Motorsports Mondial

Renault Sport F1 Preview to the Spanish GP

The Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth event on the 2011 calendar, is held at the Circuit de Catalunya in the hills around the vibrant city of Barcelona. It’s well known to the teams from the time they spend there during winter testing – this year eight days in total, with each of Renault Sport F1’s teams covering an average of 450km per day.

The reliability and performance of the RS27 has so far secured three out of four wins for Renault Sport F1’s partners Red Bull Racing, and four consecutive pole positions. Renault Sport F1 will be looking to keep this form going in Spain, where it has a good track record of results. Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber won from pole position last season with team-mate Sebastian Vettel third, plus a Renault engine was victorious in 2006 with Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella third. In fact, over the past 10 Spanish GPs, a Renault engine has finished on the podium eight times.

Renault engines have scored an average of 47.5 points per race this year over its partner teams Red Bull Racing, Lotus Renault GP and Team Lotus – that’s higher than the points for a 1-2 result.

A lap of Spain from an engine point of view:

The 4.655km Circuit de Catalunya is a medium downforce, middle of the road track for the engines. Nevertheless there are some careful RS27 preparations specifically for the Spanish Grand Prix:

Sector one

The 1km pit straight, where the cars will reach over 300kph and maximum rev limit, leads into the first corner, a medium speed right hander that requires a shift down into third gear. The interesting part about this corner is that the driver accelerates through the mid corner to the exit into the second and third turns, which combine to form one long corner. Driveability through this turn is particularly important as the cars will be subject to a lot of lateral forces that can affect the acceleration of the car if the engine map is not optimised. To do so, Renault Sport F1 engineers work to create an engine map that can be used with a relatively short shift gearbox map to counteract the lateral forces. As this corner goes uphill as well, short shift is crucial to make the most of the acceleration.

Sector two

The Repsol corner starts the second sector, a flowing sector that is nevertheless hard on the tyres due to the long, flowing nature of the corners and the fact that the drivers run onto the kerbs through this section. With cars making up to four stops in a race now, fuel consumption needs to be carefully managed.

Sector three

The newest sector of the track, with a new chicane that needs effective engine braking but also responsiveness as the cars brake down to approx 60kph before accelerating hard into the final corner, a radial turn leading onto the pit straight. This last corner, a flowing right hander, is where the driver will carefully get on the gas, building the power through the corner until he reaches the pit straight where he will go through the gears to hit maximum power and revs at the end of the straight.

Did you know…

A Renault Sport F1 RS27 engine is carefully monitored to get its maximum power in qualifying and the race where performance is critical. An engine that has run 1,000km or less may give a lap time improvement of up to 0.2secs over the course of a lap: which is why careful engine management becomes key. Engines that have been used in two races or more will typically only be used in free practice where the focus of the programme is more geared to calibrating set up for the entire race weekend rather than outright lap time.

Q&A with Rob White, deputy managing director (technical)

We are now entering into the timeframe where a lot of teams introduce aero upgrades or mechanical modifications. How does this affect Renault’s work as an engine supplier to these teams?

As the spec of the engine is frozen, the core of what we do does not change if our partner teams introduce new aero parts or significant mechanical changes – we still have a responsibility to deliver a driveable engine that can produce the appropriate amount of torque and power when required. However some changes may have an impact on how this power can be delivered. For example we may have to tweak an engine map or setting. To do this, we work closely with the chassis teams to develop the maps that we believe will satisfy their objectives and then test these settings on one of the test dynos in Viry to quantify both its reliability and performance. Upgrades are planned well in advance by each team so we factor them in when we organise the testing schedules and then the testing itself.

Will the teams’ engines be changed for this race?

For each of our partners we are going to use the same Friday engine we have used in all Friday practices since the start of the season since our aim is to use as many new engines in qualifying and races. We will then introduce new ones for qualifying and the race in Spain. For the Monaco GP we’ll revert back to the engines used in China and Turkey – Monaco isn’t a race that is particularly hard on the engines as it’s low speed and the shortest race of the year at 260km rather than the standard 300km distance. We’re on target with the predicted mileage for each of our partner cars and so far have been able to stick to our initial plan.

Barcelona gives the engine a pretty good workout, but Monaco is the opposite end of the scale. How hard is it to get prepare an engine for back to back races that are so difficult?

In actual fact the preparation for two races is very similar regardless of the configuration of the circuit. We run the test engines on the dyno to check for reliability and performance and then we install the maps that work. Monaco is challenging for other reasons – the logistics are hard, the garages are tight and there are more chances for a driver to get it wrong but for us we approach the races the same as we do any other back to back events.