Wednesday, June 26, 2013

British GP Preview - Renault

Renault Sport F1 preview the British Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2013 Formula 1 world championship, at Silverstone.

Silverstone Circuit: three corners in detail

The Loop

This tight left hand corner was added when the circuit layout was revised for the 2010 British Grand Prix. Preceded by Village, a slow 2nd gear right hander taken at around 110kph, The Loop is the slowest corner on the circuit. Also taken in 2nd gear, the drivers slow down to between 85-90kph to negotiate this tricky corner. It is vitally important to get a good exit here, as it leads directly into Aintree, easily flat in the dry, and then the ensuing Wellington Straight. Delivering the exact torque requested by the driver to allow him to control his wheel slip and maximise the available traction is the key task for the engine engineer at this point. Last year’s winner Mark Webber was able to exploit this to the maximum, getting alongside Fernando Alonso down the Wellington Straight before outbraking him around the outside into Brooklands.

Much has been written about the Maggots and Becketts complex of curves and rightly so, but Copse, the right hander that precedes them, is equally impressive. At 265kph it is the second fastest corner on the circuit after Maggots, the latter actually being taken flat out. The drivers approach Copse at around 300kph in 7th, sometimes shifting down to 6th for the blind entry, only very lightly kissing the brakes to avoid upsetting the balance of the car, before almost immediately applying full throttle at the exit. The time taken from the driver lifting off to being fully back on it again is less than one second. The challenge for Renault’s engine engineers is therefore to allow the engine to effectively function as a switch, going from “fully off” to “fully on” almost instantaneously.

Vale is the last big stop of the lap, with drivers typically attempting to exploit the braking zone as much as possible to find that last extra tenth in Qualifying. In contrast to The Loop, the drivers approach Vale at high speed, typically around 275-280kph. Braking hard, it is possible to lock the rear wheels and compromise the entry and, in so doing, the exit. The drivers carry forward this penalty into Club, the 180° opening right hander that leads them onto the start finish straight. Get this corner right and the driver can be up a tenth, get it wrong and he can easily lose half a second. Engine engineers can help by providing the correct level of overrun support to stabilise the rear under braking, but they face almost the same conundrum! Too little and the driver locks the rears, too much and the driver struggles to slow the car down, potentially then locking the fronts.

RĂ©mi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations:
Even with the addition of the new slow loop, Silverstone remains one of the toughest challenges on the calendar for the engine. A touch over 60% of the lap is spent at full throttle and the average speed is well over 200kph. The numerous high speed corners challenge the RS27, particularly the sweeping Maggots-Beckett-Chapel complex where average speeds are around 250kph and no lower than 190kph at any one point. These speeds and changes of direction put huge lateral forces through the car so the oil and fuel systems have to be resilient as the fluids are squashed from side to side. Particular attention is paid to the oil circuit and fuel collector, especially towards the end of the race to avoid engine starvation.

With four straights on the circuit, we work towards delivering correct gear ratios at the higher revs to get powerful acceleration and outright power. The Hangar Straight is the longest of the straights at 875m and top speeds peak at 310kph so it is important to hit vMax just before the braking zone for Stowe, a fourth gear right hander. The notorious British weather may however have an impact on ratio selection as the wind direction can change very quickly, meaning more or less time spent at the limiter.

As much as we talk about the fast corners, we also need to address the slower stops, such as Club and the new Loop, which reduce the average speed and demand driveability and low-rev response. It’s a balance to get right, but the flexibility of the RS27 plays dividends at these types of circuits.

With all our teams based in the UK this GP does feel like another home race. In this respect we will be aiming to do as well as we can to achieve everyone’s potential in front of the home crowd. (Renault)

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