Chinese GP: Renault Sport F1 preview

Renault Sport F1

Apr.13 (Renault Sport F1) The third event on the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix, takes place from 15 – 17 April, just one week after the Malaysian Grand Prix. The 56 lap race is held at the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit, on the outskirts of China’s largest and most densely populated city.

Renault Sport F1 will be looking to repeat the form of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix in this race, which saw partners Red Bull Racing seal its second victory of the year. The win was the 17th for the partnership since it started in 2007 and, including the last races of 2010, its fourth consecutive win. So far this season, the RS27 Renault engine has now scored a total of 102 points between its partner teams.

In last year’s Chinese Grand Prix Red Bull Racing locked out the front row of the grid, however rain during the race mixed up the order and McLaren took a 1-2 finish. The highest RS27 finisher was Renault F1 Team’s Robert Kubica in fifth position, with a train of Renault-engined drivers directly behind: Vettel sixth, Vitaly Petrov seventh and Mark Webber eighth.

Quick focus on China…

The Shanghai International Circuit is about in the middle of the table for the stresses it puts on engines. There is only one real straight where the engine is pushed to its most severe usage. Given the number (16) and type of corners, cars require a high aero downforce configuration and the engine is used at relatively lower revs for the rest of the lap.

The quick turnaround between Malaysia and China is just as well prepared at Viry as it is in the teams’ own HQs. Although preparations for the Chinese Grand Prix started well before the start of the season, fine tuning continues right until – and in fact throughout – a race weekend. Immediately after the Malaysian Grand Prix race, RSF1 had an engine on the dyno to iron out small issues from the Sepang race and to continue engine and exhaust optimisation work before Shanghai. One engine is used but the exhausts and inlets are changed according to the configuration of each team’s car. The results from the team-specific tests are then fed into that team of engineers at the track. This test engine will also be tested during race events to support the information gathered by Renault engineers on site at races. This ‘doubling up’ of work also means problems may be anticipated before they occur and development continues even when the engines are out on track.

The circuit layout, resembling the Chinese character Shang or ‘high’ from an overhead view, has a mix of corners, from tight hairpins, flowing curves, radial turns and two straights. The constant changes of direction mean engine mapping is extremely important to give the drive out of the corners. Turns 12 and 13, the radial corner that leads onto the longest straight on the circuit, demand particular attention.

Shanghai has one of the longest straights on the F1 calendar. Gear ratios are therefore carefully calculated to trade off acceleration and maximum speed taking account of aero set-up, engine power, weather, KERS and DRS usage. Short ratios favour acceleration; a longer top gear ratio permits higher maximum speed. Engineers will therefore work to create a car and engine set-up that deals with all the circumstances of qualifying and the race aiming to optimise the overall performance.

Did you know…

When a driver applies the DRS on a straight, the amount of drag created by the rear wing is suddenly reduced. This means that for the same engine power the car accelerates more and reaches a higher top speed. RSF1 engineers estimate that the application of the DRS will result in an RPM increase of up to 1000 RPM at the end of the straight.

Q&A Rob White, Renault Sport F1

Rob White (GBR) Renault Engine Director. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 2 April 2010.

Rob White

Two races, two great results for the RS27. Each of the packages seem to be working well.
White: We’re really pleased with the last two races. Two out of two wins for our partners Red Bull Racing and two podiums for Lotus Renault GP is a fantastic result for both teams and all of RSF1 at Viry-Châtillon. To achieve these kind of results, the chassis, driver and engine all need to be at the top of their game and we’re delighted we are to be able to play our part. All the same we have identified areas where we can improve so no one is complacent. We are also proud of our newest partner, Team Lotus, as the progress they have made is impressive. Racing established teams in the second race of their second season is genuinely promising. We’ve tried to approach this new partnership in a very open way and give them the benefit of our experience, hopefully this last race shows it is paying dividends.

We saw each of the Renault-engined teams reusing their Australia engines in Malaysia. Will these engines be re-used in China?
White: At present we plan to use the Australia/Malaysia engines for all of our teams during FP1 and FP2 in China before using new ones from FP3 onwards. We take a different approach from some engine suppliers as we plan to use the majority of engines for two races only. Of course mathematically with 19 races we need to use at least three engines three times, but if all goes well we will only use the remaining five for two full race weekends and one practice day.

What are your aims for the Chinese Grand Prix?
White: We’ve set the bar very high during the first two races and now want to keep on this track: we’d be disappointed not to be on the podium now! Our role is to seek zero-defect reliability with fully competitive performance to ensure our partners have the best possible chance of realising this. We remain focused to manage any underlying issues and continue to work towards the optimisation of the performance of each team’s engine installed in the car.