Hockenheim - the engineer's view 30 Jul 2003
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering, Renault:
"The new Hockenheim layout is totally different to the one we tackled in previous years. It is now very much an average circuit, slightly on the low side of medium downforce, and that is much higher than the levels we used to use. The effect is that even the unchanged section of the circuit in the stadium appears totally different, because we were previously tackling a series of corners requiring high downforce levels in a very low-downforce configuration. Now, the set-up compromise is much closer to other circuits we visit, and the result is that even the old corners must be tackled completely differently: turn 12, for example, is taken some 25% faster than it used to be, and corner speeds through the stadium are, on average, 15% greater than before.
"In 2002, the team arrived at a completely new circuit, and we were slightly caught out by what we found. When simulating a new circuit, we have to base our programmes on geometrical data of the circuit, but while we are doing that, we have no knowledge of the actual detail of the track itself, such as how much the drivers can use the kerbs, or the nature of the tarmac and what the grip level is like. We therefore have to assume a normal line and average grip level.
"Last year, the first thing we noticed was that a number of the kerbs were a natural extension of the racing line, secondly, that the grip was much higher than expected: on our simulations, we had to increase the grip level by some 17% in order to match the lap times the cars were setting.
"This year, we have much better data on the tyre severity of Hockenheim after last year's race. We learnt a lot through our mistakes, particularly in terms of tyre choice, and since then we have conducted a lot more analysis. In terms of the total energy put into the tyres, the circuit is actually within a few percent of Magny-Cours, although some of the circuit's other characteristics are very different. Whilst not identical to those used in France, the tyres we will be taking to Germany are very similar.
"The other noteworthy feature of Hockenheim is that conditions are often extremely hot. In terms of absolute competitiveness, Michelin has a range of tyres that works well in high temperatures, but this of course is only an advantage over teams like Ferrari, rather than our main competitors Williams and McLaren. Our car cools extremely well, and this means we do not need to compromise aerodynamic performance in order to achieve good cooling: between an optimum Friday qualifying set-up and that we use in the race, we lose only 1% aerodynamic efficiency, compared to double that amount last year. Relative to our rivals, this may also give us a slight edge.
"Overall, I believe we can have a competitive weekend. The problems in 2002 were of our own making, and one thing I think we are very good at as a team is recognising our faults and acting upon them. Hockenheim is not one of the classic circuits of the season, and consequently will probably not show the true advantages of a good chassis, but we will nonetheless be making the most of the package at our disposal."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"After an encouraging performance at Silverstone, we are confident that the car will also work well at Hockenheim. The revised circuit now requires relatively high downforce levels, similar to Silverstone, and good aerodynamic efficiency. There is however more emphasis on traction and low-speed grip, so we are hopeful that the latest tyre compounds from Bridgestone will contribute to a competitive weekend for us."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer, Williams:
"Hockenheim is dominated by slow and medium speed corners which will dictate the setup options we select over the weekend. As always, traction will be an important factor, as well as tyre selection. The data from last year's race demonstrates that tyre degradation can be a problem at Hockenheim so making the correct choice with Michelin will be crucial. Strategy, however, will be the most critical element of the weekend, so the efficiency of the pit crew will be key."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
"Before the Hockenheimring was adapted, the long forest straights suited our powerful engine and we were able to exert greater influence on the car's performance than we can with the new layout. Now, it's the quality of the overall package that's important rather than just sheer horsepower alone. Even so, with engines running flat out for around 65 per cent of the time, it's one of the fastest circuits on the calendar."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"The revisions made to Hockenheim for 2002 completely changed its character. In the days when it had very long straights it was one of the fastest circuits on the calendar so we ran with the lowest level of downforce that we used all season. That meant developing the aerodynamic package to maximise straightline speed.
"Today Hockenheim is a very different proposition, because it is shorter and tighter. There are no more any long straights or tight chicanes. Now it is actually quite similar to the A1-Ring in Austria, which means that we run in high downforce configuration. Last year's race confirmed our expectation that there would be overtaking opportunities at the new hairpin that follows the curving back straight, and this meant that setting the car up for maximum stability under braking and traction exiting the corner became very important."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
"Hockenheim, even with its recent changes, is a track which requires less than maximum downforce, so we believe that we should be in better position with our car set-up than at some other tracks. We have got an engine performance step from Cosworth at this race and as engines are very important here hopefully that will help us.
"On Friday morning Zsolt Baumgartner will drive our third car. It will be the first time we've run three cars in the test session and hopefully it will allow us to understand the tyre performance better over longer runs, something other teams with a third driver have benefited from already this season."
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport:
"Hockenheim was modified prior to last year's GP and one of the most significant aspects of those changes was the consequent reduction in average speeds. Very little data was available last year because of those changes but we now know from last year's race that the circuit is still hard from a heat durability point of view. To be as competitive as possible, we shall be bringing tyres from the mid-soft range. But, heat durability is an important factor at Hockenheim as cars can keep relatively high speeds in several corners, generating significant heat in the tyres. Strategy wise, in previous years we've seen two stops from the top teams but I suspect we may see different strategies this year. For sure it's going to be a tough race but we gave Ferrari winning tyres last year with very little data available so I'm confident that with a year's experience and the recent lessons we've learnt, we'll be strong in Germany."
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin Motorsport Director:
"Last year our Hockenheim range was developed in accordance with tests our teams had done to simulate lap times and probable tyre loads. It was a comparative exercise and we had to rely more on calculated guesswork than we did at other, familiar tracks.
"Now, however, we have acclimatised to the latest version of Hockenheim. It has lost much of its old character but remains unlike many other circuits. It doesn't present any obvious pitfalls and generally it is a fairly fast track with a wide variety of different corners. Some of these are quick but there are also slower sectors, for instance in the stadium section.
"We are confident that we will provide our partner teams with tyres that will enable them to maximise their chassis' full potential."