Melbourne has always been a very tough circuit for Formula 1 cars, but this year the challenge will be even greater with the new Power Units making their race debut. Not in the least for Renault, given their troubled preparation.
Some of the main features of Albert Park will pose the biggest challenges: the tight corners and the short bursts of acceleration.
The vast majority of the corners are mid to low speed, such as the first and second corners, and then the chicane coming back onto the pit straight. Such low speeds make the braking loads very high – putting the pressure on the new brake by wire system right from the start. On a positive note the heavy braking does give plenty of opportunity for the MGU-K to be recharged over the course of the lap by recovering energy that would normally be lost.
The frequency of such low speed turns will put an emphasis on correct response in the lower rev ranges", said Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations. "On entry to the corners the engine braking needs to be effective to slow the car – and relieve the pressure on the brakes – while the turbo and MGU-H will be stressed on the exits to avoid any delay in response. Giving the driver the power when he needs it – or delivering positive driveability – will be one of the key points to lap time in Albert Park this year.
"The short bursts of power between the low speed corners will also put the internal combustion engine under intense pressure, however they will give a chance for the MGU-H to recover energy from the exhaust. This will be crucial since Melbourne is an exceptionally high fuel consumption track: in fact, the fuel consumption per 100km for the V8s was the second highest of the year, and it remains as such for the V6. Ideally teams will want to start the race with as little fuel as possible to minimise weight, but to minimize laptime we will need the 100kg allowed allocation. The focus will therefore be on maximising the amount of energy recovered under braking via the MGU-K and via the exhaust and the MGU-H to keep the battery topped up and the energy deployed in the most efficient way possible.
"With this being the first race, our weekend plan will be flexible as we continue to learn about the Power Unit. Our main goal will be to allow the teams to run as much as possible with the maximum amount of power and driveability. We still have a lot to learn, but we have covered an entire race weekend with our teams, which has given us a lot of information on how to approach qualifying and the race. We don’t hide the fact it is not going to be easy, but we are on course with our recovery plan and Melbourne will be the next stage in this."