Robert talks us through the challenges of racing in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi track has an amazing appearance and it comes across very well on television. The hotel that is lit up in different colours looks spectacular and you can tell that a lot...
Robert talks us through the challenges of racing in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi track has an amazing appearance and it comes across very well on television. The hotel that is lit up in different colours looks spectacular and you can tell that a lot of money has been invested in this facility. When I walked the track for the first time last year, I thought it would offer a lot of overtaking opportunities, but actually there was a lot less action in the race than I expected.
Having lots of wide run-off areas definitely doesn't help overtaking because it's much easier to defend your position. You know that even if you miss your braking point, you won't lose anything because you can cut the corner and stay ahead. Of course, you cannot do it every lap, but if there was a wall or a gravel trap instead, it might give the driver behind a better chance to overtake. But it can also work the other way, too, because the guy who is attacking can risk much more in the braking zones knowing that he has an escape path if the manuvre doesn't work out.
One of the things I find annoying about this track is the number of off-camber corners, such as turns 16 and 17. In these corners it's very easy to get on the power and then lose traction and slide with the rear of the car, which can cost you a lot of time. So it's a very tricky track.
The race starts in the early evening, so you have to change your visor strip to be ready for racing at dusk. The other issue I remember from last year was that we had all three practice sessions in daylight and then both qualifying and the race took place at dusk. That made it hard because the temperatures dropped and the track conditions were completely different, which had a big impact on car balance. But now we have the experience from last year and we know to make set-up changes to prepare for running in the evening.
Although Abu Dhabi is the final race of the year, it doesn't mean we're all going on holiday as soon as it's over. A few days after the race all the teams will remain in Abu Dhabi for the first test on the new Pirelli tyres as we begin our preparations for 2011.
A year of relentless development
"I can't remember a season with a greater rate of development," says Technical Director James Allison as he reflects on 2010. "I don't know whether the total number of upgrades we've made to the car is the highest we have achieved, but the accrued lap time gain through the season is certainly the biggest I can remember."
Those words sum up just how big a step forward the Renault F1 Team has taken this year, to keep pace with the frantic rate of development throughout the grid. To put things in perspective, the fully evolved R30 that will race in Abu Dhabi this weekend will be some two seconds per lap quicker than the car that hit the track in Bahrain for the season opener.
So what upgrades do you need to gain two seconds of lap time? Well, the headline items for this year are undoubtedly the blown floor and the f-duct -- devices that all the leading teams have brought to their cars at various stages. On top of that, the R30 has had ten front wing packages, five floors, two engine covers, six rear wing packages, seven front drum and duct packages, and three rear drum and duct packages. And that's to name just a few of the upgrades.
"The goal has been to get as much performance on the car as possible and that has meant putting something new on for every race," continues James. "What I'm most proud of is how the whole factory has pulled together, from the design office to the guys who make the parts, to deliver the performance to the car as quickly as possible."
Ask James if one upgrade stands out and he immediately singles out the f-duct, a device that first appeared on the R30 at the Belgian Grand Prix: "Although we were one of the later teams to introduce an f-duct, we were quite proud that we were able to make it work from the first timed session and that it was the first f-duct to attempt to stall the wing mainplane rather than just the flap -- a layout which creates a bigger stalling effect. At Spa, for example, the gain from the f-duct was worth more than half a second per lap."
While the gains from the f-duct were impressive, creating it presented Enstone's design team with a real challenge. "Packaging the f-duct was quite tricky considering the R30 was not designed with such a thing in mind," confirms James. "As a result, the effort that went into the project to fit it retrospectively was considerable."
Of course, when one breathless season comes to a close, the development battle doesn't end there -- the emphasis simply shifts to the new car. With several key regulation changes coming into force next season, James anticipates more of the same in 2011:
"The challenge facing all the teams over the winter will be adapting to quite a substantial set of regulation changes, including the removal of double-decker diffusers, the return of KERS, and the introduction of Pirelli tyres. We can therefore look forward to another relentless development battle next year and hopefully continue our progress towards the front of the grid."