Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne is confident of a strong performance from the R202 car in this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix and believes the twisty street circuit in the tiny principality will enable the team to return...
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne is confident of a strong performance from the R202 car in this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix and believes the twisty street circuit in the tiny principality will enable the team to return to points-scoring form.
Confidence is high within the team despite a disappointing race in Austria, and Gascoyne believes memories of the tough times at the A1-Ring will be immediately erased by a strong performance.
"The track will definitely suit our car," said Gascoyne. "We have always known that it is good in terms of mechanical grip and this will be one of the most competitive races so far.
"We expected to be slightly less competitive in Austria but overall the weekend was disappointing. We did not get the best out of the car and chassis combination on the first two days, even though we proved our race pace was competitive. This time we are looking towards the top six in qualifying.
"Last year it was our strongest race in the first half of the season. We have a number of aerodynamic developments on the car that will represent a reasonable step forward in overall performance and will improve our competitiveness even further."
The team spent most of last week testing at the tight and twisty Valencia circuit, in Spain, which provides many of the challenges created by the barrier-lined track that runs through the centre of Monte Carlo.
Good braking stability and traction, as well as high downforce and flexible engine response are all requirements around the bumpy 3.367km circuit, and the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team engineers will also be looking to minimise understeer in the slow corners.
"Monaco is in a class of its own," explained Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds. "There are cramped conditions and that means we have to employ different working methods for this race.
"The crucial area of performance in Monaco is qualifying, because it is the most difficult circuit of the year to overtake on. That means we tend to set car up for qualifying over most of the weekend and then concentrate on race set-up on Sunday.
"That means the practice programme is different and you have much longer runs than normal. But the engineers have to be careful how they evaluate changes to the car: the track gets so much faster throughout the weekend, that improved lap times don't necessarily indicate an improved set-up. What's more, regardless of who the driver is, they need time on the track to get acclimatised to it again."
There are more than 3,000 gear changes required in the 78-lap race, and even with current levels of technology that include automatic gearboxes, the cars are still pushed to their limits. It is crucial that the transmission is set up perfectly for the uneven surface, and tyres are also a key area of performance.
"The gearshifts and transmission are a key challenge," said Symonds. "It is a very bumpy circuit and there is lots of fine-tuning required to ensure the gearbox is not over-revved when the car goes over the bumps.
"But the impact of tyre performance is also critical at Monaco as tyres represent a bigger overall percentage of performance than usual, owing to the slippery surface. This is the only circuit where they have a bigger overall impact on performance than aerodynamics."