French GP: Renault technical preview

The Renault technical team give their comments ahead of the French Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: Mike, what is your assessment of the team's performance at the Nürburgring? Mike Gascoyne: We had quite a difficult start to...

The Renault technical team give their comments ahead of the French Grand Prix

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: Mike, what is your assessment of the team's performance at the Nürburgring?

Mike Gascoyne: We had quite a difficult start to the weekend, but managed to get the car reasonably competitive and well-balanced by race day. It was particularly disappointing to see Jarno retire, as we now need to get two cars to the finish of each race in order to keep in touch with the teams ahead of us in the championship. However, we also obtained a good result for Fernando, which brought us more valuable points.

Q: And what are your expectations for Magny-Cours?

MG: I expect us to have a good race. It is the sort of circuit that should suit our package, demanding medium to high downforce levels and containing a number of quick corners. In sporting terms, our aim has to be to take points off the teams ahead of us in the championship, and reduce the gap. Of course, it is also our home race, and there will be a lot of people from Renault attending: although that doesn't bring any extra pressure, it's certainly an incentive to perform well and get a good result on their behalf.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering

Q: Last year, we saw that Magny-Cours was a Michelin track: do you expect the same to be true this year?

Pat Symonds: Yes, I do. Magny-Cours is a very difficult circuit for tyres the loadings can be quite high, for example in the long, high-speed right-hander at Turn 3. Track conditions can vary widely at the circuit over the weekend, but it is the type of circuit that should suit the Michelin tyre.

Q: As track conditions vary so greatly with temperature, will running in the morning conditions during Friday testing make the data any less useful?

PS: Magny-Cours is the circuit where grip and balance change more with temperature than anywhere else. While we are sure that our Friday session will once again be useful to us, we will need to use our experience of the circuit to anticipate the changes that will occur when the temperature rises in the afternoon.

Q: In terms of performance, how competitive do you expect to be?

PS: I think we can be competitive: the circuit favours the Michelin tyre, and contains one long fast corner, as well as a number of quick chicanes, where we know our car performs well. Furthermore, the circuit demands good traction, another area in which we are strong. Of course, the circuit has been modified since last year, and we will need to establish the effect of these changes.

The engineer's view, with Pat Symonds

Magny-Cours is of course the team's home race, and this therefore gives us added impetus to perform well. From an engineering point of view, it is certainly not an easy circuit, largely because of the ever- changing conditions. While an outsider may not perceive conditions have changed much, very small changes in track temperature can have a profound effect on both the balance of the car and the way the tyres behave.

Indeed, in the past, we have found the tyres required at the race weekend to be very different to those we had found in testing just a few weeks before the race. Therefore, in spite of the fact that during our Friday test, the circuit temperatures will undoubtedly be lower than those found in the race, we will still be getting near real- time information as to their performance.

The circuit itself is extremely smooth and allows the use of very low ride heights and a very stiff car. However, one needs to be slightly cautious with this approach, as there are several places where the cars needs to use the kerbs well to gain lap time.

Tyres are critical at Magny-Cours. The combination of track temperatures which often exceed 400C, and the fact that the tyres have to handle both high lateral loadings through corners like Turn 3, and high longtitudinal loadings out of the slower hairpins, place severe demands on the durability of the tyres.

It is a circuit where good aerodynamic efficiency and a responsive car pay particular dividends, as a lot of time can be gained in the fast chicanes. Although there is a good overtaking opportunity into the Adelaide hairpin, the rest of the track has, in the past, been difficult to pass on. Looking at the maps of the modifications that have been made for this year, we hope that another opportunity has been designed in, but of course, until we get there and walk the track, we will not know for sure.

Engine preview, with Rémi Taffin

This year sees changes at Magny-Cours, with modifications to the Chateau d'Eau corner and the following section. The changes are significant in driving terms, as well as engine usage. They consist of a slight extension of the circuit length (approx. 150m) introduced by the tightening of the corner itself. The cars will thus exit the corner in close proximity and, with a relatively long straight immediately afterwards, the cars will benefit from a slipstream to overtake under braking.

The new layout will see the engine at full throttle for 65% of the lap, and average engine speeds will be higher. In terms of engine usage, the changes mean the circuit's characteristics are closer to those of a circuit like Barcelona. Furthermore, the gear ratios will different in that we will be in higher gears for longer periods of time, bringing benefits in terms of general cooling.

Apart from the modification, the main characteristic of the French circuit is the unusual track surface, whose grip level is very different to that of other circuits. The track surface changes according to temperature and weather conditions: car and engine set-up are both very sensitive to this factor. The extra two hours on Friday morning represent a significant advantage relative to the competition, as they will allow the team to collect valuable set-up data for the rest of the weekend.


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Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne