Setting up a car for Nurburgring

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Germany's Nürburgring is decidedly tame by comparison to its intimidating 14-mile, 174-corner predecessor. Further changes came in 2002 when the first turn was reprofiled to cut into the infield and around a new stadium section, slowing the old track even more, but yielding another overtaking spot.

The circuit remains a fairly high downforce track. To achieve a competitive lap here requires the normal chassis attributes: good traction (particularly out of the hairpins) and good chassis balance and stability under braking. As the circuit is situated close to the Eifel Mountains, weather can often play a role in the outcome of races at the Nürburgring.

Race Distance - 60 laps. 191.938 miles (308.863km)
Circuit Length - 3.199miles (5.148km)

Two experienced F1 engineers explain that the circuit poses several challenges that have to be overcome in preparation for the Grand Prix.

Willy Rampf (Sauber Technical Director): "The Nurburgring has a good mix of corners, mostly slow and medium-speed. The cars tend to understeer, which is the main consideration for setting up the car. Particularly in the long corners, where the camber drops off to the outside edge, understeer tends to predominate. It’s possible to compensate for this by several means, such as achieving good aerodynamic balance by adding frontal downforce via different wing adjustments. However, this can generate oversteer in the faster corners. Another means of compensating is via mechanical set-up, by running a relatively soft set-up in the front suspension. It’s a matter of finding the right compromise.
"As for downforce level, the new regulations which have limited aerodynamics have put the Nurburgring firmly into the category of tracks that require the maximum. The surface has quite a level of grip and there is medium tyre degradation, so we tend to run medium soft tyre compounds.
"Thanks to its flowing characteristics the circuit is not particularly demanding on brakes. This enables us to use brake material which on one hand has a higher degree of wear but on the other provides enhanced controllability.
"After Sao Paulo the Nurburgring is the highest track above sea level and the thinner air generates a performance loss, so the stress on the engine is automatically reduced. The maximum speed is around 310 kmh and this is reached either at the end of the pit straight or before the NGK chicane, depending on wind direction.
"The ban on tyre changes has made the window for optimal strategy even smaller. There are only really two-stop races now, unless you have to start from the back and switch to another strategy as a penalty for an engine change. The Nurburgring is one of those circuits where the fuel load strongly influences the lap times. Since overtaking is difficult here – apart from in the first corner - a good grid position is essential. Therefore low fuel load is recommended for qualifying. But if you have to do your first pit stop too early you immediately lose positions. This conflict ultimately obliges the teams to adopt a similar strategy."

Rod Nelson (Fernando Alonso’s race engineer), explains the set-up that will be usedat Renault on Friday morning:
“Overall, you need quite high downforce levels for the Nürburgring,” explains Rod. “The circuit includes several slow corners that you need to be able to get negotiate well. Before, the bumps could pose a problem when it came to suspension set-up, but this was eliminated last year after part of the circuit was resurfaced. The secrets of the circuit are keeping an eye on the right front tyre through turns 2 and 3; turn 13 has a bumpy braking area and can be tricky; turns 8 and 9 are quick, and you need a consistent balance through here. The other point to bear in mind is that it’s often cold at the Nürburgring – in these kind of conditions, it is very difficult to compare tyre behaviour in the morning sessions to how it will be in the race.”

Front wing: We are in the ‘medium’ downforce zone. The front wing gives less downforce than at Barcelona, so that we can have good braking stability. The aero balance required at the Nürburgring is generally biased rearward.

Ride height: The car will run quite low, but once again, it is an average ride height. The ride height will not be as low as in Barcelona or Magny-Cours.

Brakes: The size of the ducts will also be ‘medium’. There is heavy braking, but the straights that follow are long enough to allow the discs and pads to cool.

Cooling: No problem on this side. The R25’s bodywork will remain closed up, which will help the aero efficiency.

Suspension: Quite stiff, to get a good change of direction through turn 9, or turns 10/11.

Rear wing: High downforce, almost as much as in Monaco.

Tyres: They will be quite soft as the track surface is not abrasive.