Belgium Preview Quotes: Renault
Q. Jarno, are you happy to be returning to Spa?
Definitely - like I think every other driver is too. Through the lap, you need to be able to deal with every type of technical corner, and you can make up time in lots of places. As a driver, it really demands total concentration - but you also must find the rhythm of the circuit and plug into it. You need to be right on the limit over the entire lap, but you are talking about 1 minute 40 seconds here rather than one minute fifteen. And at Spa, that limit is just a little bit harder to find than at more normal tracks. I think it is a circuit that really shows a driver's true potential.
Q. Will the R24 perform well here?
Well, earlier in the year we seemed to struggle at the high speed circuits like Malaysia, but we have made good progress with the car since then. When we last came here in 2002, we were on course for points finishes in the race until retiring, and I think the circuit can suit the R24. Of course, choosing the tyres will be crucial, so Friday will be an important day to get a good understanding of how they will work on the long runs. But if we perform to our maximum, then we should be competitive around Spa.
Q. And on a personal level, what are you hoping for?
I haven't scored points in the last three races, so my first priority will be to get the car to the finish and add to my championship total. I am still pushing 100% for myself and the team to try and consolidate my position in the championship, and also to help Renault to second place in the constructors' race. I had an excellent first half of the season, and I want to get that run of form back again for the last five races. That would be a good way to round off a very successful season for me.
Q. Fernando, you have scored three podiums in the last four races - things seem to be going well for you.
Yes, I was happy with the result in Hungary, and indeed all the results since Magny-Cours. I have not had any mechanical failures in the races, I have not made mistakes and things are going as we expected now. We are around the podium at every race, and sometimes we make it, sometimes not, but we are pushing in all areas. Looking to Spa, I don't think we go there as confident as we were before Hungary, but we have seen this year that our feelings about a weekend can change as it progresses. It will be a tough challenge to get on the podium in Spa, but it doesn't hold any fear for us. The team is working well and the car is quick, so we just need to perform to our maximum all weekend.
Q. When setting the car up for Spa, what do you concentrate on?
The circuit is different to any other, it has a different character, and as drivers we need to step up to its challenge. It is very difficult to have a car that is perfect in all areas around Spa, because the lap is so long, so you need to be pragmatic and try and feel confident with the car. We focus on the high speed balance, and getting the car stable in the quick corners, while making sure it is not too bad in the slower sections. After that, you need to do laps and gain confidence to push more and more from a driver point of view.
Q. Some people say that now it is taken without lifting, Eau Rouge has lost its challenge. Do you agree?
Well, I hope they don't think it is easy. You come into the corner downhill, have a sudden change at the bottom and then go very steep uphill. From the cockpit, you cannot see the exit and as you come over the crest, you don't know where you will land. It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can lose a lot of time if you make a mistake. But it is also an important corner for the driver's feeling. It makes a special impression every lap, because you also have a compression in your body as you go through the bottom of the corner. It is very strange, but good fun as well.
Bob Bell, Technical Director
Q. Bob, what are your expectations for Spa?
Aerodynamically, Spa requires a finer balancing act than a superficially comparable circuit such as Silverstone: although they both feature many high speed corners, the compromise between straight line speed and downforce is more delicate at the Belgian venue, making aerodynamic efficiency rather than overall downforce the key factor. We are confident we have made sufficient progress with the car's handling at high speed to be competitive in those quick corners, and the R24 has very good traction for the slow sectors. We believe we can fight for a podium finish.
Q. The team has scored three podiums in the last four races: are you satisfied with the current form?
Our recent run of on-track performance has been very good, and Fernando's excellent drive in Hungary continued that trend. He was clearly fastest behind Ferrari, and did an excellent job to finish third. However, in recent races, we have not been so good at collecting points and indeed, while we have often been Ferrari's nearest challengers, we have not been collecting the points we should. Being quick and collecting points is not always the same thing, and with five races left in the season and a small gap to our closest rivals, scoring championship points is undoubtedly the name of the game.
Q. Are you continuing to push forward with development of the R24?
Absolutely. We had a new engine specification in Hungary, which performed very well in spite of Jarno's unit suffering an accessory failure unrelated to the changes. Furthermore, the team in Viry has been pushing very hard to give us more revs throughout the engine's operating range, and we are continuing to make progress in this area. For the chassis, we still have developments to come on both the mechanical and aero fronts, but we are also focusing on reliability between now and the final race. Our minimum standard has to be to get two cars to the finish in every race, especially as both McLaren and Williams have come back with a vengeance after a disappointing first half of the year. Our aim at Spa will be first and foremost to ensure both drivers score points.
Rob White, Engine Technical Director
Q. How satisfied were you with the introduction of the D spec engine in Hungary?
I was very happy to see the efforts of the entire team at Viry translated into a very smooth introduction of the new engine during the Hungary weekend. However, we did of course suffer a failure with Jarno's car, when an o-ring seal between the oil pump and engine allowed the engine oil to escape. This is a timely reminder that even the smallest, simplest and least expensive parts can prove extremely costly unless they are perfectly executed at every stage of the design and assembly process. We are working on a counter-measure to ensure the failure is not repeated.
Q. Spa is a very severe challenge for the engines: does it require a special approach?
Spa is one of the toughest circuits in terms of duty cycle, and indeed is a reference circuit for engine validations on the dyno: this means we actually do more simulations of Spa than any other circuit during the year. The lap is very long, placing high mechanical and thermal loads on the engine's internal parts. However, this severity does not change our approach: we must choose the parameters of engine use at any circuit with a view to the best possible race result, and while these additional demands must be taken into account, our philosophy is no more cautious than elsewhere.
