US GP: Renault technical preview

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the US Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Q: After a slightly downbeat weekend in Monza, do you expect things to pick up again in Indy? MG: Monza was disappointing because Jarno ...

Comments from the Renault technical team ahead of the US Grand Prix

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director

Q: After a slightly downbeat weekend in Monza, do you expect things to pick up again in Indy?

MG: Monza was disappointing because Jarno especially looked set to have a very good run. However, I think Indy will suit our car better, and that we will be very strong there. The engine upgrades we introduced in Italy will be run at Indy, which will help us down the straight, and I think we need to be looking to finish on the podium.

Q: What are the key factors for having a quick car at Indianapolis?

MG: Although the downforce levels used at Indy are not as low as those we saw in Monza, there is still one very long straight for which we need to tune the top speed. The length of the straight makes aerodynamic efficiency into one of the key factors, and that is a strong point of the R23B. In terms of our aerodynamic performance, we are still at the very top level relative to our competitors, and that gives me confidence for the race.

Q: And once more, Friday testing should prove an asset...

MG: The facts are simple: we tested as much as the other teams last week at Barcelona, and had a very productive session. On top of that, we will have the benefit of added running on a circuit where nobody is able to test. Even on the dirtiest circuits this season, we have obtained extremely useful data, and I believe that will be the case once again this weekend.

The Engineer's View, with Pat Symonds

Indianapolis is a slightly 'schizophrenic' circuit, in the sense that it has a very long period of high-speed, full throttle running followed a lot of demanding and some very slow, slightly Mickey Mouse corners. In terms of general set-up, the compromise is similar to that we used to see at the old Hockenheim, but the proportion of high-speed to low-speed sections at Indy is such that the balance goes in favour of optimising the infield set-up in order to get a good lap time.

This trade-off means it is entirely possible that teams will run with higher levels of downforce to give the best possible lap-time on Friday, at the expense of straightline speed, but then on Saturday, bearing in mind the settings cannot be changed, the compromise will swing in favour of lower downforce as the race will demand good speed before Turn 1, a favourite overtaking spot.

From the team's point of view, we once again hope that the Friday test session will prove to be the huge benefit we saw earlier in the year at temporary, or infrequently-used, circuits. Previously, we have noted the circuit in Indianapolis to be slightly dirty at the start of the weekend, but it has been surprising to note the extent to which, at other circuits this season, a dirty track surface has had much less of an effect on the quality of our work than might be expected.

Once again, our session at Indianapolis will focus on tyre development, with some final comparisons for Suzuka as well as assessing tyre durability for this race, something which is much harder to do later in the weekend. In addition, we will aim to get a basic balance for the car, which will then allow us to spend official practice fine-tuning the set-ups, or perhaps on more interesting experiments.

Recent weeks have seen a number of debates over tyres and they will undoubtedly be key: we fully expect to see a more aggressive tyre choice than was the case last year. It might be thought that the banking alone makes Indianapolis a hard place for tyres, but this is not the case: while the loads are of course high on the banking, owing to the high speeds in this part of the circuit, the forces are no higher than those we encounter at other venues. Indeed, the load on the tyres is reasonably well balanced between the front and rear of the car at Indianapolis, so much so that a particular set-up will determine whether the front or rear tyres require the more careful management.

Wear rates, blistering and indeed any graining, will largely be a function of how aggressive the teams are in their tyre choice but generally speaking, for the Michelin runners, we expect quite low wear and little or no graining. Equally, we are not concerned by the prospect of blistering at this circuit. Degradation (the rate at which the tyre loses performance) was quite low here last year, and although we expect it to increase slightly this weekend owing to different compound choices, it is not expected to cause any concern.

In 2002, tyres dictated that half the field made two pit-stops, while the other half did a one stop race; for 2003, I expect strategies to be slightly more interesting than usual. Under the new rules, we have generally seen all the races have one more stop than last year, but the length of the pit-lane in Indianapolis, coupled with the high-speed nature of the circuit alongside, perhaps make it unlikely that anyone will go for three stops. The effect of the fuel load on lap-times is slightly lower at Indy than at the average of circuits, and while fuel consumption is average, this may lead to slightly longer first stints than usual; overall, though, I think we can expect most teams to be on what we might now term a conventional two-stop strategy.

Overall, we are confident that Indy should provide us with a good result. It has some reasonable medium-speed corners, and plenty of traction and braking events, areas in which our car excels. Equally, our performance at Monza showed that with the recent engine upgrades, the long main straight is much less of an obstacle for us than it would have been earlier in the year.

Engine Preview, with Denis Chevrier

Q: Denis, what are the main demands on the engine at Indianapolis?

DC: The principal feature of the circuit is of course the main straight, which, at twenty-two seconds, provides us with the longest continuous full throttle period of the year: in spite of the severity of Monza, for example, the longest uninterrupted acceleration at the Italian circuit is only fifteen seconds long.

Q: Does the circuit layout pose any other problems?

DC: The main straight itself poses the additional problem of slipstreaming, and this can potentially cause over-revving unless the final drive ratios are adapted to take account of it. Furthermore, the widely varying characteristics of the circuit, with speeds from over 330 kph to under eighty, place demands on the engine throughout its operating range. While providing a progressive, driveable engine is always an objective for the engineers, it is of particular importance at this circuit.

Q: Will there be any engine developments for this race?

DC: The baseline specification of the race engines is the same as that which was raced in Monza. They will feature the cylinder head which made its race debut in Italy. Some small developments have also been undertaken which should allow us to increase engine revs.

-renault-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mike Gascoyne