Renault Sport F1 Belgium Grand Prix preview

Renault Sport F1 Belgium Grand Prix preview

23.08.2016: FORMULA 1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX Circuit Spa - Francorchamps After a very busy start to the year it was good to take some

Circuit Spa - Francorchamps

After a very busy start to the year it was good to take some time to sit back and look at our journey since December 2015. In just over eight months we have revitalised two sites, started an aggressive recruitment campaign to build the workforce, initialised a re-build plan for Enstone, scored our first points and laid down some strong foundations for the future.

Naturally we still have a long way to do until we reach our objectives, but we are on track with the plan to get there.

Realistically in 2016 we will only be taking small steps as our main focus is now shifting to 2017 and beyond. Just before the shutdown we were on the tail of the midfield and able to fight for position; we still have a number of minor planned developments coming on stream in the later races so keeping this level of performance has got to be our objective for Spa and beyond.

We’re motivated and believe we have the structure and tools to do it. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but Formula 1 never is!

Additionally, Esteban joining Manor Racing for the last nine races of the season demonstrates the excellent relationship the two teams, Renault Sport Formula One Team and Mercedes AMG Petronas, have maintained for several years.

It is an outstanding opportunity for Esteban to gather mileage and race experience in a young, stable and very professional team. Esteban will be up against a highly rated and quick teammate, which will enable us to evaluate him in a representative environment. I hope this experience will be of great benefit for him and for Renault in the near future.”

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

The devil is in the detail

Team Principal Fred Vasseur evaluates the good and the bad of Hockenheim and looks forward to the second part of the year, which starts in Spa-Francorchamps.

Did you take anything positive away from the German Grand Prix?

The team is now in a period where we are moving forward. In the German race we fought with Haas and Toro Rosso, which shows our overall level has improved. However, we made an error in strategy, which cost one or two places. We made two stops, which was not an issue, but we did the two stops at the wrong time.

 Nevertheless there were some strong positives – we got to Q2 with Jo and punched above our weight in the race. We now need to keep fighting with the same competition and adapt our strategy moving forward.

What would you like to see from the team in the second part of the season?

If you look at the last two or three events, we are improving but we need to be focussed on the smaller details. We need to look at set-up and strategy and make sure we are doing a better job compared to the last events. We also need to understand tyre management a bit better.

Over the last two or three races we have looked at it a lot and we have a much better understanding now, so we need to keep on with this trajectory. We are improving on the grid but if you look at race pace we are always better off than in qualifying. This means we need to get more from the Saturday situation.

 We are going in the right direction but we need to find two or three tenths and it is in the smaller details we need to improve and find it.

When can we expect a decision on the 2017 line-up?

This is a question we will get asked until we announce the drivers, and maybe even afterwards! At the moment our focus is to keep getting the best from the car. We have two drivers that are motivated so the second part of the year is to keep track of expectations and see where we are.

In reality we won’t take any decision before September for sure – we have no time! But it is up to us and we will take a decision when we are ready.


Circuit notes

T1 - The lap begins with the slowest corner on the 4.352 mile lap – La Source.

T3 - The run down to Eau Rouge and into Raidillion creates extreme suspension compression as the relief changes from downhill to uphill. Good engine power is required for the uphill drag.

T7 - Using the gradient in the braking area to Les Combes, overtaking is easily possible here.

T10 - A series of more technical corners at Bruxelles and Rivage, where mechanical grip is important.

T12 - Pouhon is a fast flowing, double-apex left hand turn, which is exited flat out before the flow of Campus.

T15 - The two right hand corners at Stavelot and Paul Frere are crucial to optimize momentum up through the blind Blanchimont corner which is flat-out. Precision in placing the car is paramount here.

T19 - The final chicane, formerly known as Bus Stop, is a tight right and left, which is an overtaking possibility on entry.

Power Unit notes

-    Spa is the hardest circuit of the year for the Power Units. Over 65% of the 7km track is spent flat out, which translates as around 73secs per lap, the longest accumulative wide open throttle time of the year. The first period of sustained throttle is the climb from the La Source hairpin to the chicane at Les Combes. It takes around 25secs with the driver flat on the throttle throughout. The distance is only slighter shorter than a runway at Charles de Gaulle airport.

-    The track drops over 40m from La Source before climbing over 80m back to Les Combes, equivalent to a gradient of 1 in 4, or one of the steepest mountain climbs in the Tour de France. The descent compresses the internals but going over the crest of the hill, the vertical force is suddenly lifted and the parts unloaded, with the vertical forces switching to -3g. It can be equated to the feeling on a rollercoaster drop when your body feels compressed and pushed down into the seat but weightless when you go over a bump.

-    The turbo will be rotating at close to its maximum to keep pace with the high rotational speeds of the ICE. The altitude will further increase rpm. At its most extreme the turbo will be spinning at more than 95,000rpm or over 1,500 revs per second!

-    Spa is one of the most demanding tracks on the MGU-K. Each of the braking points comes after a long burst of power so the energy dissipated through the brakes is enormous. The best opportunity for the MGU-K to recover energy is the Bus Stop chicane, which the driver approaches at over 300kph and brakes down to just 75kph.