Q. Eau Rouge is often mentioned as a major challenge on the circuit: is this true for the engines as well?
Eau Rouge places extremely high structural loads on the car and engine, as the motion of the car on the track tends to bend the whole car in a vertical plane. This is the most severe load that the car and engine design must take into account for the entire season. Furthermore, as the car crests the hill, its motion creates a vertical acceleration that overcomes gravity. The downforce levels ensure the car is kept on the track, but this negative 'g' is a potential problem for the engine oil system.
The Engineer's View with Pat Symonds
2004 will see Formula 1 make a welcome return to Spa-Francorchamps after a brief sabbatical. Spa is the classic road circuit, and presents challenges enjoyed by drivers, engineers and spectators alike. Getting close to perfection through the difficult, high-speed corners makes significant differences to the lap time, and gives a great feeling of satisfaction when we get it right.
Of these corners, the most famous is of course Eau Rouge and over the years, this complex has perhaps created the biggest challenge in Grand Prix racing. When we consider the nature of this challenge, and how it has evolved over the years, it is interesting to see that just as it seems to be getting easier, a change to the cars can put the ball right back in the teams' court. Indeed, this is what we expect to happen for 2005.
Speeds through the corner increased up until 1998 (peaking at 286 kph in 1997), when the introduction of grooved tyres and narrow track cars brought a significant decrease in grip, and hence cornering speeds. From 1998 onwards, we see a steady increase in speeds once more, with a significant jump in 2001 as the tyre competition begun the previous year got into full swing. An equally significant step was made in 2002, when not only did the tyres develop further, but the corners where slightly realigned and also resurfaced, in the interests of safety. This led to the corner being easily flat in qualifying that year, although in the race it still required a small lift of the throttle through the corner. Having said that, even when taken flat, the high lateral accelerations and hence tyre scrub, coupled with the steep rise in elevation, result in the car losing around 20 kph from entry to exit of the corners.
From an engineering point of view, the corner is an important one as good speed through here provides an overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight. In order to negotiate the complex quickly, it is important to have the right level of grip, and hence an aerodynamic set-up that does not compromise the high straight line speeds required (around 320 kph). In addition, the drivers need complete confidence in the car through this series of corners, and in order to achieve this it is necessary to have good high speed stability, and maybe even a touch of understeer.
Finding this handling "sweet-spot" is not just a case of achieving the correct aero balance, as the dramatic elevation changes in the corner have severe effects on the suspension. The left hand part of the corner generates a lot of suspension compression, and the car goes light in the final part. It is necessary to ensure the car does not hit the ground hard in the compression, but also that during this phase, any non-linear behaviour in the suspension, such as the bump rubbers, do not produce a sudden change in handling as the car tries to bottom out. Equally, ride heights can vary by as much as 25 mm through the sequence. When choosing set-ups, just a couple of millimeters can make a significant difference to handling, and it is therefore obvious that the car needs aerodynamic characteristics that do not cause large movements in the centre of pressure even when ride heights and pitch angles vary. If these factors are managed correctly, if the driver has the grip he expects, and if the grip and the balance of that grip remain constant through the corner, then the challenge becomes a much easier one.
This year, we expect to negotiate Eau Rouge at approximately 310 kph, compared to 286 kph in 1997. Furthermore, with the progress in both car and tyre design over the past two seasons, the corner should be taken flat out for much of, and perhaps all, the race. Next year, though, the situation will change once more, as it has done through recent F1 history. Just considering the losses from the aerodynamic changes that we will be accepting for 2005, we can expect the minimum speed through Eau Rouge to drop by over 20 kph (to 1997 levels), and indeed the top speed at the end of the straight will be 9 kph lower. The drivers will also be lifting off the throttle for around 0.4 seconds, a level similar to that which we saw in 2000. The challenge of taking Eau Rouge flat, superseded by advances in car and tyre design since 2002, will return, and Spa will be all the more a true classic circuit for it.
The Engineer's View with Denis Chevrier
From a reliability point of view, Spa can be considered as the most demanding circuit of the season. From the hairpin at La Source to the chicane of Les Combes at the top of the hill, the cars spend 22 seconds at full throttle, which is significantly higher than the season average of 13.5 seconds.
As we have noted earlier in the season, a continuous full throttle period is significantly more demanding for the engine than a number of repeated shorter bursts, and this additional load is exercised on certain components in particular: the pistons, the valves and also the crankshaft and con-rods.
Of course, we are familiar with the demands of the circuit, but these additional constraints make the balance between performance and reliability even harder to judge when defining the engine specification.
Furthermore, this 22 second period at full throttle includes the passage through Eau Rouge. This section of the track generates very high vertical "g", which has an influence on the engine's oil feed.
When designing and testing the lubrication system, this is a factor we have to take into account and while we cannot wholly eliminate the potential risks associated with the vertical loads imposed on the engine at such high engine speeds, we succeed in reducing them to such an extent that the engine can cope.
However, it would be untrue to suggest that this opening 22 second portion is the only severe section of the circuit for the engines. At approximately 100 seconds, Spa is the longest lap of the year, and it also requires a very wide operating range from the engine: the drivers need good low-speed performance on the exit of the hairpin and the Bus Stop chicane, but also high top speeds on the two long full throttle sections (La Source to Les Combes, and Stavelot to the Bus Stop chicane).
This demand for comprehensive engine performance throughout the rev range means in practical terms that we need as much available torque as possible throughout the rev range. This includes acceleration from the slow corners, as previously mentioned, but also in-gear acceleration at higher revs: Spa sees the drivers at full throttle for 65% of the lap, one of the highest values of the year aside from the exceptional case of Monza.
Furthermore, unlike more modern circuits such as Hockenheim, these accelerations often follow fast third or fourth gear corners rather than slow first or second gear hairpins, and consequently place different demands on the engine's performance.
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