British GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the British Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne -- Technical director Q: Mike, what is your assessment of the French Grand Prix? MG: Magny-Cours was a disappointing end to a competitive race. Our aim is...

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

Mike Gascoyne -- Technical director

Q: Mike, what is your assessment of the French Grand Prix?

MG: Magny-Cours was a disappointing end to a competitive race. Our aim is to finish above our position in the championship last year, which means we need to target third place, currently held by McLaren. Not finishing in Magny-Cours puts us even further behind them. The two failures we experienced in France were unrelated, though, and are being addressed. We now have to look what had been an excellent reliability record before Magny-Cours, and get two cars into the points at Silverstone as well as beating cars from the teams ahead of us.

Q: The R23 has become R23B as of Silverstone. Tell us a little more about it...

MG: We will have a major bodywork update on the car. We have decided to christen this R23B as it groups together a significant number of detail modifications into a single package, which had always been planned for Silverstone. Following a positive test in Barcelona last week, we expect it to bring a definite gain on the stopwatch.

Q: How do you expect the team to perform at Silverstone?

MG: Silverstone should suit us very well. The circuit most obviously akin to it is Barcelona and we ran very strongly there earlier this season, coming close to winning the race. Silverstone is a circuit which rewards strong aerodynamic performance, and we have further improvements in that area for this race. I think we can have a very competitive weekend, and take points off our direct competitors.

Pat Symonds -- Executive director of engineering

Q: Reliability problems in Magny-Cours must have been disappointing after such a good season so far?

PS: Reliability amongst the top teams these days is outstanding. That teams can run such complex machines so close to the limits, for so long, with so few failures, is a real tribute to all the engineers. Occasionally, though, things do go wrong, and in France, it was particularly disappointing to experience two failures in one race. However, we have identified the reasons for these, and corrective action has been taken. As a whole we have had extremely good reliability this year, and we hope our diligent work since Magny-Cours will ensure a return to reliable racing.

Q: Tyres are a hot topic at the moment, with Michelin performing particularly strongly. What are the challenges for the tyres at Silverstone?

PS: Silverstone, along with Barcelona and Monza, provides some of the most extreme conditions for the tyres; indeed, we tested in Barcelona last week largely because it involves similar tyre loadings to Silverstone. However, the circuits are not exactly the same and overall, a lap of Silverstone puts over 4% more energy into the tyres than Barcelona and, specifically, loads the front axle even more, as the circuit includes a higher number of fast corners and high- speed corner entries. Following our work last week, and coupled with Michelin's excellent performance in recent races, we are confident that we go to Silverstone with a very competitive choice of compounds.

The Engineer's View, with Pat Symonds

Silverstone is a favourite circuit for engineers and drivers, because it presents some challenges only found on the more traditional circuits that we visit during the year. The sight of a Formula 1 car through Turn 1, or the Becketts complex, is that of a machine working at its very limit.

In order to achieve the very high lateral accelerations and high-speed changes in direction in this first part of the circuit, it is necessary to have a car with huge inherent stability. A car that cannot make its driver feel confident through here, will never be quick. We must also ensure that the wing levels are correct for good speed down Hangar Straight, but having run here already in medium downforce configuration, we know we can balance the car well and make it reasonably easy to drive.

In addition, this is really quite a bumpy circuit and many of the areas concerned with getting good ride and good mechanical grip do not always go hand in hand with making the car responsive, creating yet another challenge.

Although closest to the base of many of the teams, Silverstone is nonetheless not a circuit at which we test a great deal these days. We do have a wealth of historical knowledge which always helps, but ambient conditions have a large effect. While the temperature and weather issues are familiar in their variability, the real fly in the ointment is the wind. Being an ex-airfield turned into a circuit, Silverstone is extremely exposed, and a change in wind direction can fundamentally alter how the car needs to be set up.

For example, when a car enters a corner with a headwind component, this gives the effect of having more downforce and a tailwind component brings the effect of less downforce. On top of that, crosswinds affect a Formula 1 car just as they do a road car. We have spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel working on the yaw sensitivity, ie: the car's susceptibility to crosswinds, and in the last few years, we have made significant progress in reducing the problems associated with this.

Under the old rules, we were able to predict prevailing conditions pretty accurately, and could fine-tune the car's set-up to suit this just before the race. With the regulation changes, this exercise now involves predicting Sunday's wind conditions on Saturday afternoon, and as such, has become much more difficult.

The engineers and drivers have to work extremely hard throughout the race weekend to combat these various challenges, but the result is often very rewarding.

Engine preview with Denis Chevrier

Q: Denis, what is your assessment of Silverstone?

DC: First of all, you must no forget that, after Barcelona, Silverstone is the most frequently-used testing circuit for the F1 teams throughout the year. We therefore have a large database of information at our disposal, which is essential for fine-tuning the engine correctly for this circuit. However, Silverstone's salient characteristic is the micro-climate, which means the teams have to anticipate the changeable weather, as it has a large impact on the car's performance.

The unpredictable, variable weather makes the choice of 6th gear difficult. The aim is to achieve maximum speed at the highest engine speed; thus, if the maximum speed changes, because of a strong tailwind for example, this can leave us with too high a maximum engine speed. This induces over-revving, with all the consequences for reliability that this brings. A strong headwind, on the other hand, can reduces revs, and bring a loss of performance.

Q: How do you rate Silverstone?

DC: Overall, we cannot consider Silverstone as a severe circuit for the engine, as it is only at full throttle for 55% of the time. However, as it is a circuit with a wide variety of corners, the engine needs to perform strongly in all areas.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne
Teams McLaren