Spanish GP: Renault engineering preview

Renault's Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, and Denis Chevrier, head of engine operations, give thier view of the Spanish Grand Prix Pat Symonds: "Barcelona is what we might term a classic tyre circuit. Not only does it produce...

Renault's Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, and Denis Chevrier, head of engine operations, give thier view of the Spanish Grand Prix

Pat Symonds:

"Barcelona is what we might term a classic tyre circuit. Not only does it produce high loadings in terms of tyre usage (the sixth highest of the year), it also has a very abrasive surface that makes it uniquely challenging, in contrast to circuits such as Malaysia which, although they see high tyre energies, have a very different type of track surface."

"When talking about tyres, the concepts of tyre energy and tyre wear must be distinguished. Tyre energy is a measure of the total work a tyre must do, and represents the sum of the energy requirements produced during cornering, braking and under traction. While these are separate forces, generally acting in separate directions, they act in combination with each other, as a driver is typically braking and cornering, or accelerating and cornering, simultaneously. This total energy is a good measure of how hard the circuit is going to be on tyres, and the requirements can be divided up to give a separate figure for each tyre, indicating which corners of the car are under the most load."

"This, at Barcelona, the hardest worked tyre is the left rear. Assuming the total energy of this tyre to be 100%, the right rear requires 86%, the left front 63% and the right front 42%. These figures allow us to draw some basic conclusions about how the tyres work in Barcelona: the left front works 150% harder than the right front, owing to the clockwise direction of the circuit and long right-hand corners such as turn three."

"Equally, the other major difference is between the energy requirements of the front and rear tyres: even though Barcelona is a particularly tough circuit on tyres, and especially the left front, the requirements of the front wheels are still only 56% of the total energy of the rear tyres: this gives some measure of the energy demanded by traction and controlling engine power."

"Aside from tyre energy, essentially how hard the tyres work, teams must also take account tyre wear, which is a measure of how the tyres suffer from their interaction with the track surface. The way a tyre grips the road is about much more than just friction. Being relatively soft, a tyre can deform into the roughness of a track surface such that there is a mechanical 'locking' which adds to the pure friction. In fact, there are even forms of bonding and inter-molecular attraction between the tyre and road surface - essentially, chemical reactions take place under high loads - which combines to make the subject of tyre wear an extremely complex one."

"It is perhaps too obvious to state that soft tyres on a rough track will wear more than hard tyres on a smooth, low-grip surface. But what other factors can have an influence?"

"Firstly, different cars and even different suspension settings on a given car affect the tyre wear. Every car owner knows incorrect suspension alignment can cause excessive tyre wear, but with a racing car, alignment is optimised for total performance: this may or may not, depending on the design philosophy, accelerate tyre wear."

"Fundamentally, the wear on a given compound is a function of a coefficient that encompasses both the car design, and the road surface characteristic multiplied by the square of the total tangential (lateral or longtitudinal) force acting on the tyre, and divided by the load on the tyre normal to the tyre contact patch. In other words, the faster you go, the more the tyre wears - no surprise there! Indeed, these days, most people expect tyres on their road cars to last over 20,000km. On an F1 car at Barcelona, we would be looking for a life of around 90km."

Denis Chevrier:

"Barcelona is one of the favourite test venues for all of the F1 teams and therefore leaves very few surprises in terms of the demands it places on the engine."

"The circuit is characterised by a high average engine speed around the lap - owing to the numerous high-speed corners - and therefore high loads. However, the percentage of the lap spent at full throttle is similar to the season average, at 61%. Equally, the long main straight means the longest single period during which the engine is at full load is just over twelve seconds - while a high value, this is by no means the most severe of the year, and is indeed similar to what we saw earlier in the year at Bahrain."

"However, selecting a final drive gear ratio provides one of the biggest challenges of the weekend, as the main straight effectively acts as a 'wind tunnel' between the large main grandstand and the pit complex opposite. It is a delicate balancing act, as too conservative a choice will bring a loss of top-end performance if you do not get a tow down the straight, while too risky a choice can endanger reliability by causing the engine to over-rev. This decision is rendered all the more difficult by the fact that it must now be made the day before, and wind conditions and directions are difficult to predict with complete certainty. In this domain, our experience of the circuit is without a doubt a key asset."

"The other characteristic of the circuit, owing to the high-speed corners, is high lateral loads. However, for the engine, this poses no particular problems: the entire lubrication system of an F1 engine is designed to cope with high, long-duration lateral loads. The RS24B is no different in this respect to any other engine, and we are confident it will cope with the demands of the circuit without any problems."


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Series Formula 1