The Grand Prix circuit in Magny-Cours includes an interesting variety of challenges for drivers and cars alike: three high-speed corners at the start of the lap; a very slow hairpin at Adelaide; two enjoyable high-speed chicanes; and more changes of gradient than the flattening eye of television shows. As always, the ideal set-up will be about finding the right compromise to achieve the R28’s optimum performance at every point of the circuit.
Magny-Cours demands a much higher level of downforce than we used in Canada, which required a low-medium set-up. Magny-Cours demands a medium-high configuration to ensure the cars are competitive through the high-speed corners such as turn 3, and the chicanes at turns 6/7 and 11/12. While it is tempting to reduce wing levels in order to gain straightline speed to try overtaking into the Adelaide hairpin, this is rarely a feasible solution: the back straight is preceded by the high-speed turn three, and while reduced downforce would allow greater top speed, it would have a detrimental effect through this corner, costing speed and also making it more difficult to follow a competitor closely. It is something of a Catch-22 situation, and we consequently prefer to maintain our high downforce set-up to achieve the optimum lap-time.
Magny-Cours is renowned as an exceptionally smooth circuit, which allows the teams to run lower ride heights and stiffer suspension settings to improve aerodynamic performance. This also has the added benefit of making the car more responsive in the high-speed changes of direction required through the two quick chicanes. As ever, though, a good compromise must be found because the circuit also includes a number of very slow corners, where softer settings would offer better grip, and the correct balance must be struck between performance in the high and low-speed corners.
Magny-Cours is a circuit that is particularly temperature-sensitive, and something as seemingly insignificant as a few minutes of cloud cover can have a drastic impact on track temperatures – and thus grip levels. Bridgestone will be bringing the ‘soft’ and ‘medium’ tyre compounds from the 2008 range to this race, and as always, successful management of both tyre types will be key to a successful race strategy.
The cars are generally short and closely-geared at Magny-Cours, in order to optimise performance on the exit of the slow corners. The team will pay particular attention to performance from 0 to 250 kph, as this will ensure strong performance through the slower parts of the circuit – which in turn determine top speeds on the straights. The transmission can also come under severe strain from riding the kerbs, which the drivers do on several occasions, and particularly at the end of the lap. In qualifying, it is necessary to use the kerbs to gain lap-time but we may ask the drivers to be more cautious in race conditions, to preserve the reliability of the engine and transmission.
Magny-Cours is not a particularly severe circuit in terms of engine performance. The V8 will spend around 63% of the lap at full throttle – slightly above the season average, but nevertheless a normal value. A torquey engine is always an asset at this circuit, as it will ensure the car exits strongly from the slow corners; equally, we will look to ensure power delivery is as smooth and linear as possible, so that chassis balance is not disrupted when the drivers are using partial to full throttle in the chicanes, or through turn 3Source Renault