China Preview Quotes: Renault

Fernando Alonso

China Preview Quotes: Renault

Fernando Alonso

Q: Fernando, how much preparation can you do before visiting a new circuit?

FA:

To be honest, there is not so much you can learn from maps of the circuit - the real time when we learn about the track, in its real finished form, is when we walk the circuit with our engineers in the week before the race. But I think the driver's role is even more important at a new circuit than elsewhere. Not only do we have to learn the track, but there is more work to do with the engineers, explaining how the circuit is, what the secrets of the track are and how the car is behaving, because none of us have any experience or reference points. A driver has to be very adaptable at a new circuit, and I believe that is one of my strengths.

Q: What do you enjoy about visiting a new circuit for the first time?

FA:

First of all, it is a brand new experience: I have never been to China before, so it will be fascinating to see the country for the first time, and the reports of the circuit say it is incredible so I am looking forward to seeing what it is like in reality. The layout looks exciting, and I am sure it will have been designed to encourage good racing. I expect the crowd to be very supportive of everybody, and I think the R24 will suit the circuit well. We are hoping for a competitive showing.

Q: Finally, are you confident that the team can regain its championship position?

FA:

I think we can do it, certainly. This a strong team, with a strong spirit, and we love to be aggressive when we go racing. That is my style, and that is the team's attitude as well. We need to be aggressive between now and the end of the year to overtake BAR again, because it will be a big fight. We have a very good car, that we expect to be competitive at the next three circuits, and although I haven't finished in the last two races, we were very quick. We will all be intent on bouncing back from the Monza result in style, and taking the fight to BAR in China.

Bob Bell, Technical Director

Q: Bob, there seems to be a perception that the team's season has tailed off in the second half. Do you agree?

BB:

Although we lost second place in the championship to BAR after the last race, we are very confident in our ability to regain that position. We have not scored as many points as we would have hoped to in the second half of the season, but I think this actually belies the fact that our package is extremely competitive at the moment: we have had some small reliability glitches, but also our fair share of bad luck and racing incidents We did not expect to be as strong in Monza as Fernando proved to be, and we continue to make good progress with both the chassis and the engine. The R24 is definitely good enough to achieve the goal of taking second place: while BAR have the edge over us at some circuits, we hold an advantage at others - and we believe we are heading to some circuits where we can demonstrate our strengths.

Q: Will you be running any new developments in China?

BB:

We will run new front and rear wings for this race, and also introduce two new lightweight chassis that we have tested successfully at Monza and Silverstone, all of which represent a useful step forward in terms of performance. The new chassis is part of our on-going weight reduction programme aimed at optimising the car's performance, and the fact that we are introducing such major developments at this stage of the season indicates how hard we are pushing to regain our position in the constructors' championship. I said at the start of the season, that we expected the championship battle to come down to a matter of several points at the end of the season, and it has turned out exactly that way.

Rob White, Engine Technical Director

Q: Could you tell us a little about the motivation of the team at Viry to regain second place in the championship?

RW:

The battle for second place in the constructors' championship will go down to the wire. There are still fifty four points to play for and to win back second place, we need to score four points more than BAR in the three races to come. At this stage of the season, we know that we have the performance to score points on all types of circuit and to fight for podiums on those that favour us. The team will focus its efforts on getting both cars to the end of the races and extracting maximum potential from them. If we are able to make the most of all our opportunities, we can certainly fight back to second in the championship.

Q: Will engine development continue for the final three races?

RW:

The RS24 continues to evolve. The main elements of the engine are now fixed to the end of the season, but there are still small improvements to come. Reliability remains the first objective: we must work to minimise the risk of new incidents. We will continue to work to improve the performance, in order to capitalise on the results test work completed at Viry. The individual demands of the final three circuits will contribute to the definition of the performance spec.

Q: China is a brand new circuit: how much work can you do to prepare for its challenges?

RW:

The race in China will be interesting for everyone - a new event in a fantastic country with unique culture. The Shanghai circuit combines elements similar to other circuits on which we race, so along with analytical and simulation work, the teams should be able to be well prepared. In terms of duty-cycle, Shanghai sits in a group with the majority of circuits we visit, so is not a high duty-cycle circuit like Monza or Spa, but not a low duty-cycle like Hungary or Monaco. Defining and verifying the operating conditions for the engine is an important part of our preparation, and will allow the drivers to use the engines to their maximum potential according to the demands of the particular circuit. In concrete terms, this means estimating the duty-cycle based on previous experience, and then dyno testing to simulate the conditions of the race weekend.

The Engineer's View with Pat Symonds

Racing on a new circuit remains one of the most appealing challenges for any F1 engineer, and when that circuit is both brand new, and in a new country, it merely adds to the enjoyment and the challenge. Of course, as we have discussed previously, our work begins with a simulation of the circuit, but beyond the mathematical perspective that such simulations provide, we also take a more generalised, subjective view.

For Shanghai, we have had our usual challenges of simulating the circuit using track maps that do not always have the required level of detail. Once we have established the general speeds of the corners, we begin to design a set-up aimed at achieving the best possible lap time but also giving us our best possibility of racing well. Looking at Shanghai, the circuit is dominated by two straights, one over a kilometre in length and the other around 600m - indicating that a competitive top speed will be an important factor to protect our position. However, there are also twelve corners, and many of them lead directly into one another - while also being surprisingly long for a modern circuit of this type.

