Renault Sport Racing – 2017 Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix Preview
April 6, 2017 by Renault Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
To illustrate that the 2017 season is well and truly underway, we now head to China for the start of the first back-to-back combination of races.
Race one in Australia showed that we have the pace but not necessarily the complete execution with the R.S.17. We definitely had potential to finish in the points at Albert Park, so that is what we should have achieved.
Clearly, this latest generation Formula 1 has intensified the need to deliver at maximum potential in every regard. We need to ensure that the car is in the right place at the right time, whether that our strategists finding the best clear air on track, our mechanics and every component on the car is faultless, our pit stops occurring as quickly as possible and our power unit is being harnessed in the most efficient manner possible. We must always deliver at the top of our game.
At short term, the main point is reliability.
We didn't have any ERS but we did experience other issues – most notably Jolyon's brakes in the race – so we clearly have work to do.
The big positive we take from Melbourne is that we have the pace to be where we want to be: fight for points. If we do everything right, we will fight for fifth place in the championship by the end of the season.
The performance of the power unit seems to be delivering at the level we expected and we know there is more to come. In due course we will revert to the 2017-specification MGU-K and we will also introduce upgrades but this will only happen if we achieve the reliability level we need.
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China is important for Formula 1 and it's important for Renault. It's a market of growth for Renault with Formula 1 providing part of the framework for this growth. We will have strong activations off track and then following the Grand Prix we will present something entirely new and forward-looking at the Shanghai Motor Show.
Motorsport is an area of exciting development in China with plans to double the number of FIA certified circuits over the coming decade. Renault Sport is contributing to this growth with our Road to Champion programme in conjunction with Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company and Formula Racing Development, our partner for Asian Formula Renault. Over 40,000 drivers have already applied to be part of the 2017 programme so it's a very exciting initiative. Our 2016 winner, Marcus Song Xu Jie, will be joining us in Shanghai as will Renault Sport Academy driver Sun Yue Yang.
Closer to home we have a new appointment at Enstone with Naoki Tokunaga appointed as Chief Transformation Officer from April 1. Naoki has most recently served as Technical Director at Viry and was previously Deputy Technical Director at Enstone so he knows both our operations intimately. His new role is in line with our evolving structure as we adapt to the current needs. We have now reached the 600 mark in terms of headcount at Enstone so there has been a significant increase in resource over the past 15 months.
After the R.S.17's first race, Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester looks to Shanghai with a sense of optimism.
What's the general feedback after the first race?
We feel we have made a good step forward since last year. The R.S.17 is able to fight in the mid-field. We need to improve the car balance which will come with track time. We are still learning how to get the best out of the car under the new regulations and there is a lot of potential to come.
What's on the must try harder list?
We are very early in the development curve so there's a lot of improvement to come across the board, both with car components and how we get the best out of it in terms of set-up. We didn't get the set-up balance in the sweet spot in Albert Park and that affects how much the drivers can extract from the car as well as how it uses the tyres. We need to focus on the strategy lessons learnt as finding clean air to make the most of your tyre strategy looks to be even more important than before. We need to focus on our pit stops. There are also a number of minor improvements we can make to the car. There's a big to-do list.
How did the 2017 driver line-up work in Melbourne?
Nico is new to us and he is a very quick driver with precise feedback and knows what he wants from the car. A lot of his feedback was echoed by Jolyon which makes the development path more straightforward. Jolyon was very unlucky with a difficult weekend and we didn't give him a car that was working properly and it affected him in qualifying and in the race. We have rectified the problem for China.
What's the challenge of the Shanghai International Circuit?
China is an interesting circuit in terms of layout. It's quite a demanding circuit in terms of power – especially with the long back straight. It is a relatively smooth circuit so easier to setup for in terms in terms of ride than Melbourne. As usual we will need to trade off downforce and drag to arrive at the optimum wing level. We will continue to learn more about the tyres which seem very durable.
Hulk on point
A second shy of the points in Melbourne, Nico Hülkenberg is determined to finish higher in Shanghai.
What is your frame of mind heading to China and Shanghai?
I'm going to be pushing all the way for points. Australia was slightly frustrating as we could have done better with the pace we had in the car but traffic was an issue for most of the race. Our tyre strategy didn't help us either. It looks like we're in the midfield with some of our rivals slightly ahead, but certainly in reach, and Shanghai is a very different track from Albert Park, so let's see what happens.
What's your take on racing the Shanghai International Circuit?
