Renault Sport F1 preview to the Monaco GP
22 May 2012 — Renault Sport F1 heads to its ‘home’ race this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix, to the south of France. The Principality plays host to the sixth round of the championship, which has so far produced a different winner each time out. Williams F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado sealed victory at the last event, marking the debut win for the Williams-Renault package in its latest incarnation.
Williams, along with Red Bull Racing, Lotus F1 Team and Caterham F1 Team, will require a highly responsive engine to be delivered by Renault Sport F1 to suit the tight, sinuous bends of the 3.340km Monte Carlo circuit. As such, the challenge is to deliver a highly responsive engine through maps that target torque through the lower rev limits of the engine (around 15 — 17,000rpm) rather than the top end (16 — 18,000rpm) to give drive and response on the entry and exit to the corners. Monaco Grand Prix facts and figures
It’s a difficult one to get right but we’re really keen to do well.
The average speed round the track is the lowest of the year, just 160kph, and the engine spends a touch over 50% of the lap at full throttle, compared to around 70% at the purpose-built facilities. The top speed peaks at only 290kph through the tunnel section compared to well over 320kph (with DRS-activated) at the last event in Spain.
The curved pit straight is not really a straight at all and the run to the first corner from pole position is the shortest of the season: only 140 metres. The pole sitter will cover this distance in approximately four seconds, which will not give a significant amount of time for KERS to be activated fully.
The run from the first corner to Casino Square sees the circuit climb over 30m in just 10secs. A responsive engine is key here and engine maps will be designed to work with short gear ratios to hit the rev limit at the top of the hill. There could be a possibility to use KERS on this climb, but the steep gradient will reduce its effectiveness.
The streets of Monaco are notoriously bumpy and the engine will hit the rev limiter on several occasions throughout the lap. This is particularly hard on the internals of the engine, which become highly stressed. Even if it’s just for a nano second, running over a bump could cause the car to take off. With no load running through the wheels the engine suddenly hits the rev limiter, causing a loss of time and potential damage to the engine. Drivers try to avoid the largest bump on the run down from Casino into the Mirabeau by running off line.
The Grand Hotel Hairpin sees the engine running at the lowest speed and revs it reaches on track at any point in the year; just 44kph and around 6,500rpm. It is also the only point on the calendar where the driver needs to shift his hands on the wheel to get enough lock on the steering wheel.
The tunnel section is the only chance the cars get to hit top speed and maximum rev limit apart from the short pit straight. The driver exits Portier in 2nd gear and shifts up through the gears through the tunnel. The engine needs to have good acceleration here so the driver can reach vMax quickly; the ‘straight’ is very short — only 670m from the exit of Portiers to the chicane, or around eight or nine seconds.
While the tunnel section provides a welcome breath of air for the engine as it reaches the top speed, it’s not clean air — the enclosed nature of the tunnel means the air going into the engine through the airbox is as hot as the ambient temperatures seen in Malaysia or Abu Dhabi.
The drivers’ view: Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team
Every driver loves Monaco — the precision needed on each lap is just phenomenal, both from yourself and from the engineering team. In any formula this is the case, but even more so in F1 where the cars are so sensitive. Even though I know the track from GP2, it’s my first time driving an F1 car in Monaco, so I have been spending a lot of time preparing. We need to have confidence in the engine and know that it will deliver the power and grip into and out of every single corner so you can attack the track. In fact, I expect it will be the race where I spend the most amount of time working with the engine engineer as getting the right response out of the slow corners can win you tenths of a second.
The engineers’ view: Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations:
Monaco is a massive challenge to get right. In terms of man power hours Monaco is the race that RSF1 engineers spend the most time preparing — anything from two to four days in the dyno and the design office compared to around one day for an average race such as Spain.
It’s incredibly slow so the focus is on delivering driveability through the lower rev ranges but also getting the gear ratios right to give effective acceleration between the corners. Getting the correct ratios is always a compromise; the right gear ratio for one corner is not necessarily right for the others.
In addition we have to provide effective cooling solutions as the high number of turns means that the engine isn’t given any respite over the course of a lap and systems can overheat if not monitored correctly. The dirt and debris from being a street track means the inlets can become blocked, but we can’t afford to put any cooling holes or additional louvre panels to help out — the tight corners demand such high downforce settings that every bit of bodywork affects performance.
The bumps are also a major issue for engine engineers. The drivers will run over manhole covers, kerbs, white lines and sometimes even huge bumps so the engine hits the rev limiter much more than we do at a permanent track like Sepang or Monza. To avoid this we pay particular attention to the shift light pattern and even encourage the driver to shift early.
It’s a difficult one to get right but we’re really keen to do well. So far this year our partners have been having a good run and we are pleased that our contribution has helped in some way. Renault engined teams have scored more than any other engine over the championship, with two wins and six podiums so we naturally very motivated to continue this form in Monaco.