How to prepare for a new track with Alan Permane
The addition of a brand new circuit to the F1 calendar is always exciting prospect and this weekend’s inaugural Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam certainly has all the ingredients for an entertaining race.
It’s an anti-clockwise circuit with a diverse mix of corners, long straights, and genuine overtaking opportunities. But what are the challenges faced by the team when getting to grips with a new circuit and how does the team prepare for the unknown?
“Our initial preparations began many months ago when the FIA provided all the teams with a detailed circuit map,” explains Chief Race Engineer Alan Permane. “From this we were able to create a digital representation of the track and then asked our drivers to add what they believe to be the correct racing line.”
With a virtual lap in place, the team has spent the last month running virtual simulations to get a head start on the set-up required for Yeongam. “The simulations allow us to assess the best aero levels, suspension settings, ride heights and even sensitivity to fuel load,” confirms Alan. “There are lots of unknowns, such as the grip level of the tarmac, surface bumps, or the camber of the road, but we still have a fairly good idea of the set-up we will need before we arrive at the track.”
So what have the simulations revealed so far? Well, the projected lap time is 1min 44 seconds and the cars will be on full throttle for 55% of the lap and on the brakes for 20%. The average speed will be 195 km/h, with a top speed of 315 km/h on the 1.15 km straight between turns two and three. As for the corners, turn eight is probably the quickest of the lap with an apex speed of 235 km/h, while turn three is the slowest corner, expected to be taken at just 65 km/h.
This level of preparation means that the engineering approach to Friday practice won’t need to change massively from the norm, although the drivers may run more laps in FP1 to learn the track. For the engineers, one of the main priorities will be determining the gear ratios, especially for second, third and fourth gears. Although the ratios for FP1 have already been selected, it will make for a busy lunch hour in the garage if changes are needed for FP2.
In terms of the aero set-up, it won’t be far off the settings used at Suzuka: “The downforce needed will be on the high side and we plan to run with the same wing package we used in Suzuka,” confirms Alan. “There are a couple of high-speed corners, such as turns seven and eight, which remind me of turns five and six at Sepang. They involve a quick change of direction and we expect turn seven will be flat, while turn eight will be almost flat. It will also be important to maximise the f-duct for the long straights because there are a couple of good overtaking opportunities into turns one and three.”
Another significant characteristic of the lap is the number of low-speed, technical corners, such as the sequence from turns four to six or turns 15 and 16 towards the end of the lap. Getting the right balance through these corners will be critical for a quick lap.
“For these corners you need a nimble car with a good turn-in and good traction,” says Alan. “It’s important the car works well in these sorts of corner because it’s where the most significant lap time gains can be found.”