to the new rules. As for not seeing your rivals' pace until Sunday, surely that is the only day that really matters?!
Q: Malaysia is typically the hottest race of the year, and this brings challenges in terms of cooling and tyre management. How will the Team cope?
PS: Our job is to run every part of the package to the most extreme limits that we believe we can get away with in any given conditions: we look to push the envelope at every opportunity. In Melbourne, we elected to take a tyre that was softer than any of our rivals and, of course, we raced it with a level of risk, but the results speak for themselves. On the cooling side, the R23 has been exceptionally good, and we are expecting to be able to run in Sepang with a radiator configuration that has very little compromise on performance even in the hottest conditions that Malaysia has to offer.
THE ENGINEER'S VIEW with Pat Symonds
The Sepang circuit is typical of a modern circuit in that it has been designed from the outset for F1 rather than being an emasculated version of an older track. This generally leads to a much better circuit than the type that merely have challenging areas destroyed by artificial chicanes. The corners are more difficult than in Australia, and require a very different style: it is definitely more of what we would call a 'drivers circuit' than Melbourne.
With the exception of the first corner, the first part of the lap is relatively flowing and pleasant. There is a wide variety of corners, some of which are quite tricky due to factors such as camber etc. The tight left-hander at Turn 9 is difficult as the braking point is hard to define and the corner dips away but certainly the most challenging corner is Turn 14, the double right-hander that leads on to the straight behind the pit grandstand. This corner is extremely important in two ways: both for setting a good lap time, but also in terms of achieving good speed on the straight and maximising overtaking opportunities into the last corner. The corner itself is in two parts and a good entry is needed to allow the second part to be taken properly; it is also very wide which makes placing the car precisely even more difficult. The secret is to position the car such that you can get on the power as early as possible for the final part of the corner.
Sepang is a circuit that gives tyres a harder time than Melbourne. Typically a tyre that we may consider a prime in Melbourne would be an option in Sepang. In addition whereas Melbourne puts extreme loads on the left front tyre, in Malaysia we expect the rear tyres to be the critical point due to the high amount of acceleration required. Many corners open out meaning that the driver has to put on power while still at high lateral loads. This can generate very high temperatures and stresses in the rear tyres. The track surface itself is more abrasive than Melbourne and of course the surface temperatures are higher, all of which combine to make tyre choice a very important factor. Cooling can also be an issue, but the R23 will have no difficulty dealing with the high temperatures.
Weather can often prove unpredictable Malaysia, with the humid conditions often leading to short, sharp showers. In spite of the rule changes, nothing has really changed for how we manage this contingency: showers are a phenomenon that has to be dealt with as it arises. We have to try and anticipate weather 24 hours in advance and try and decide if a compromise on Saturday settings will be a better solution overall, but even under the old regulations, it was very rare for us to compromise a set up due to "possible" weather conditions.
For the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, the management of the Friday morning test session will also be an important part of our weekend. We certainly felt that we gained an enormous benefit from the extra track time in Australia. In Sepang, though, we do not have the advantage of a lot of cars running on Thursday to clean the track and therefore expect the session to be more difficult than it was in Melbourne.
The second race of the season is held at the 'hottest' circuit of the year, in Sepang, Malaysia. Rémi Taffin, race engineer to Fernando Alonso, spoke to us about the intricacies of the circuit.
"Without a doubt, this is the circuit with the highest ambient temperatures and humidity levels of the season. Temperatures vary between 32 and 40°C, with around 80% humidity," explained Rémi. "The engines therefor undergo a serious test, because they have to cope with very high operating temperatures. This is why we tend to see large cooling holes in the bodywork, to improve engine cooling. Engines which run at high oil and water temperatures have a definite advantage here."
Rémi agrees that an engine with a wide operating range is also an advantage, because it allows the team to compensate for changes in temperature without too many changes to the car's mechanical configuration.
"You mustn't forget that the high levels of humidity also have an impact on engine power," continues Rémi. "This is why we concentrate on different air intake set-ups, in order to best adjust engine performance to the conditions. For example, the high temperatures require the use of longer inlet trumpets."
The heat also has an impact on maximum power, which is generated roughly 300 rpm higher. In terms of average engine speed, Sepang is among the five most severe circuits of the year, with 55% of the lap spent at full throttle.
Rémi concludes that Sepang is a circuit with a number of high-speed corners. In this particular case, the car's centre of gravity plays an important role: a light engine, positioned low in the car, brings concrete benefits for the car's handling.