Renault Sport F1 – a lap at Monaco

May 25, 2011

Held on the roads of Monte Carlo, the 3.340km circuit tracks around some of the most famous streets in the Principality, passing famed landmarks including the casino and harbour packed with some of the world’s largest boats.

For Renault Sport F1 this is something of a home race and one where it has achieved some of its most notable results as an engine supplier. In 2010 the RS27 sealed a 1-2-3 result with Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber winning from pole position, Sebastian Vettel second and Renault F1 Team’s Robert Kubica third. Renault engines have taken three other victories in Monaco; in 1995 with Michael Schumacher (Benetton-Renault), in 2004 with Jarno Trulli and 2006 with Fernando Alonso (both Renault F1 Team). A Renault engine has also started from pole ten times.

A lap of Monaco from an engine point of view:

The Monte Carlo street track is demanding on drivers, teams and engines as they seek to find an optimum set up to negotiate the bumpy, tortuous streets of the Principality. In fact the average speed is the lowest of the season, just 160kph, and top speed just 290kph.

Sector one

The run to the first corner from pole position is the shortest of the season: only 140 metres. The pole sitter will cover this distance in approximately four seconds, which will not give a significant amount of time for KERS to be activated fully. Drivers then brake down to just 105kph for the Sainte Devote first corner before quickly getting back on the power for the short climb up through Beau Rivage to Casino Square. A responsive engine is key here and engine maps will be designed to work with short gear ratios to hit the rev limit at the top of the hill. KERS could be used effectively on this ‘straight’ during the race, but its effects will be counteracted by the steep gradient leading from Ste Devote to Casino – cars will climb over 30m in just 10secs.

Sector two

It’s particularly bumpy through this section and the cars run off line going down from Casino into the Mirabeau to avoid a particularly large bump. It’s not just that the balance is thrown out over a bump – running directly over the middle makes the car temporarily ‘take off’. Even if it’s just for a nano second, with no load running through the wheels the engine suddenly hits the rev limiter, which puts the internal parts under huge stress.

From the Mirabeau the cars plunge down to the Grand Hotel Hairpin (formally called the Loews hairpin), which sees the engine running at the lowest speed and revs it reaches on track at any point in the year; just 44kph through the tight hairpin and around 4,000rpm. The torque and responsiveness of the engine here are crucial as large chunks of time can be won or lost by the entry and exit speeds. The driver needs to know that when he puts his foot on the gas that the engine will respond to his command.

The cars then take a right hand turn into the fastest section of the track – the tunnel section, where the cars will be at top speed and maximum rev limit for around eight or nine seconds. Again, a responsive engine that has correct maps through the lower revs is crucial to getting up to speed - there’s only 670m from the exit of Portiers to the chicane after the tunnel. Cars will be heading at around 290kph at their quickest through this section. In theory KERS could be used here, but principally only for defending a position rather than for overtaking – going off line here is seriously dirty work.

While the tunnel section provides a welcome breath of air for the engine as it reaches the top speed, it’s not clean air – the enclosed nature of the tunnel means the air going into the engine through the airbox is as hot as the ambient temperatures seen in Malaysia or Abu Dhabi.

Sector three

The final section between Tabac and the finish line contains the most amount of corners and therefore demands engine responsiveness. The drivers need to know that the engine will deliver the power when they need it so they can be millimetre perfect through the swimming pool and Rascasse corners back onto the main straight.

View from Rémi Taffin, head of Renault Sport F1 track operations:

In terms of man power hours Monaco is the race that RSF1 engineers spend the most time preparing – anything from two to four days in the dyno and the design office compared to around one day for an average race such as China.

Although the lap is the shortest of the season and the engine spends a relatively short amount of time at full throttle – just over 50% of the lap as opposed to China where this figure will be closer to 70% - the challenge is to deliver a highly responsive, driveable engine through the entry and exit to the slow corners. As such engineers work on maps that target torque through the lower rev limits of the engine (around 15 – 17,000rpm) rather than the top end (16 – 18,000rpm).

This sheer number of turns round the track means that the engine also isn’t given any ‘time off’ and, as a result cooling becomes crucial. We can’t afford to put any cooling holes or additional louvre panels to help out – the tight corners demand such high downforce settings that every bit of bodywork affects performance.

The challenge is to get the driver to a confidence level where he doesn’t even comment on the engine, that is, he knows that it’s doing what he wants it to do. If you’ve done this you know you’ve done your job!

Did you know…

Engine engineers allow the driver to control the amount of fuel burned throughout the race using different setting maps activated by dials on the steering wheel. It’s always a balancing act as the team seeks to gain performance through the fuel usage but also finish the race with as little fuel as possible. With the advent of KERS, DRS, increased tyre wear and more frequent pitstops in 2011 it has become much more difficult to predict the fuel consumption on each lap. As a result the driver has to change fuel settings on average three times more frequently than 2010 to optimize the fuel load at the end of the race.