Hungarian GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: The team has made a noticeable step forward in competitiveness since Silverstone. Can this be maintained in Hungary? MG: As we ...

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

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: The team has made a noticeable step forward in competitiveness since Silverstone. Can this be maintained in Hungary?

MG: As we expected, we have been very competitive in the last couple of races: the introduction of the new bodywork package at Silverstone helped us, and we still have several steps forward to make with the engine before the end of the year, including an improved specification for this race. In Hungary, I think we must aim to qualify at the front of the grid and race strongly for another podium finish.

Q: What are the reasons for your optimism?

MG: I think this kind of circuit will suit our car. The last very high downforce track was Monaco, where we were not as quick as we should have been, but given the steps forward we have made with our package, we can expect to be very strong if we perform to our full potential. As well as the engine developments, we will have some minor aerodynamic improvements, and we also anticipate the tyres will prove very competitive in the expected hot conditions.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering

Q: Pat, Renault were the only top team able to test since the beginning of the summer ban, on Friday morning in Hockenheim. How useful has that been?

PS: Our session at Hockenheim proved extremely productive. The fact that we selected a tyre construction for use in Budapest as a direct result of the work on Friday morning indicates the wisdom of choosing the Heathrow Agreement, which allowed us to test when others couldn't. Furthermore, the very hot conditions we experienced were different to those typically encountered during winter testing, and generated some useful tyre data.

Q: We have seen changes to the circuit this year, designed to improve overtaking. Do you think they will work?

PS: Before we get there, it is very hard to tell. Changes were made to Magny- Cours this year with the intention of creating another passing opportunity, and in that particular case, you would have to say they did not achieve their objective. At the Hungaroring, I do not think the cars will be able to follow closely enough through turn 11 to take advantage of the new slow corner at turn 12. Turn 1 may be a little better, but there is another problem to contend with: the fact that the circuit is so dirty off line. It can take several corners to clean up the tyres after any manoeuvre, meaning anybody who does manage to get past risks making a mistake soon afterwards. I don't think the circuit changes themselves will necessarily help the overtaking situation; certainly in terms of our strategy, we go there with the assumption that it will still be very hard to pass other cars.

The Engineer's View, with Pat Symonds

The Hungaroring is renowned for being particularly dusty. As a consequence, we are not expecting our Friday session to be as productive as normal, when the circuit will be at its dirtiest, although we will still be able to complete some work that is not directly affected by the conditions: for example, fine-tuning the new engine specification we will be running at this race. The main challenge posed by these conditions, though, is to impress upon the drivers that if you run off line, be it to pass traffic or simply by making a mistake, it can take up to five or six corners to properly clean the tyres. It is easy to think that the car is not working properly when in fact the tyres are dirty, and this is a trap the drivers and engineers must avoid falling into in order to work effectively.

For the tyres, the Hungaroring is an odd place. On paper, it is not particularly difficult and the stresses are not too high. However, compared to Monaco, the most similar circuit, the tyres work much harder. Track temperatures are generally around the 400C mark, and main issue for the tyres will be managing the rate of degradation, rather than blistering as we saw in Hockenheim.

For this year, the circuit has, of course, undergone a number of modifications. We expect the changes to add between five and six seconds to lap times, and increase the total tyre loads by approximately 5%. We believe there has been a significant amount of resurfacing, although we will not know the full extent of it until we arrive in Hungary. No matter what has been done, though, the only elements we can simulate are geometry rather than the nature of the surface. In France, for example, we were presented with what seemed to be a relatively easy new section of track; the nature of the surface, though, meant it actually proved rather hard on the tyres. We may find the same thing in Hungary, but will only be able to say for sure on Friday.

In terms of general set-up, this was previously very high downforce but the circuit changes will alter the compromise slightly. The modifications have eliminated one of the most difficult challenges, the high kerbs at the old turn 12, but the surface will still remain bumpy, particularly on the short uphill straight between turns 13 and 14.

Temperature will be a factor, as it was in Hockenheim. In Hungary, however, the very high downforce levels on the front wing make it more difficult to get enough air into the car for cooling purposes. We have consequently modified the oil cooling system specifically for this race in order to combat the problem.

As for the race itself, I think we will see a mixture of two and three stop strategies. The latter option is certainly the more adventurous and also increases the risk of getting stuck in traffic: it would need to be very carefully calculated to work properly. The circuit is also particularly demanding on the drivers: we run the season's highest level of power steering assistance in Hungary. The layout gives them little time to relax, and the number of corners means a lot of energy is put through the front tyres. Coupled with the high downforce levels, and relatively high speeds at some points on the circuit, this makes the steering extremely heavy, even with power assistance; when you factor in the temperatures as well, it makes life in the cockpit very punishing.

Finally, qualifying position is crucial. There is a significant difference between a launch on the clean part of the track and the dirty; starting from the left-hand side of the circuit is a definite advantage. Unfortunately though, no matter how clever you are, you cannot engineer your way to a solution for that problem...!

Engine Preview, with Denis Chevrier

Q: Denis, can you tell us about the changes to the Hungaroring from an engine perspective?

DC: The Hungaroring has changed from last year, and the modifications have significantly altered the nature of the circuit. Previously, apart from the temperature factor, the Hungaroring was not a demanding circuit for the engines; the changes, however, mean it is now much nearer average among the F1 circuits. The longer main straight will now see the cars at full throttle for ten seconds, rather than seven.

Previously, the engine was under full load for 43% of the lap; according to our simulations, this will rise to 51% this year. One thing that won't have changed from last year, though, is the heat characteristic of this circuit. This means cooling is one of the key engine parameters we need to monitor. Efficient cooling can be achieved in a number of ways: we can try and minimise energy losses in the oil by reducing internal friction; attempt to release as much energy as possible with improved cooling systems; or indeed, we can make changes to the bodywork to improve internal airflow.

Q: Are any engine evolutions planned for this race?

DC: Yes, we will be running with modifications to the upper part of the engine, which should bring both power gains and increased engine speeds. The high temperatures will also require solutions that allow us to improve cooling: in Hungary, it is important to have an engine capable of running with high oil and water temperatures. This is why we will be bringing a new type of oil, developed for us by our fuel partner Elf, which will be used in conjunction with a reduction in the engine's oil flow.

-renault-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne