US GP: Renault technical preview

The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team approaches the final two races of the season in optimistic mood after scoring the Team's first double points-scoring finish of the season at the Italian Grand Prix. "Our race pace at both Spa and Monza was better...

The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team approaches the final two races of the season in optimistic mood after scoring the Team's first double points-scoring finish of the season at the Italian Grand Prix.

"Our race pace at both Spa and Monza was better than we had expected, to be honest," notes Technical Director Mike Gascoyne. "Jarno's qualifying position was a reflection of what we were capable of on Saturday and it is a shame he had to race from the back. Otherwise, I think we could have scored a podium finish."

Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds echoes Gascoyne: "The Italian Grand Prix was not one where we felt we were due a good result. However, our weekend went smoothly and the car worked well on high fuel on Friday. Coupled with a handful of luck, this gave us our best finish of the year."

Indeed, after reliability problems in Spa, the five points gained at Monza were a welcome boost for the whole Team: "The result was very satisfying," confirms Gascoyne, "and especially for the Viry guys. They were very disappointed after the problems at Spa and it was very pleasing for them to see two cars finish in the points on a difficult circuit for engines. However, as Jean-Jacques (His) said after the race, we know that performance still has to be improved."

Like Monza, Indianapolis is a hybrid circuit of contrasting characteristics, mixing the high-speed, low-banked oval section with a tight, twisty road course infield. With maximum and minimum speeds varying by as much as 265 km/h, setting the car up necessitates finding the best compromise between widely differing demands:

"Indianapolis is much more of a compromise circuit than Monza," explains Pat Symonds. "The fast section is extremely long, and the cars run at terminal speed for a significant period of time, requiring low downforce. However, the infield is extremely tight and needs both good chassis balance and traction. The R202 package has shown itself to be competitive under both of these differing conditions and we therefore feel confident of a competitive result."

Unlike Monza, however, Indianapolis offers just one significant overtaking opportunity into Turn 1, a possibility enabled by high maximum speeds on the main straight. Without this key factor, cars up to five seconds a lap faster overall can find themselves unable to overtake, as was demonstrated in the 2000 race.

"Strategy at Indianapolis is determined by high straight-line speeds," explains Symonds. "Without that, it is virtually impossible to pass, which in turn places more emphasis on gaining positions through good pit-stop strategy."

As was demonstrated at Monza, strategies remain flexible enough to be altered mid-race in order to allow the drivers to gain track position. Pat Symonds explains:

"If we decide to change strategy, the mechanics of it -- for example, resetting fuel rigs -- are very simple and can be carried out in a matter of seconds. The tactical decisions are much more difficult, as we need to evaluate many different scenarios mentally. We have some tools to aid this process but ultimately it comes down to inspiration!"

Wet weather often brings the need for immediate strategic decisions and as was seen in 2000, the two very different halves of the Indianapolis circuit react to wet weather in disparate ways, with the oval generally draining very quickly while the infield circuit remains damp. This contrast presents the Team with an extra parameter to manage:

"Any circuit where we run the cars a reasonable way from maximum downforce provides us with difficult compromises to make if it should rain. However, it is very unusual to get two hours of rain and therefore the balance between wet and dry settings becomes even harder to achieve," says Pat Symonds.

In spite of the numerous challenges presented by the unusual circuit, Mike Gascoyne remains confident for the weekend ahead:

"I think the last two races will favour us more than Monza. At both Indianapolis and Suzuka, we should look to qualify in the top eight and go racing for points, not just picking them up. We have aerodynamic and engine improvements for these races and are looking to finish the season on a high, challenging the second and third teams in the Championship."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne
Teams Renault F1 Team