The Esses (Turns 3 – 7)
The high speed Esses are a flowing sequence of interlinking turns that sees the car change direction rapidly at very high speed. The driver will enter turn three, the start of the Esses, at approximately 245kph and carry the speed through until the exit of the complex. The high speed switches of direction subject the internals of the engine and lubricant systems to high lateral G-forces. The fuel and oil can be squashed to one side of the tank away from the collectors, so engineers must regularly check minimum levels. Gear selection is also crucial here as the driver will spend approximately 15secs in fourth or fifth gear through this section.
Spoon Curve (Turns 13 – 14)
The Spoon Curve is another Suzuka classic. The driver enters Turn 13 at around 180kph and shifts down, but then quickly blips the throttle while turning in for Turn 14. He then brakes down further, dropping the speed to 140kph. This corner is all about keeping the rhythm going: if the driver is too aggressive on the throttle he will lose time through Turn 14 and will carry this deficit all the way through the 130R. Be too slow on the throttle and he will lose tenths on the entry and apex. The challenge here is to give the driver the necessary torque response when required.
The awesome 130R corner is actually a straight in engine terms, with the driver at full throttle throughout the corner. This long ‘straight’ is a huge 1,250m from the exit of the Spoon Curve and is taken at nearly 310kph, subjecting the drivers and car to massive g-forces as they take the corner. Drivers will brake down to under 100kph for the chicane leading onto the pit straight so engine engineers will work to provide effective engine braking as well as literal braking and rear stability for this big stop.
Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations:
The combination of corners, relentless flow through high speed sections and radial turns, esses and hairpins makes Suzuka one of the toughest challenges of the year for F1 engines. A high-speed figure of eight track, it really is the perfect storm of every type of corner imaginable. The first half of the circuit, from the First Curve to Spoon Curve, contains the majority of the corners. The engine needs to be responsive and smooth throughout the power curve, and provide the driver with the necessary torque response when required. To do this engineers work, for example, on the transition from four to eight cylinders, injecting fuel at precisely the right time to meet the torque demand. If the torque delivery is correct then it can help the driver avoid wheelspin when the grip is low.
The second half of the track, from the exit of Spoon to the end of the pit straight, is all about outright power with 90% of this section spent at full throttle. We’ll look at gear ratio selection very carefully as we need to balance out the need for good top speed for this section with the slower turns of the first part of the circuit. This challenge is compounded by the frequently changeable weather. It’s not uncommon for the wind direction to change from day to day, which greatly impacts the gear selection. A tailwind will result in extended periods at the limiter, a headwind a poor top speed – both could potentially leave the driver as a sitting target down the straights.
As well as being at one of the great ‘engine’ circuits, naturally there will be an added buzz this weekend, coming off the back of a triple podium in Korea and also the added incentive of Sebastian possibly being able to secure the drivers’ title in Suzuka. It’s a race where we have traditionally been very strong and we are really looking forward to coming away with another great result.
RENAULT SPORT F1