San Marino GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix: Mike Gascoyne - Technical director Q: Mike, Brazil saw the Teamms first reliability problems during a race weekend this year. What were they, and are you happy they...

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix:

Mike Gascoyne - Technical director

Q: Mike, Brazil saw the Teamms first reliability problems during a race weekend this year. What were they, and are you happy they have been solved?

MG: The problem we suffered was linked to the gearbox on Allanms car, and it was something we experienced in pre-season testing for which fixes are in progress. Itms worth pointing out that Allan is effectively driving a test car on Friday, which means he is using higher mileage components and also some other development parts. In spite of that, though, the race also saw another faultless performance in terms of race reliabilityV

Q: Imola has similar characteristics to Melbourne, with lots of hard acceleration and heavy braking for chicanes. After a strong performance in Australia, how well do you hope to perform this weekend?

MG: On paper, I donmt think Imola is our strongest circuit of the year. However, the layout demands very heavy braking, the most severe we have seen so far this season, and the drivers have been very comfortable with the car on the brakes. I think we can expect to be as competitive as we were in Melbourne, and we were happy with our performance there. Tyres will obviously be an issue though, and the colder track and air temperatures may even out the field in terms of performance.

Q: Do you think that the Team can hold on to their championship position in San Marino?

MG: So far this season, I think the most pleasing thing is to have had a 100% finishing record and to be confident that if both cars finish, they will score points. We are obviously very pleased to be second, but if we look at things realistically in terms of pure speed, then even if we hold on to our position in Imola, I'm not sure we can expect that throughout the season. Our goal for this season, though, is to race with the top pack, and if we can maintain our finishing record, then we can compete as strongly as we have done at the first three races.

Pat Symonds - Executive Director of Engineering

Pat, how did the HANS device perform in Fernando's accident in Sao Paulo?

PS: Overall, I think the device worked extremely well. The facts of the accident were that after a relatively light impact with the wheel on the circuit, of around 4.5g, the accident data recorder indicated the first impact with the wall was a 35g lateral and 35g longitudinal impact, followed by a second side impact of 60g. When you consider that our tests are conducted at 40g, that shows these were very big impacts. However, Fernando has suffered absolutely no problems with his neck, which is unusual in an accident of this magnitude. I think we can judge that the device did prevent him from a degree of injury, and we are very pleased with its performance.

Brazil is known as one of the bumpiest circuits of the year, and Imola has the same characteristic, with the need to ride the kerbs. Can they be compared?

PS: Although ride can be a problem in Brazil, the surface is actually not as bad as it once was, and the bumps are all on the circuit. At Imola, though, the drivers need to use the kerbs a lot and we need a car that will ride them well: when the car strikes a kerb, damper velocities can rise as high as 300mm/second, which is double what we would normally see with bumps on the race track. However, we have been studying this phenomenon over the last few months, both on our seven-post rig and with some practical experiments.

Q: We saw heavy rain during much of the race weekend last year at Imola. How do you think we are equipped to cope with that?

PS: Weather conditions can be unpredictable in Imola and the events of Brazil may have led people to question the wisdom of the 2003 tyre regulations. Of course, by being restricted to a single tyre, competitive instincts ensure that people look to be fast under drying conditions in the hope that the FIA's safety car policy will handle the very wet conditions, but the reality of this is that performance considerations are prioritised ahead of safety.

On the surface, it may seem better to revert to the old rules, but at a time when we are trying to save money, the direct costs to the tyre manufacturers of adding an extra tyre, plus the costs to the teams for testing these tyres, mean this is not logical. Rather than introducing a second wet tyre, therefore, a better solution would be to produce a tyre more capable of coping with extreme conditions, even if that means we have to change tyres at a different point and run them further in drying conditions. If the tyre is well-enough specified for all conditions, then the effect will be the same for all the teams, regardless of manufacturer.

The Engineerms View by Pat Symonds

Imola is not a particularly challenging circuit, in that it is extremely repetitive with a number of slow chicanes connected by quite short straights. It is very difficult to overtake, which means the racing is never particularly good, and the need to ride the kerbs well means that we are not setting the car up in the ultimate way.

The layout places a premium on braking performance and traction, which is something the engineers focus on throughout the weekend. So far, we have been extremely happy with the carms performance in these areas, and will be introducing new brake ducts which are more efficient than those used in Australia. However, the circuit also demands good engine torque from second gear out of the chicanes, which is an area where we may struggle.

With the monotony of the circuit, it is hard to pick out specific corners which are important to a good lap-time, but certainly the most challenging section is the two corners at Acque Minerale (turns 9 and 10): the first part is extremely fast in fifth gear, and the drivers then need to brake hard for the second-gear turn 10, ensuring they get a good exit for the run up the hill to the Variante Alta. Equally, the drivers need a good exit from the final chicane, for the longest full throttle section of the track, and also Tosa, which leads into the long drag up the hill to Piratella.

With overtaking being the hardest on any circuit so far this season, this must have an impact on strategy choices. Everybody is still learning about the new regulations and with the race in Brazil proving so strange, it didn't yield much in terms of understanding the new format better. Traditionally, teams have run two-stop strategies and it may well remain that way; however, some people may prepared to gamble and try something different. Generally, the circuit is not particularly hard on tyres and compounds tend to be relatively soft. The low temperatures, however, sometimes lead to a degree of graining which can cause problems.

The other big challenge of the weekend will be dealing with the pit and garage areas, which are very small. Running three cars simultaneously on Friday morning will be an extremely difficult proposition.

Engine Preview with Denis Chevrier

After the first flyaway races of the Championship, we arrive at the start of the European season in Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix. The circuit is not particularly demanding on engines, as Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Operations for the Renault F1 Team, explains:

"In terms of its severity for engines, Imola is a circuit we would classify as being of medium difficulty. In actual fact, it offers two contrasting characteristics: on the one hand, the average engine speed is the fifth highest of the season, as the engines are at full throttle for an average of 61% of the lap, which makes it a relatively demanding circuit; on the other hand, the straights are particularly short (Imola has the third-shortest straight after Monaco and Budapest) and the engines are only at full throttle for a maximum of nine seconds at one time."

"Furthemore, maximum speeds do not exceed 310 km/h. It's a medium difficulty circuit, with a variety of different corners," continues Denis, "where the engine needs to be effective everywhere, in order to perform well in widely different operating conditions. Ideally, you want to obtain the best possible compromise between the chassis and the engine."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne
Teams Renault F1 Team