The track is famous for the never-ending turn-one / turn two combination. It's a tricky corner because it's easy to go in too hot, especially during qualifying, and it's a corner that eats the front-left tyre. This combination really sucks you in as the corner goes on a long time after a really fast entry, but you are shedding speed thereafter as it gets tighter and tighter in a corner that seems to go on forever before spitting you out into the downhill, tight turn three.
Historically, looking after the tyres has been hard work because turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them. The tyres and the cars are very different this year so we'll have a lot to learn on Friday this year.
The rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced set-up. There's a big long straight where you have enough time to complete your tax return and have an expresso as you're going in straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you're hard on the brakes. It's really important to get your braking right there as it's a pretty important corner.
What are your thoughts one race in with your new team?
I feel totally at home and I know we can deliver good things together. It's clearly a big operation at the start of a long adventure and it's great to be part of this. Everyone's working hard together and I know we can achieve great things in the future.
Reset and reload
After a frustrating Australian Grand Prix Jolyon Palmer is aiming for more laps and a better vibe in Shanghai
What's the plan for China?
It's a clean slate approach for me as Australia was a bit of a shocker. Fortunately the team were able to find the particular gremlin which affected me over the weekend so I'm heading to Shanghai as if it's my first race of the season. Nico's shown the race potential so let's get out there and make points happen.
What do you need?
More time in the car is all that's needed to lead to a much better weekend. It's as simple as that. Albert Park was a really frustrating start to the season so I'm looking to get more laps on the board and more progress in the race. Obviously, there were many factors out of my hands in Australia, so the team's checked over the car very carefully to ensure we don't see a repeat of any of the same issues. From my side, I'll be avoiding the walls very keenly too!
What are your thoughts of the Shanghai International Circuit?
It's a track made up of a long first corner, some fast corners in the middle sector and then a super-long back straight. To put a perfect lap together is not easy as there are a lot of different sections. We've seen some good races there in the past, degradation has been historically high – especially on the front left because of the long right-hand corners – so it will be interesting to see how the latest rubber fares.
Are you looking forward to driving the R.S.17 around there?
We should really get a keen appreciation of the downforce. In the first corner we should be able to attack with a lot more speed – and the entry to it should be pretty fruity. The middle section should also put a smile on our faces. Every track we visit this year will be exploring new limits and China should be a great example of this.
Other than the racing, what else do you look forward to in Shanghai?
There are very passionate fans in China so I'm looking forward to returning and meeting them again.
Renault Sport Racing Round-up
Renault e.dams win streak arrested
The Renault e.dams win streak of three from three in season three didn't go one better in the fourth round of the season, the Mexico City ePrix, after a tough race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Championship leader Sébastian Buemi started in seventh position, whilst team-mate Nico Prost was 13th, leaving it all to do on a shortened version of the circuit that Renault Sport Formula One Team will visit later this year.
Contact for Prost meant a front-wing replacement early in the race, but he fought back to fifth come the chequered flag, whilst an evasive spin for Buemi in a hitherto promising performance meant a finish of 14th, albeit with the solace of the race's fastest lap.
Renault e.dams remain on top of the Teams' championship, with a 31 points lead over ABT Shaeffler Audi Sport whilst Buemi still leads the Drivers' championship, with a reduced advantage of five points over rival Lucas Di Grassi.
Renault Sport Academy
The 2017 Renault Sport Academy line-up has swelled with the addition of Marta García and Christian Lundgaard.
Spaniard García, 16, finished fourth in the 2016 European CIK-FIA OK Championship and ninth in WSK OK Super Masters in 2016. She won the 2015 CIK-FIA Academy Trophy.
Dane Lundgaard, 16, finished third in the WSK Champions Cup last year. He is the 2015 CIK-FIA KFJ European Championship winner and 2015 Winter Cup OKJ winner.
García will contest the Spanish F4 Championship whilst Lundgaard will compete in the SMP F4 NEZ Championship, with both drivers racing for MP Motorsport. They join previously announced Renault Sport Academy members Jack Aitken, Max Fewtrell, Jarno Opmeer and Sun Yue Yang
Renault Sport Racing's new Chief Transformation Officer Naoki Tokunaga is a familiar face at Enstone having first entered the factory in 2000 when the Benetton name was above the door, and most recently served as Deputy Technical Director from 2010-2012. Most recently he has served at Viry as Technical Director.
The role of Chief Transformation Officer has been created to provide the guidance and strategy regarding a long-term vision for Renault Sport Racing in relation to an evolving Formula One model and regulations. Related to this is ensuring that Renault Sport Racing's global roadmap is adapted to the changing Formula One landscape. Additionally, the tasks of identifying business opportunities to leverage RSR's technologies and intellectual property both within the Renault-Nissan Alliance and externally are included.
