Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, describe Istanbul in one word... FA: Where do I start? I think I'd go for... fantastic! Q: You enjoyed your first visit then? FA: Definitely -- I...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, describe Istanbul in one word...
FA: Where do I start? I think I'd go for... fantastic!
Q: You enjoyed your first visit then?
FA: Definitely -- I demonstrated the car in the middle of the city centre, and it was an amazing experience to run on the old streets in front of the public.
Q: What was the city like?
FA: It was really varied -- there were so many different things to see, and I'm looking forward to getting back there again. You can tell straight away that there is a mixture of cultures, between the European and the Asian, and it means there is lots to discover.
I saw the Blue Mosque, and some of the other sights in the city, but the best thing was doing the demonstration run around the old hippodrome. That was where they raced hundreds of years ago, and we started the new era of Formula 1 in the same place. It was pretty cool.
Q: Turkey is a new country for Formula 1 -- how were the fans?
FA: Incredible. I think we had something like 30,000 people turn out to watch us, so they definitely know something about F1 already!
Q: Were they knowledgeable or discovering the sport for the first time?
FA: Both -- some of the people knew a lot, others were there for the first time, but everybody was really enthusiastic and excited to see the car and the team. It was nice to go there beforehand because at the races, we have very little time to meet the fans -- so it was great to meet them at the demo, and to have time to talk with them, because everybody was so open and friendly. I hope we will see a very passionate crowd at the race.
Q: You arrive in Turkey as championship leader -- does that change anything?
FA: No -- for me, I am looking at the races one by one, not at anything else. It is nice to arrive in Turkey in this position though, because it means we are strong and have a good chance of being successful in the first ever race there.
Q: What do you think the challenges will be to achieve that?
FA: I expect the temperatures to be very hot, so managing the tyres will be the first priority for us -- there are lots of slow corners, which make the rear tyres work very hard on the exits.
After that, I think the brakes will have quite a hard time, and it will tough for the drivers too in the cockpit: when temperatures are very high, we can lose up to 3 kilos through sweating in the car. So we need to be in top physical form as well as getting the car to perform to its best level.
Q: Are you worried after the performance in Hungary?
FA: Honestly, no. It was a bit of a surprise for us that we had problems in Hungary, but in reality I think the car could have been pretty competitive with a trouble-free race. Of course, that doesn't matter because the fact is we didn't score points, and we need to do that in Turkey.
But we still have a strong car, and the team is very motivated. I am refreshed after the break, and ready to attack the final races of the year. The team is leading both championships, and that is definitely the best position to be in right now.
Q: Giancarlo, have you visited the Istanbul circuit yet?
GF: No, I haven't...
Q: That may seem surprising to some people -- is it not an essential part of your preparations?
GF: Honestly, no. The first stage is just to learn the basics of the circuit, and you don't need to visit to do that. The team has given me a DVD of some laps in a road car so I can learn which way the corners go, and see the geography of the track. Some drivers use their Playstation to learn the track, but I think the video will be plenty for me.
Q: So when will you see the track for the first time?
GF: Thursday morning when I go to the circuit.
Q: And will you start learning it straight away?
GF: Yes. The first thing we do every race weekend is to walk the track with our engineers. It lets us inspect the track in detail -- to look at the kerbs and see which parts of them we can use, plus to get a feel for the layout and how we need to drive it.
Q: It must be difficult to learn it on foot though?
GF: It is, so I will go round on a scooter as well, just so I can get a feel for the lines I will need to use in the R25. The track always looks very different when you are in a car or on a bike, compared to on foot.
Q: So what will it be like on Friday morning when you drive for the first time?
GF: I think it will be quite exciting! It is always fun to discover a new circuit, and to have the challenge of learning it from the beginning. It is quite demanding for the driver, because we have to focus on the technical programme as well while we are learning.
Q: Will you need more laps than normal in practice?
GF: For sure, but the team took that into account in Hungary where we did less practice mileage than usual. That means we have more laps in Turkey to learn the track and fine-tune the set-up of the car.
Q: How long until you feel that you know the circuit?
GF: To be honest, about ten laps. After that, you have a good idea of the braking points, you know the line, you can see which kerbs to use and then we start working on the set-up and our tyre comparisons.
Q: And finally, how do you expect the car to perform?
GF: I expect us to be very strong. We were not good in Hungary, but we have not performed to our expectations this season on the slow circuits. Turkey is much more like the tracks where we have been successful, and the hot weather is good for our car. I think we will be in the hunt for podium finishes.
Preparing for a new circuit
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering
"As a team, we relish the challenge presented by a new circuit. Our engineering preparations begin many months before the race with lap simulations. It takes just 40 seconds to simulate a lap on the computer, but programming the sophisticated models behind this is a lengthier task."
"The earlier one can start the process of informing the lap simulation, then the better prepared one is; however, this is not always easy. The starting point for a lap-time simulation is to obtain an accurate circuit map from which the trajectory of the car along the racing line can be described mathematically in three dimensions."
"Once the circuit configuration has been finalized, detailed maps are issued by the FIA, and work can begin. The boundaries of the tarmac are digitized, and fed into the first stage of the simulation programme, which uses mathematical determines the ideal racing line."
"Once this has been established, a car model with an 'average' set-up is introduced. From this, a variety of wing settings and gear ratios can be evaluated to get the basis of the set-up. Once this has been done, refinements are made to weight distribution and suspension settings in order to minimize the virtual lap-time."
"Subsequently, the team can begin to look at energy requirements from the tyres, to help choose the appropriate compound, and at this stage brake energy requirements, and to some extent brake cooling requirements, can be calculated."
"However scientific this may sound, though -- as indeed it is -- a number of 'imponderables' can lead to errors in the simulation, that often cannot be corrected until the circuit has been seen and, indeed, until the car has first run on it."
"The first of these are the kerbs: where the simulation is only able to assume a driver will use the limits of the tarmac, in reality, they use kerbs wherever they can. If they are relatively smooth and low, they will be used to shortcut what had previously been the 'ideal' racing line."
"Much more problematic, though, is the variation in grip levels: these can differ by up to 15% between the different circuits we race on, according to factors such as the nature of the asphalt and how often the circuit is used."
"However, to put this into perspective, a 3% variation in grip level on an average circuit can bring a change in lap time of around 1 second and just to make things worse, this parameter varies continually, even during the same day."
"Naturally, working 2500 km from the circuit, we can do nothing but assume an average level of grip and work from there until further information is available. However, in order to insure against being caught out by any differences in grip relative to our estimations, we conduct numerous simulations at different grip levels in order to have a bank of data at our disposal in the event of changes, so that the appropriate car set-up can be decided upon as quickly as possible."
"Once that has pre-race simulation work has been completed, and the car is running, we then begin using a different simulation programme to determine race strategy. In fact, before making our decision on Saturday, over 1,000,000 race scenarios will run through the team's computers!"