Looking at circuit maps, it is clear that the characteristics of the lap vary as it progresses. The first part is full of slow corners, from the long, tightening turns at the end of the pit straight, to the relatively straightforward hairpin at turn 6. After this, though, we enter a much more challenging sector, with three left-right-left corners that are taken at sequentially decreasing speeds, and will certainly represent a significant part of the lap time. The drivers will need to find a flowing line through here.

After this sequence, a short straight leads to a tight left, and then a very long right-hand corner that introduces the final sequence of the lap. This corner leads onto the main straight - which is over a kilometre long - and it will be important to get a good exit as the next corner, a tight Magny-Cours style hairpin, will be a good overtaking opportunity. This slow corner leads to another straight, followed by a medium-slow left-hander leading into the second long straight and the end of the lap. These different parts of the lap will prove a good all-round test of the cars' and drivers' abilities.

Their implications for car set-up are also tricky to assess. The circuit initially demands high downforce settings to give an optimum lap time, but the penalty in lap time for reducing downforce in order to gain straight-line speed is relatively low (what we call the 'aero profile' of the circuit is relatively flat), and this means that by the time we come to race day, I think the downforce settings are more likely to be termed 'medium downforce'.

The circuit's sensitivity to engine power is very similar to that of Melbourne, that's to say in the bottom quarter of the circuits we visit but the fuel effect - the penalty in lap time for carrying a given quantity of fuel - will be quite high, largely due to the importance of the fast corners we mentioned earlier, and the average lap speed should be quicker than in Bahrain. Indeed, that circuit was also dominated by the issue of brake usage. Shanghai should be more normal in this respect, and the total braking energy is slightly below average. Equally, the long straights will give the brakes time to cool.

Looking at tyre usage, the total energy the tyres must absorb per lap is expected to be quite high. However, the race is only 56 laps - and we therefore anticipate tyre usage will be similar to the circuit such as the Nürburgring. The distribution of front/rear tyre usage should be relatively well balanced, but may be biased slightly rearwards owing to the fact that a number of the corners open out as the cars are under hard acceleration. This characteristic means that the balance of tyre usage shifts from front to rear as the cars go through the corner, which subjects the rear tyres to high lateral loadings as well as the traction demands. Equally, the acceleration out of the slower hairpins will place high stresses on the rear tyres.

The final factor to consider is the weather. The climate in Shanghai is a reasonably normal four season climate and by the end of September, we can probably expect to see maximum temperatures during the day of around 25°C. Being a port, Shanghai is obviously at sea level and therefore atmospheric pressure is normal, though the rainfall can be quite high. September is the month when the area moves out of its rainy season and while the average rainfall in October is 61mm, September sees 156 mm of rain, while we can expect to see 9 days during September with rainfall greater than 1mm. Any delay in this seasonal transition could mean changeable weather for the race weekend.

Of course, we must remember is that while such preparatory work is essential, it remains theoretical - reality can be quite different once grip levels are established, and the drivers know the lines they can take. The circuit looks to be a difficult one to learn, and we can expect a rapid evolution in lap times both as the grip levels increase and the drivers become more familiar with it. It appears to be a track where mistakes will be easy to make, and by Sunday evening, we could well view Shanghai as rather an interesting driver's circuit.

The Engineer's View with Denis Chevrier

For the engine team, preparation for a new Grand Prix such as the inaugural race in China begins on the dynamometer. Once a theoretical optimum racing line has been established using circuit maps and simulation tools, and once we have made our estimates of grip levels, we can then predict the duty cycle the engine will undergo at a given circuit. From this starting point, we run a simulation on the dyno in order to identify any defining characteristics that might potentially be troublesome for the engine.

However, from what we do already know, Shanghai will not be an "engine circuit". The duty cycle is not particularly severe, and the time spent at full throttle by the drivers is unlikely to exceed 60% of the lap - a figure that corresponds to the season average. The length of the main straight does exceed the average value, however, and is indeed relatively high at around 16 seconds - which should see the cars reaching approximately 325 or 330 kph.

Much of the rest of the circuit is very twisty, which will make the downforce compromise tricky to judge. However, the number of faster corners, combined with the high number of heavy braking and acceleration phases will make the fuel effect reasonably high - around 0.45s for an extra ten kilograms of fuel. Similarly, the numerous acceleration phases through corners which open out, and the slow speeds at which acceleration begins, mean that a strong torque curve and smooth power delivery will be essential to maintain car balance and give the drivers good speed on corner exit.

Overall, our expectations are that we will encounter an average type of circuit for the engine in Shanghai, but of course, our predictions and simulations cannot be full comprehensive, and some significant factors remain unknown at this point.

Firstly, the ambient temperatures are uncertain. It could be very hot, and the slow speeds at various points around the circuit could mean cooling become a problem, which means we will need to plan for a number of different cooling solutions.

Secondly, the wind speed and direction can always make a difference to engine performance and particularly the choice of gear ratios. Our first day's running will give us an indication of this parameter, as well as true values for corner speeds, and it may prove necessary to fine-tune our choice of gearbox ratios on Friday night prior to qualifying. The nature of the kerbs, and how much the drivers can use them at high and low speeds, will also influence this decision, as this can lead to over-revving.

One other interesting point is that the start and finish line appears to be positioned relatively close to the first corner. The run down to this tightening curve seems to be of the order of 300 metres, and this will make it particularly important to qualify well as the overtaking opportunities at the start could prove to be limited.

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