European GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the European Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: How pleased were you with the Team's performance in Canada? Mike Gascoyne: Canada was an excellent performance, although we were...

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

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: How pleased were you with the Team's performance in Canada?

Mike Gascoyne: Canada was an excellent performance, although we were disappointed not to get two cars to the finish. Fernando, in particular, was tremendously competitive at a track that we did not expect to suit our package, and it was very gratifying to finish just behind the leader. Canada was a good race for us, and the Nurburgring should suit the car even better.

Q: How so?

MG: The Nurburgring is a high-downforce circuit, and we already know the car is very efficient in that kind of configuration. What's more, Michelin have been doing a fantastic job, particularly on their dry-weather performance, and we are confident that our recent testing will serve us well for the upcoming races.

Q: Taking this into account, what are your objectives for this race?

MG: First of all, we have to make sure we get two cars to the finish. If we do, then we expect two very competitive finishes, which will help us in achieving our main aim of claiming third place in the Constructors Championship.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering

Rain is always possible, if not indeed probable, at the Nurburgring. Given this, how please were you with wet performance in Canada?

Pat Symonds: Conditions in the rain can vary widely, and the cars need to be able to run on anything from a flooded circuit to one that is damp with a dry line. This makes it extremely difficult to produce a tyre that manages to cover the whole spectrum, and it is inevitable that a particular tyre will better suit particular conditions, and these, of course, may not be the same for the two manufacturers: a team may be extremely competitive one day, and uncompetitive the next. The Michelin tyre proved strong in Montreal, and the R23 was as competitive as any of the other Michelin-partner cars.

Q: Ambient temperatures can often be lower at this race than elsewhere in Europe at this time of year. Will this pose any problems?

PS: The low temperatures you often encounter at the Nurburgring do not pose any particular difficulties for either the car or its Michelin tyres. Technology is such these days that tyre compounds can be tuned for different circuit temperatures, and with tyre selection made just one week before the event, we are able to have a good idea of the sort of temperatures we might encounter.

Q: What new developments are on the car for this race?

PS: We will have small improvements on the chassis and aerodynamics as items which have been race-approved in our Heathrow and private testing are brought into the programme. The engine is also undergoing a phase of continuous development and for this race, following a successful test at Jerez, we hope to debut changes that will both improve mid-range power and allow us to increase engine rpm.

The engineer's view, with Pat Symonds

While the Nurburgring is not a favourite circuit for many drivers, it is one the engineers find challenging as it has a wide variety of corner types, ranging from first gear hairpins to medium and high-speed corners. We therefore require a car that is stable in fast corners, and has good braking stability, high mid-corner grip and excellent traction in the slower portions. In addition, the car needs to be able to ride the kerbs in a few places and maintain grip on some of the bumpier sections of the track, particularly from Turns 1 to 4. A strong engine is also a pre-requisite, as over 70% of the lap is spent at full throttle.

The car needs to be set-up to give the driver confidence in some of the more difficult corners, like turns 8, 10 and 11, but this cannot be achieved by using too much downforce, as the run to turn 13 is a classic overtaking place. In terms of tyres, the circuit is reasonably easy and in many respects, tyre usage is similar to Montreal, although at the 'Ring we do also encounter some high-speed lateral loading.

When deciding on strategy at a circuit like this, one always needs to keep an eye on the weather and it is important that, by the time decisions have to be made on Saturday, we have a clear picture of the likely weather on Sunday. Last year, even under the old rules, we saw a mixture of strategies and it is possible that might be the case again, although this year we are unlikely to see anybody one-stopping unless they have problems in qualifying.

Of course, we also have the advantage of the Friday test sessions, which are proving invaluable to the Team, and sometimes for unexpected reasons. In Canada, we certainly gained by being one of the few teams to complete a significant number of laps in the dry before the race, but also to have done so under conditions that were very similar to those encountered in the race where the rain of the previous two days had left it in a very green condition. Given that rain is always a possibility in the Eifel mountains, circumstances could once more prove decisive.

Engine preview, with Denis Chevrier

"We saw changes at the Nurburgring last year," explains Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager for the Renault F1 Team, "and we now have to contend with a particularly twisty section. The changes are quite significant, with an extra 600m added to the lap length, including a very slow hairpin, and roughly fifteen seconds extra on the lap time."

"This year, we will see a detail modification, as the chicane at Turns 13/14 is supposed to be tighter. However, this change will not affect the circuit's status which, on the engine side, is judged to be of medium difficulty, like Barcelona, Sepang or Interlagos. We run a fairly high level of downforce, and the short straights mean that the maximum speeds will not be anything like as high as those seen in Montreal two weeks ago."

"In addition, we must add that, like in Austria, altitude (the Nurburgring is located 500m above sea level) is an important factor for the engine: we record a power loss of approximately 5%."

"Finally," concludes Denis, "the other factor to take into consideration is the weather. It is always quite cool at the Nurburgring, and there is often a big difference between temperatures in the morning and afternoon. This variation alters the level of grip on the circuit, as well as modifying the acoustic behaviour of the engine."

"At this race, we will have at our disposal performance developments in the upper part of the engine. We intend to use the two hour test session on Friday to fully complete the validation process undergone during testing in Jerez."


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