Motorsports Mondial

More Malaysian Grand preview.

Renault Sport F1 will be looking to work with its four partner teams to build on their respective strong starts to the season. Red Bull Racing scored a podium with Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne, with Mark Webber fourth, while Lotus F1 Team secured seventh with Kimi Raikkonen. Williams F1 Team had a competitive start to the year, with Pastor Maldonado racing in the top ten for the duration of the race, while Caterham F1 Team continued to edge closer to the midfield.

• The Malaysian Grand Prix presents a challenge for engines on account of the high ambient temperatures and humidity. Along with Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, the temperatures can reach over 40°C, so engine cooling becomes crucial. The high water content in the atmosphere also displaces air that could otherwise be combusted, and slows the combustion process. These both act to reduce power output, but Renault Sport F1 recreates the climatic conditions on its test cells back at Viry-Châtillon to ensure the engine is fully-optimised for Sepang.

• Monza has the highest percentage of full throttle per lap at around 75% but Sepang features two long straights that are around 850m long. Although the drivers are at full throttle for around 60% of the lap in Malaysia, the race is relatively long in terms of time. As such, the total time spent at full throttle is actually equal, if not slightly more, than at Monza – weather conditions permitting…

• The two long straights run in opposite directions, which helps to dilute the effect of any change in wind direction. Seventh gear selection is also always a compromise between performance in the race and qualifying. Optimising 7th for qualifying will result in a gear that is too long at the start of a race, when the car has a full tank of fuel.

• Wet conditions always provide a tough test for the driveability of the engine. The RSF1 engineers will monitor the on-car torque sensor, to ensure the engine is always providing the torque requested by the driver. The driver can change pedal maps in wet conditions, to help him better modulate the torque application in slippery conditions.

• Keeping the fuel temperature under control is vital in Sepang. The high ambient temperatures can cause fuel to run over the recommended temperatures, meaning a lower grade fuel must be used by engine suppliers. Renault’s fuel partner, Total, produces two types of fuel for use with the RS27. Despite the high Malaysian ambient heat, Renault’s partners are still able to use the highest spec of fuel, as Total and its customers have made progress in understanding the chemical characteristics of the fuel, as well as fuel tank insulation.

• Engines enter the second race of their life cycle. The reliability and consistent performance of the RS27 means all Renault powered drivers will be re-using the Australian engines in Malaysia.

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham F1 Team
As Malaysia’s one of our two home races we’re always given a very warm welcome when we come here and that’s extra motivation for the whole team to push on in what are clearly pretty tough conditions. As much as it’s challenging for us inside the cockpit, it’s also pretty hard on the car, with the two straights the only chance to relax through the lap. However, this year we’re running with KERS, so even that won’t be easy. We need the Renault engine to deliver responsiveness throughout the mid range, but power down those straights, plus of course the KERS to be on top form to make the most of any opportunities.

Head of Renault Sport F1 track operations Rémi Taffin gives his thoughts on Sepang
We are really looking forward to Malaysia after a competitive performance for all our partners in Australia. It’s not easy doing back to back races at such different tracks, but thanks to the support of the Viry factory and the work conducted on the dyno to optimise the RS27 for the unique Malaysian challenge, we feel very prepared.

Some 25% of the Sepang lap is comprised of straights linked by a hairpin. The straights are an average of 850m each, which means the engine will be at maximum 18,000 revs for approx 12.5 seconds of the average 1min 35sec lap. As a result, we need to deliver engines that have strong top end power. Additionally the straights also provide passing opportunities, so delivering fully functional KERS can be crucial to gaining places. In Australia we were disappointed that we had KERS issues with Red Bull and Caterham, but we have looked carefully at the reasons for the failures and feel we are on top of them now.

The corners either side of the two straights are largely fast and flowing, giving an average speed of 210kph, which also require RSF1 engineers to deliver driveability and responsiveness. This is typically one of the main features of the RS27 so we are quite confident going to this second round of the championship.

Motorsports Mondial

Photo: gp2media

GP2 Malaysia Race Preview

The newly rebranded Caterham Racing embark on the first race of the GP2 season this weekend in Malaysia, the first home race of the season for the Anglo-Malaysian team. The unique atmosphere around one of the most technical circuits of the calendar is a favourite amongst drivers, with the combination of long high-speed straights and tight twisting complexes making the track a tough challenge, but wide enough to create plenty of overtaking opportunities.

Following six days of testing in Jerez and Barcelona the series joins Formula One for the second Grand Prix of the year, with the team’s drivers Giedo van der Garde and Rodolfo Gonzalez both looking forward to the first race of the year in the sweltering Malaysian conditions.

Phill Spencer “I think the whole team is looking forward to getting back to racing. Winter testing went very well with Giedo on the pace straight away and Rodolfo and getting up to speed quickly. We have been working hard on all elements of our race weekends over the winter, in particular focusing on our pitstops, and we have a lot to look forward to in our second season. I feel more confident this time around. The organisation, procedures and the car are second nature to us and if we start this season as we did in 2011 we are in good shape and should be heading for podiums.”

Rodolfo Gonzalez “I am really excited to be in Malaysia for the first event of the season, particularly because the weather here is nice and warm, just like home! After the tests in Spain I have been focusing on all aspects of my race weekend and I am looking forward to putting it all into practice here – my driving, qualifying strategy, the set ups – we just have to get right and put it all together. We want to see progress this weekend and qualify as far up the grid as possible – that’s a reasonable goal and one that gives us something to aim for.

“The track here is good – there are some tough braking points and as the track temperature today was 48 degrees it will definitely be tough on the tyres. It will be interesting to see if people fall off the pace due to tyre degradation during the races this weekend and strategy will be even more important here, especially with the use of the new tyre compounds. Whatever happens, I am sure the competition is going to be as tough as ever and we’ll do the best job we can to fight, right from day one.”

Giedo van der Garde “I am feeling pretty confident and the team is too. We had six very good, productive days of testing and I feel happy with where we are at the moment. I raced here a long time ago and personally I think this is a nice track to compete on. The surface is very smooth and it’s pretty technical – a lot of the corners blend into one another and it doesn’t have a lot of the long straight / slow corner we see elsewhere, so it’s pretty different to the tracks we have been testing at. You have to be fit here because of the heat and humidity and this will have a big effect during the race, but I’m feeling really good – I’ve been training hard and I’m sure I’ll deal with the heat just fine. The most important thing now is to be at the front in qualifying and from there work hard on the race.”

Humphrey Corbett “I am really looking forward to this weekend. We have prepared for this race extremely well and I am very happy with how our cars are performing in both qualifying and race trim. We have done some very quick pit stops recently, but we need to be more consistent – every second counts so we have been working hard on making sure we can be the best in the pitlane at every aspect of a race weekend. The drivers seem happy in qualifying and race modes and it will be very interesting to see during races who has done their homework and who manages to look after their tyres well.  Many of the teams seemed to be doing a lot of qualifying runs in testing and not many long runs. We took the opposite approach so I am keen to see what happens here where managing the tyres will be key to successful races.

“Last season GP2 was very new to me, I have been here many times in the past with Formula One and know the track well, so now with a season under our belt I feel a lot more relaxed approaching this race. We have good people right across the team, two good drivers and a lot of reasons to be positive about the year ahead.”