To the outside world, the Formula 1 circus goes from race to race every two or three weeks: after one has finished, attention shifts to the next. When it comes to planning set-ups and strategies for season's races, though, things are somewhat ...
To the outside world, the Formula 1 circus goes from race to race every two or three weeks: after one has finished, attention shifts to the next. When it comes to planning set-ups and strategies for season's races, though, things are somewhat different: as RenaultF1 Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds explains, preparation begins months ahead of time.
On the strategy side, things begin even earlier, are fine-tuned up to the beginning of the race and can sometimes even change while it is in progress. "I take a first look at our options in terms of strategy before the beginning of the season," continues Pat. "Prior to leaving for Australia, I sit down and examine all the races, looking at what we might do, and whether any patterns emerge."
"After that, the detailed work begins in the weeks before the race. By Saturday, we have made our decisions on when we will make our first stop as we must run with that fuel load in final qualifying, then we continue running simulations the evening before the race in order to determine our plans for the rest of the Grand Prix."
As for the simulations themselves, they are more complex than they seem. "When we talk about running a single strategy simulation, what that actually equates to is ten thousand simulated races on the computer," concludes Pat. "After running a simulation, we then alter fuel loads, or predicted tyre degradation, or what we expect our rivals to do, and repeat the process. By the Saturday night before a race, we might have run anything up to one hundred simulations... or to put it another way, one million simulated races..."