The upcoming French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, being run just one week after the European Grand Prix, creates a double challenge for the grand prix teams. Not only will Scuderia Ferrari's F2003-GA cars have to be stripped and semi-prepared in ...
The upcoming French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, being run just one week after the European Grand Prix, creates a double challenge for the grand prix teams. Not only will Scuderia Ferrari's F2003-GA cars have to be stripped and semi-prepared in Germany before departing for France, but the revised track layout being used for the first time this year, will add a new set of problems for the team to overcome.
"The Magny-Cours track is unique in that it has a very smooth surface unlike any other track we are allowed to test on. As a result, wear rate is not really a problem, but we have to use a soft compound tyre to find enough grip and with the usual hot weather conditions and track temperatures, it can create other problems. We will have to take two different compounds based on our experience from previous races and trust we have one that will be suited for the conditions," points out Ross Brawn.
Yesterday (Tuesday, 1st July), the various engineers took part to their usual post-race Nurburgring and pre-race Magny-Cours set-up meetings, in which they discussed the set-up for the forthcoming race based on the various simulator models of what to expect from the track. However, with two new hairpin-like corners after high-speed braking areas, the simulated estimations of brake and tyre wear can only go so far towards duplicating reality.
"Friday will certainly be a very busy day for us trying to estimate break and tyre needs for the race, while the track surface will change a lot throughout the weekend which has also to be taken into consideration," points out Brawn. The task is not an easy one.
"In Canada we had serious brake problems from about lap 12 of the race. We could not slow Michael down as it was important to push hard to the first pit stop and when he did stop, with still more than 50 laps to go, the brake temperature and wear telemetry showed us that we would be out of brakes after 20 laps!" Of course, that did not happen. "Once he got ahead we were able to slow his pace and bring the brake wear back into line. It was a fantastic drive by Michael that he could save his car and yet still win the race," added Ross.
In fact, the team had another step of braking they could have run in Canada, but their pre-race running had not shown that it was necessary. The task was made even more complicated by the partially wet practice conditions and the sudden increase in grip from the track as the rubber went down in the race. "We had not anticipated the changes," admits Ross, something they will be well aware of for Magny-Cours.
In addition to the possible brake and tyre problems that will need to be resolved at Magny-Cours, there is also the possibility that the usual race strategies will now have to be revised due to the new pit-lane entry, which has made pit stops a lot quicker prospect than they were in the past. "We will also need to work on our pit stop strategy on Friday based on the new pit-lane. A three stop race could well be a faster option now," explained Ross.
While basic wing models for the circuit will be selected in advance, these will also have to be fine tuned to suit the new layout and the very smooth surface will mean the team will be able to run a lower chassis set-up than they can on most tracks.
The secret of winning races these days is more and more about what you do before the race than just what you do during it. However, with drivers of the caliber of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello and the attention to detail of Ross Brawn and his team, they have shown that winning difference can still be conjured up when it really matters.