Renault Sport F1 preview to the Monaco Grand Prix

Monte Carlo is one of those events that puts everyone under pressure as getting the optimum set up is always a compromise

Monte Carlo: three corners in detail

Sainte Devote to Casino Square
The distance from pole position to Sainte Devote is just 140m – the shortest run to the first corner we see all season and the pole sitter will reach it in a touch over four seconds. From pole there is not enough time for KERS to be activated, but cars starting further behind may choose to use it. After braking down to 105kph for Sainte Devote, drivers get quickly back on the power for the climb up through Beau Rivage to Casino Square. The circuit gains over 30m in altitude in 10secs so engine maps will be designed to work with short gear ratios to maximise acceleration and hit the rev limit at the top of the hill. There is a possibility to use KERS on this climb, but the steep gradient will reduce its effectiveness. In fact, overtaking here comes down to who can get the best acceleration out of Sainte Devote so particular care is paid to pedal and torque maps in this corner.

Grand Hotel Hairpin

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing
Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: XPB Images

From the Mirabeau the circuit suddenly descends in altitude down to the Grand Hotel Hairpin. The drop and almost 180° turn make it the tightest corner of the season. When the cars round the hairpin the engine is running at the lowest speed and revs it reaches on track at any point in the year; just 44kph and around 7,000rpm. The driver’s pedal and torque maps must be completely on point and the driver may even declutch to avoid too much push from the engine, which could result in a surge and cause a collision with a car in front or the wall. Large chunks of time can be won or lost by correct mapping here.

Tunnel section to chicane
The tunnel section is the only chance the cars get to hit top speed apart from the short pit straight. The engine needs to have good acceleration here so the driver can reach top speed (‘vMax’) quickly as the straight is only 670m from the exit of Portiers to the chicane, or around eight or nine seconds. The cars reach 290kph just before the braking point for the chicane so in theory KERS could be used, but principally only for defending rather than for overtaking as going off line is very dirty. This chance for the engine to ‘breathe’ is important as there are very few opportunities for the engine to intake fresh air. It is however somewhat of a poisoned chalice – the enclosed nature of the tunnel means the air going into the engine through the airbox is extremely hot. The air is also full of dust and rubber chunks that cannot be blown away due to the roof and walls of the tunnel building.

Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations:

Monte Carlo is one of those events that puts everyone under pressure as getting the optimum set up is always a compromise. It takes a huge effort to get right, and we spend more time preparing for this circuit than any other over the year. Monte Carlo is actually counter-intuitive to some other races as we work on slow speed balance rather than high or medium speed. This is because the track has the lowest average speed on the calendar (just 160kph) while the top speed peaks at only 280kph, compared to well over 315kph at the last event in Spain. Furthermore the engine only spends around 35% of the lap at full throttle. Maps are therefore geared to provide torque through the lower rev limits of the engine to deliver driveability and response out of the corners while gear ratios are calculated to give effective acceleration between the turns.

The sheer number of turns round the track means that the engine also isn’t given any time off and cooling becomes crucial as a result. With grip and downforce being so important we can’t afford to put any cooling holes or additional louvre panels to help out so we will look at dispersing the temperatures through the water and oil system.

It is obvious that with a street track there will be more bumps as the cars run over kerbs, drain covers and other day to day debris. One of the largest bumps is on the run down from Casino to the Mirabeau, which is why you see the cars apparently run off line. In actual fact they are taking the most logical line through this section as if they run over the bump, there is no load running through the wheels. With no load, there is no dynamic force and the engine suddenly hits the rev limiter, causing a loss of time and potential damage to the engine. There are other examples of bumps and lifts throughout the lap but it is not always possible to avoid them so instead we pay particular attention to the shift light pattern and even encourage the driver to shift early to avoid hitting the rev limit too often and stressing the engine too much.

Once we’ve completed all the set-up we also work extremely closely with the driver himself. The challenge is to get the driver to a confidence level where he doesn’t even comment on the engine, that is, he knows that it’s doing what he wants it to do. If you’ve done this you know you’ve done your job!

Renault Sport F1

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber
Teams Red Bull Racing
Article type Preview
Tags 2013, casino square, monaco gp, monte carlo, renault, sinte devote