The Formula 1 World Championship lands in Singapore this week for the 14th race of the 2012 season.
The challenge of racing at night and negotiating the tricky 23-turn street track, poses unique difficulties. With the vast majority of turns taken at low speed, a neutral set-up is critical to the perfect lap and the perfect race. As Renault Sport F1 engine engineer for Red Bull Racing David Mart explains, the role of the engine engineer is a crucial piece of a larger puzzle that sees everyone aiming to maximise their own areas to give the driver exactly the set-up he wants from his car.
The work between engine supplier and team begins even before arriving at the track. In the days leading up to the race, simulations and dyno tests carried out at Viry Châtillon produce huge volumes of data that is collated and sent to the individual teams to help them take an initial decision on set-up.
“The initial information that we collate at the factory goes into a brief report, which outlines operation for the event. It is sent the week before the race and includes data from the simulations we run at the factory,” David divulges. “It takes input from laps we did the previous year and from data for the current car at the other circuits this year. This allows us to predict fuel consumption and the effect of engine performance for the track layout.
“You will also predict engine temperatures from data you’ve collected and thus what cooling levels you think the car needs to start on. There are different blanking options on different panels of the car and that allows you various options going into the sessions to cool the engine and gearbox. Also the gear ratios will be predicted. All these baseline settings are then tested during the practice sessions at the track.”
From these practice sessions onward, there are numerous briefing and de-briefing sessions over the weekend, during which any alterations are discussed and any planned changes proposed.
“The actual briefings are broken up between everyone involved. It will start with the driver and then their engineers and performance engineers will relate their findings, and the relevant engineers will discuss aerodynamics and then we’ll look at the engine, gearbox and KERS. We’ll decide if the cooling levels are adequate and if we need to make a change, and obviously we’ll get a better idea on fuel consumption and be able to amend our predictions.”
With the ban on in-season testing, the quality of simulation work has reached such a high level that teams arrive at tracks with a pretty clear idea of what needs to be done and what set-ups need to be tried. As David explains, there are rarely many calls for any major amendments.
“It is very rare that you will deviate from what has been established in simulations as being the optimum for the track. It is usually just fine tuning.
This is where the relationship between the chassis engineers and engine engineers needs to be seamless as each relies on the other to feed information to get the maximum from their own specific area. As David explains, this is key to getting the most from the weekend.
“Some of the jobs that the chassis engineers do and that we as engine engineers do, interlink. We both react to driver feedback as to how the weekend and the direction of set-up has developed. On the engine side we’ll work on pedal maps, improving response in the provision of power.
“We also react to changes to the set-up such as a shift in aerodynamics. We have to be constantly aware of set-up changes, because that will affect how the power needs to be delivered. For instance, if a big change is made in terms of downforce levels, and the guys are looking for longer at full throttle or higher top speeds, then we might need to look at ratios, how the engine behaves in cruise at the end of the straight and then throttle maps to ensure that we are taking advantage of the increased window we’ve been afforded by a set-up change from an engine perspective. It is an iterative process until we arrive at the perfect set-up for the driver that allows him to put together his perfect lap.”