-    High-speed flowing corners such as Pouhon and Fagnes are the best opportunities for the MGU-H to recover energy. It will feed this energy to the MGU-K and ICE on the next period of throttle through Blanchimont. 

Tyre choice

Medium: Milk chocolate: a good all-rounder that satisfies most needs.

Soft: White chocolate: initially hits the sweet spots but prone to melting quickly.

Supersoft: A soft praline with a very gooey centre.

Memory Lane

Formula 1 returned to a shortened version of the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the 1983 Belgian Grand Prix after a 13 year absence. It remained a massive challenge, with the hills and long straights making it an instant power track. The turbocharged cars had a slight advantage, which Alain Prost used to great effect.

The Frenchman steered his Renault to pole over Alfa Romeo’s Andrea de Cesaris, but he lost the lead off the start. Prost re-took the lead when Alfa Romeo fumbled their pit stop, but the challenge disappeared when de Cesaris’ engine blew. Prost held on to take an easy victory, 23 seconds over Patrick Tambay’s Ferrari.

Quirky facts

If you are playing the ‘Famous Belgians’ game, spare a thought for Walter Arfeuille, who set a Guinness World Record in 1990 for lifting 281.5kg a distance of 17cm off the ground with his teeth.

Then on 9 June 1996 he pulled eight railway passenger coaches with a combined weight of 223.8 tonnes a distance of 3.2m along a track with his teeth. It was only broken in 2003. Unfortunately, Walter was sent to prison for two years in October 2002 for dealing in drugs.

The highest point in Belgium is lower than the world's tallest building – the Signal de Botrange on the High Fens plateau in far-east Belgium is the highest point at 694m, shorter than the world's tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa at 828m.

Belgium’s highway can be seen from the moon – the almost 100 percent-lit highway network is one of the few man-made structures seen that far at night.

Belgium has been producing chocolate for almost 400 years. The first evidence of chocolate production in Belgium dates back to 1635. Today Belgium produces over 173,000 tons of the stuff a year and has an estimated 2,000 chocolate shops.

Belgian national dish ‘les frites’ was wrongly given the name ‘French Fries’ by American servicemen when they arrived in Belgium at the end of the First World War. They named the fries after the French language spoken in Wallonia, creating confusion with the invention’s nationality. A good frite has to be 1 cm square, rectangular, and fried twice.


A balancing act

Chief technical officer Bob Bell looks at juggling 2017 objectives and the team’s long-term goals with an improving 2016 performance.

We’re just over the halfway point of the season and you’ve had a little over six months to have a good look at the team. How would you review everything so far?

It’s been a genuine challenge. Clearly we are not as competitive as we would have liked, but in some respects we are not surprised at this form. All teams are finding it hard to unlock real performance gains, partly due to the current stability in regulations that makes it tricky to find the final parts of the puzzle.

It’s also partly due to a concerted effort on 2017, which will see big regulation changes. It’s not just hard for us, but for everyone on the grid. That said, we have been very good at finding our strong points and exploiting them, and since Hungary we have seen some genuine progress.

What would you rate as the team’s strong points?

Firstly, there is the very obvious point that we are a works’ team and can shape the destiny of our engine and chassis. This is only shared by Mercedes and Ferrari, so it’s a real advantage. We can fully integrate the two different areas and make the sum of the whole more than the sum of its parts. It is an important facet of our performance and we need to be able to exploit it better than others.

Secondly there is the heritage of the team and the hunger for championship success. I can see a real determination to return to the same levels of success. Even though we need to build up to winning, you can see there is a drive, will and experience to recapture what we achieved in the past.

Since Renault returned we have also had increased investment flowing into the team. Some tired facilities have, or will be, refreshed, the sites are being developed and we are building up the headcount. This is all part of a long-term plan as some areas, particularly recruitment, take time to come on stream.

You mentioned that 2017 is a big challenge. With half of 2016 already run, how do you split resources in the second part of the year?

It’s a difficult call to decide on the resource split and it really depends on your aspirations for 2016 versus your aspirations for 2017 to decide when to switch. As per most teams we are now winding up 2016 and putting all our effort into 2017.

Spa is a fearsome challenge on the calendar. How do you think the team will fare in Belgium?

Spa is the longest track of the year at 7km and very fast with a good mix of high and medium speed corners, sweeping sections and some low speed corners in the mix. There’s also elevation changes and you always have unpredictable weather too! It will be difficult for us, but the work we have done in the last races should stand us in good stead.

We’ve got a better handle on car balance and I think we should be able to keep our current level of performance. We’ve not got a major upgrade, but we should see the progress made in the last two races transfer forward to Spa. We fought with Haas and Toro Rosso and I think we are capable of getting on their tails again.

There will be some developments coming through that were scheduled to come on stream in the second part of the year so even though our focus will primarily be on 2017 after the shutdown, we should still be able to improve upon our current level of form.

- Renault also photos


23.08.2016 / MaP

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