Formula 1 interrupts its European summer season to head off for two consecutive weekends of racing in North America. The two circuits, in Montreal and Indianapolis, could not be more different in terms of their location and characteristics; the ...
Formula 1 interrupts its European summer season to head off for two consecutive weekends of racing in North America. The two circuits, in Montreal and Indianapolis, could not be more different in terms of their location and characteristics; the former a semi-permanent track squeezed onto the Ile Notre Dame with precious little run off area at the corners and a tiny paddock crammed behind an Olympic rowing basin and the latter at possibly the most famous race track in the world.
However they do have one thing in common in that they both put the Formula 1 V10 power plants under more strain than has been the case at circuits so far this season. This year, a driver is expected to get through a grand prix weekend using just one engine and even though this year's engines have therefore had to almost double their life to cope with the one engine per race weekend rule, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has so far had a 100% reliability record on this front.
So what exactly is the secret? Talking to Gilles Simon, the team's Head of Engine Design and Development, it seems there is no secret, just an adherence to strict procedure and method. "Meeting the new engine requirements was not simple but it was our main priority as from last year, when the bulk of our development work was done to anticipate this new rule," says the French engineer.
"Ferrari's engines have a good reliability record for some time now because that aspect is a priority for us. It is a job that consists of checking every element of design. It's no miracle, its down to systems and method, according to a clear and systematic plan. We never trust in good judgement or a temporary fix for a problem."
However, this diligent approach to reliability would be pointless if the engine did not produce enough power, but the two elements are linked as Ferrari's designers are encouraged to probe every performance avenue, safe in the knowledge that all their ideas will be subject to rigorous evaluation and controls at every stage, thus minimising the risk element.
"Obviously, reliability is important but at the same time the engine and indeed the whole package has to be competitive," continues Simon. "We have to be as competitive as possible while maintaining the right level of reliability."
Naturally, Ferrari's Maranello facility boasts state-of-the-art engine test bench facilities, but there is still no real substitute for running engines in a chassis on a track. "When an engine runs for the first time in a chassis, we do not yet know everything about it," admits Simon. "What is certain is that we do not run an engine on the track until we have at least reached a certain reliability level on the test bench and that we can see it can put up with the demands of a race."
Here too the new rules have affected the engine programme. In the past it was common practice for a new evolution of an engine to be "risked" in qualifying, to get the benefit of a power increase, in the knowledge that the older, more validated version could then be installed for the race. "Even last year, when the parc ferme rules were introduced it meant the end of trying out new engine developments in qualifying only," revealed Simon. Our work methods have evolved to suit the new rules, but the fundamentals have not changed."
The new engine rule had raised the hypothetical scenario that teams could run a different specification more powerful engine for the race, if a problem had forced it to change engines after qualifying. This is not the case at Ferrari. "We don't have a 400 km engine in case the 700 km engine has a problem," maintains Simon.
However, it is logical that if an engine has not been used in free practice and qualifying, we can afford to run it in the race at higher revs for a longer period of time. But we do not have different engine specifications, only different useage plans. Also, there is no difference between our engines for both drivers. However, the way it is adapted to suit the driver's needs may vary to suit their driving styles."
In Montreal this weekend, it is not only the engines that will be made to work hard: the track layout is also hard on brakes, while the drivers are kept very busy with tight hairpins, long sections of flowing corners and unforgiving barriers very near to the track.
A productive test session last week in Monza, a track that replicates some of the demands of the "Gilles Villeneuve" circuit and additional testing at Silverstone means that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro is as prepared as possible for this eight round of the World Championship. Michael Schumacher will be chasing a hat-trick of Canadian wins and is the undisputed King of Canada with a total of six wins at this race.