The largest Disney Store, at 54,000 square feet, in the world is located in Shanghai.
Shanghai cooking is sweeter than other areas in China and they consume more sugar than any other part of China.
The Shanghai Marriage Market is a weekly market where parents can go to trade information about their children in hopes of finding them a suitable partner. It is held on Saturdays and Sundays at People's Park.
The longest metro system in the world spreads beneath the city of Shanghai with 365 miles (588 km) of tunnels and track. The Shanghai metro has 364 stations spread throughout the city and connecting major attractions, making it easy to navigate for international visitors. Shanghai boasts the world's fastest train.
Shanghai is the world's busiest sea port, and is an up-and-coming cruise destination, it is also known as the Pearl of the Orient and Paris of the East.
The Shanghai International Circuit is an impressive, vast facility built on former swampland with the assistance of rather a lot of polystyrene. The circuit has hosted a Grand Prix since 2004 and the local environment can throw-up a wide variety of temperature conditions. Bumpy in places, the circuit features a very long main straight, the occasional slightly banked turn and the challenging turn 1-2 decreasing radius corner combination.
Turn 1 leads straight into turn 2 and can be viewed as a single, decreasing radius corner which places a lot of load on the front tyres with understeer the enemy. Good tyre management here helps with tyre durability. The driver will be on the brakes for some 3secs in this complex, but the track can be bumpy and unsettle the car especially in the entry phase.
A high speed spoon curve taken in seventh or eighth gear. The g-forces here are around 4g as the driver accelerates while turning. Good high speed change of direction required from the car.
Braking into turn 9 is tricky – transition from high speed corners into heavy braking. Exit is important as it sets the car up for turn ten on to the following straight.
The Turn 11 to 13 complex is a mirror image of the first corner and the driver will again be on the brakes for another 2secs, giving another significant opportunity to recharge the battery.
The exit from Turn 13 is critical as the 1.3km back straight sees the ICE at maximum revs and wide open throttle for around 20secs, or approximately 20% of the lap. Getting a good exit is not easy though as the corner is banked.
The hairpin at the end of the straight requires the drivers to brake from over 320kph to just 60kph. The energy going through the brakes at this point will be massive – an average of 700kW over the 3secs braking distance. Although this is one of a few heavy braking areas around the track, these are well spread over a lap so the brakes have sufficient time to cool – it's not a harsh track on braking.
A selection a step harder than Australia sees Pirelli's Medium compound make its 2017 race debut in Shanghai. The tyres proved highly durable in Australia, but the high-speed challenge of the Shanghai International Circuit should provide a tougher workout, hence the harder rubber on offer.
Like the Great Wall of China, the Medium compound goes on and on and on. The Medium is a perfect Feng Shui, well-balanced tyre offering a compromise between performance and durability. It comes into its own on a circuit with high speeds and high loadings, both of which are found in Shanghai. Either this or the Soft must be used at least once in the race.
The Kung Fu fighter of Pirelli's range, the Soft is used at every race, striking a balance between performance and durability with the accent on performance. Either this or the Medium must be used in the race.
Mandatory in Q3 – but only optional for the race – the Supersoft is the second-softest compound in the 2017 range and capable of an explosive performance in the land that invented gunpowder, albeit with a relatively short performance duration. A reasonably fast warm-up time should be available from this low working range rubber.
Power Unit notes
◾The two long straights and bursts between corners bring the total percentage of wide open throttle time to over 52% of one lap.
◾Shanghai is unusual as there is a very long straight, but a relatively low percentage of the lap is spent at full throttle. This dichotomy is quite unusual as most circuits are one or the other: either a 'power track' such as Monza or Montreal, or 'driveability track' such as Hungary or Monaco.
◾The average speed over a lap will be 205kph, putting Shanghai in the middle of the table for lap speeds.
◾Race fuel saving will be low, one of the easiest tracks of the year in this respect.
◾Shanghai is one of the most efficient circuits and close to the maximum amount of energy will be stored in the battery per lap. This will allow us to optimize the amount of energy transferred directly from the H to the K or to the battery.
◾The circuit is situated in an industrial zone next to several factories, some of which produce concrete, which leads to a high concentration of dust particles in the air. Air filters and the turbo will be checked after each practice session to prevent blockages and, therefore, a relative loss of power.
In China we want to achieve what we didn't in Australia; make it into Q3 and finish in the points. It's a completely different circuit and last year it wasn't a great race for us so we want to do much better.