German GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the German Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: Mike, why in your opinion did we see such a good race at Silverstone? MG: I think Silverstone really showed Grand Prix racing at ...

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

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: Mike, why in your opinion did we see such a good race at Silverstone?

MG: I think Silverstone really showed Grand Prix racing at its best. We had eight cars capable of winning the race, and unlike in the Formula 3000 race, where the cars were all quick at the same points because they all had the same components, the eight cars at the head of the field had different tyres, even from the same manufacturer, and were quicker at different points on the circuit. That balance is what produces great racing, along with a good circuit, and we saw some fantastic overtaking and defending during the British Grand Prix.

Q: The team saw a step forward in competitiveness at Silverstone: can this be maintained at Hockenheim?

MG: I believe we can be as competitive in all the remaining races as we were at Silverstone, and we will have a new engine specification for Hockenheim. Certainly, in very hot conditions the Michelin tyres have been extremely competitive and they are really doing a very good job. Once again, we need to be looking to take points from our direct rivals in Germany, and in order to do so we must ensure that both cars make it to the finish.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering

Q: Fernando will have a completely new circuit to learn on Friday morning: does that put him at a disadvantage?

PS: No, Fernando won't be at any disadvantage. A good racing driver generally learns 98% of a circuit within 10 laps. The last couple of percent can take years, but he can get very close in no time at all. Fernando is the sort of driver who learns fast: we saw in testing last year that he was up to speed straight away at circuits he did not know, and that is a sign of his natural talent. By the end of Friday morning, if not well before, he will be right on the pace.

Q: With no testing allowed between the next two races, will the balance of power between the tyre manufacturers in Germany be a reliable indicator of form for Budapest?

PS: To say that there will be no testing is not actually completely accurate: in the Friday session at Hockenheim, we will be evaluating a different tyre construction that we may well use in Hungary. As the only top team able to do that during the summer break, it may prove to be to our advantage. Secondly, the tyre requirements of Budapest are very, very different to those of Hockenheim. As the demands of a circuit see us move up and down the tyre range, so does the relative competitiveness of the two manufacturers. The results we will see at Hockenheim will not be a safe indication that the status quo is set until September.

The Engineer's View, with Pat Symonds

The new Hockenheim layout is totally different to the one we tackled in previous years. It is now very much an average circuit, slightly on the low side of medium downforce, and that is much higher than the levels we used to use. The effect is that even the unchanged section of the circuit in the stadium appears totally different, because we were previously tackling a series of corners requiring high downforce levels in a very low-downforce configuration. Now, the set-up compromise is much closer to other circuits we visit, and the result is that even the old corners must be tackled completely differently: turn 12, for example, is taken some 25% faster than it used to be, and corner speeds through the stadium are, on average, 15% greater than before.

In 2002, the team arrived at a completely new circuit, and we were slightly caught out by what we found. When simulating a new circuit, we have to base our programmes on geometrical data of the circuit, but while we are doing that, we have no knowledge of the actual detail of the track itself, such as how much the drivers can use the kerbs, or the nature of the tarmac and what the grip level is like. We therefore have to assume a normal line and average grip level.

Last year, the first thing we noticed was that a number of the kerbs were a natural extension of the racing line, secondly, that the grip was much higher than expected: on our simulations, we had to increase the grip level by some 17% in order to match the lap times the cars were setting.

This year, we have much better data on the tyre severity of Hockenheim after last year's race. We learnt a lot through our mistakes, particularly in terms of tyre choice, and since then we have conducted a lot more analysis. In terms of the total energy put into the tyres, the circuit is actually within a few percent of Magny-Cours, although some of the circuit's other characteristics are very different. Whilst not identical to those used in France, the tyres we will be taking to Germany are very similar.

The other noteworthy feature of Hockenheim is that conditions are often extremely hot. In terms of absolute competitiveness, Michelin has a range of tyres that works well in high temperatures, but this of course is only an advantage over teams like Ferrari, rather than our main competitors Williams and McLaren. Our car cools extremely well, and this means we do not need to compromise aerodynamic performance in order to achieve good cooling: between an optimum Friday qualifying set-up and that we use in the race, we lose only 1% aerodynamic efficiency, compared to double that amount last year. Relative to our rivals, this may also give us a slight edge.

Overall, I believe we can have a competitive weekend. The problems in 2002 were of our own making, and one thing I think we are very good at as a team is recognising our faults and acting upon them. Hockenheim is not one of the classic circuits of the season, and consequently will probably not show the true advantages of a good chassis, but we will nonetheless be making the most of the package at our disposal.

Engine Preview, with Denis Chevrier

Q: Denis, can you tell us about this circuit from an engine point of view?

DC: Before the changes in 2002, Hockenheim was the circuit where we saw the highest maximum speeds of the year (up to 360 kph). It was the most demanding circuit for engines, with four long straights, one of which exceeded 15 seconds at full throttle. Now, the circuit is only 4.574 km long, and it is an average track in terms of its severity on the engine. The straights are now significantly shorter, with the longest seeing the cars at full throttle for 12 seconds over a distance of 950m. The engine is not under particular strain, and is only at full throttle for 55% of the lap. The only thing that has not really changed is the weather: Hockenheim is always hot, and that represents an additional difficulty for the engine and the cooling.

Q: Will there be any developments for this race?

DC: We will some developments to improve reliability, which were tested at Silverstone before receiving final approval last week.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams