Brazilian GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical director: Q: Mike, what do you think have been the key factors in the Team's success so far this season? MG: I think that's very simple: the...

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix

Mike Gascoyne, Technical director:

Q: Mike, what do you think have been the key factors in the Team's success so far this season?

MG: I think that's very simple: the overall competitiveness of our car. In Melbourne, we should have qualified better and the pace car hurt us, so it was pleasing to perform to our full potential in Malaysia. Without Jarno's incident and Fernando's gearbox problem, I am confident that our level of competitiveness could have brought an even stronger result.

Q: The other major teams were running at Barcelona last week -- do you feel the Renault F1 Team will have missed out through not testing?

MG: No, I am confident we can maintain our level of performance. We will be running three cars on Friday morning before the other teams and we are managing our test resources very carefully. In fact, we tested the tyre compounds for Interlagos on Friday morning at Sepang, in much higher, more representative temperatures than would be possible in Europe at this time of year. The data from that session should be a real advantage in Brazil.

Q: What factors will enable the Team to maintain their level of competitiveness in Brazil?

MG: Once again, Brazil is a handling circuit like in Malaysia, where we run mid-range wing levels, and the team has traditionally performed very well there. Equally, we will be using similar tyres to those we saw in Malaysia, where Michelin were extremely competitive. All in all, I would expect us to be at least as competitive as we were in Malaysia, if not more so.

Pat Symonds, Executive director of engineering:

Q: Interlagos is traditionally a circuit at which the Team performs well -- what do you think are the key factors in that performance?

PS: I think there are several reasons for our competitiveness in Brazil. Firstly, the circuit is quite bumpy, and the ride of our car over bumps on the track surface has always been pretty good, which allows us to maintain good mechanical grip around the lap. Secondly, relative to many circuits, there is not a huge power effect in Brazil, and extra horsepower actually makes less of a difference here than elsewhere. Most importantly, though, the circuit has a flat aero profile: what this means is that the penalty for running a lower drag set-up here is less than at many other circuits. Thus, if you need to gain an extra 5kph top speed to race properly, you can do that without seriously compromising the overall lap time.

Q: Will there be any new developments on the car for Brazil?

PS: Unlike the first two races of the year, Brazil is the first of the medium-level downforce circuits. This means we will see some significantly new aerodynamic parts, as well as integrating some very recent developments we have found in the windtunnel. Mechanically, the focus of our development work at this stage of the season is primarily on problem-solving from the first two races, so while we will have a number of new parts on the car, they are aimed at reliability more than outright performance. On the tyre side, we will be running a new tyre construction which has shown quite a lot of promise in testing. We expect this to represent a good performance boost relative to our tyre rivals.

Q: Given the bumpy nature of the circuit, and the need for good straightline speed in race conditions, will we see more of a compromise on qualifying set-up in Brazil than we have so far this year?

PS: No, I don't think so: if anything, we will expect the compromise to be slightly less than at the other two circuits. Obviously, the optimum set-up in terms of performance will have to be slightly compromised in order to protect the rear tyres over a race distance, but that is something we will have to manage at every circuit. Otherwise, even before the new regulations, Brazil was actually a circuit at which race set-ups were very close to those used in qualifying anyway.

Engine preview -- the engineer's view with Pat Symonds:

"Brazil will see us running slightly lower levels of downforce than we have been so far, and the reduced air density at altitude means the aerodynamic loads on the car decrease by about 9/10% relative to normal, and we also see a proportional drop in engine power."

"The primary characteristic of the circuit at Interlagos is that it has a very flat aero profile. This is very unusual, because it means that if you need an extra 10 kph top-end speed in the race, relative to what would be your ideal set-up, it will actually only cost you about one tenth of a second in terms of overall lap time. This compares to around 0.25s at circuits like Sepang or Albert Park. Overall, this makes the challenge of setting the car up easier for the engineers."

"Interlagos is a circuit with a good mix of high-speed straights and tight corners, with the infield section between turns 7 and 11 representing a significant proportion of the lap. The drivers need a responsive car which turns into the slow corners well, but it is just as important to have good traction out of them, as well as a good change of direction because the sequence of corners is such that as soon as a driver exits one, he immediately needs to be positioning the car for the next: this means we have to give him a car with very precise handling. Furthermore, grip levels on the track surface are not particularly high and with the lower downforce settings, this means the car can slide around a lot. A chassis with very good mechanical performance has a definite advantage."

"The key corner on the circuit is turn 12, which leads onto the long curving pit 'straight'. In the past two years, our cars have tended to exit this corner particularly well, and I see no reason why that won't be the case again this year. A good exit from this corner often means that cars with higher top speeds are unable to find a way past into the first corner in spite of having a higher top speed, and it is a corner we will concentrate on during morning practice to ensure we get the best possible performance."

"Of course, the other factor to stress is that this is a circuit with two pretty good overtaking opportunities, into the first corner and also turn four at the end of the back straight. In both cases, it can be very bumpy in the braking areas, and we need to ensure the driver has good control of the wheels in order that he can go off-line on the dirty part of the circuit to outbrake somebody."

"While it can present problems in terms of driver fatigue, the anti-clockwise direction of the circuit doesn't pose any difficulties from an engineering point of view -- the car doesn't tend to mind which way it is going! The only thing we need to be careful of is fuel pick-up when we are running with low fuel. The end of the lap sees the cars under high g forces for a relatively long time, at full throttle, and fuel pick-up can potentially be a problem in this situation."

"Otherwise, we are always keeping an eye on the sky. Much like in Malaysia, sudden downpours can occur -- we have even seen it rain on the grid on occasion -- and the weather is a factor we constantly need to be aware of and monitoring."

Denis Chevrier, Head of Operations at Viry-Châtillon, describes the main characteristics of the Interlagos circuit:

"From an engine point of view, it's not a very harsh circuit: 57% of the lap is spent at full throttle, which places it in the less severe half of the different circuits we race on during the season. The main factor in Sao Paulo is the altitude,' explains Denis. 'Like in Zeltweg, this track is situated approximately 700m above sea-level, which brings with it a reduced atmospheric pressure. The engines therefore produce less power because, for a constant volume of air, the percentage of oxygen is lower, and the power produced is therefore less. In order to ensure the optimum level of performance, electronics are used to correct these small differences."

"The other main characteristics of Interlagos,' continues Denis, 'is the long main 'straight' (the third-longest of the year after Spa and Indianapolis), which sees the engine at full revs for 17 seconds. The circuit is also very twisty in certain parts, and uses the engine throughout the rev range: components don't function in the same manner at different points in the lap. The engine therefore needs to be strong throughout the rev range."

"With the circuit being extremely bumpy, an effective traction control system and good suspension are necessary. Both need to work well together in order to generate good levels of grip. Aerodynamically, the mix of twisty sections and long straights demand an effective compromise."


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