Racing along the streets in this usually sleepy, if intensely glamorous Principality, over a course that has changed little over the years, the Monaco Grand Prix is a race like no other. Given the unique characteristics of the track, it is unsurprising that from an engine perspective Monaco provides Renault Sport F1 with one of the most individual challenges of the season.
As head of track operations Rémi Taffin explains, “In Monaco it isn’t just the steering wheel that the driver needs to turn the car, it is the engine. The driver needs parity from the engine at all times; he needs that confidence to be able to attack.
“The main challenge in Monaco is the extremely low speed the cars run at over the lap, so we run the engine in ways we never usually run it during the rest of the year. You must bear in mind that an engine capable of running at 18,000rpm will be run as low as 5,000rpm in the slowest corners in Monaco. It’s a big challenge, and it is not easy. To get it right, we run more cycles on the dyno to make sure everything is working OK at this level, guaranteeing that the engine is responsive at low revs.
“The most critical point in Monaco is delivering an additional sharpness. You cannot afford to be relying on any type of delay in the torque delivery and the driver must be confident that when he needs the engine, it will respond for him, regardless of what pedal map or pedal position he is using.
Rémi’s sentiments are echoed by David Lamb, who as Pastor Maldonado’s engine engineer at the Williams F1 Team arrives in the Principality as 2012’s most recent Formula 1 race winner.
“There’s nowhere else quite like Monaco on the calendar. In terms of power sensitivity, the lap time benefit is the smallest of the year, which means a few extra horsepower won’t be of too much help because you are rarely at maximum speed. However the way you get the power onto the track is what can make the difference, and be of greater benefit.
“In theory, there are two things we as engine engineers need to do to ensure this at the track. The first is that the engine delivers the advertised engine torque at all times, which could be with either four or eight cylinders. All our cars have on-board torque sensors to assist us with this task. Part throttle conditions are also always the more challenging, which is of course the predominant scenario at Monaco, so we constantly monitor this to ensure the engine is delivering the torque as expected.
“Secondly, the feel of the pedal map, in essence how the driver pedal position gets shaped into an engine torque demand, needs to reflect the style and intent of the driver. Some teams however can test on the simulator, but you also need the driver’s feedback and input to optimise. For example, certain driving styles lend themselves to making use of the engine’s power to deliberately induce oversteer on demand, possibly in an attempt to counteract any unwanted understeer. Therefore, there’s a lot more discussion between driver and engineer going on.
“There are also challenges we face in Monaco that we don’t get anywhere else. For example, Turn 6 – the hairpin, is the slowest corner of the season. The driver brakes to such a slow speed, which translates to just above 5,000rpm for the engine. This could produce unwanted engine push if it’s not dialled in properly. If you’ve got any weaknesses in your engine maps, they’ll be exposed at Monaco.”
Monaco is one of very few circuits which, due to its nature as a street track, doesn’t change from year to year. Naturally that means that everyone arrives with a wealth of data accrued over the years to help form a guide on set-up. That said, there are still new avenues to be explored every season.
“We’ll be trying something a little bit different,” David imparts. “If you are struggling to put the power down, you’ll short shift through the gears. We need to ensure our pedal maps are sufficiently robust to cope with this scenario, and don’t produce any unwanted side effects. At a normal race, short-shifting is confined to in and out laps only, never a timed lap, so any issues could have previously gone unnoticed by the driver, but at Monaco there are several bumps and short shifting can be used to counteract them.
“The bumps around the track can suddenly unload the drivetrain, breaking traction and resulting in the engine sitting in the limiter, even if the driver was nowhere near his shift point. A classic example of this is over the bump between Casino Square and Mirabeau.”
Arriving in Monaco, the Williams F1 Team and everyone at Renault Sport F1 is on a high after the William-Renault partnership reaped rewards in just its fifth race as a reunited entity, launching the team to its first victory in eight years.
“We thought that, given how fast Pastor is in Monaco, this weekend would be our best shot at a good result. Now we arrive here as race winners,” says David, “Bruno isn’t slow around Monaco either and has won here in GP2, and for the first time in a long time Williams is arriving at a Grand Prix knowing that it has the car, it has the engine, it has the drivers and crucially as we saw in Spain, it has the confidence to call absolutely the right strategy to exploit the situation and take the win.”
Source: Renault Sport F1