Suzuka - the engineers view 07 Oct 2004
Formula One racings top technical brains explain what it takes to set-up a winning car at the highly technical Suzuka circuit.
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams:
Suzuka is one of the greatest circuits on the Formula One calendar, one which demands that the drivers and engineers get everything right to secure a quick lap time. The track has everything, high speed corners, a chicane and a hairpin. It also has some good overtaking opportunities. As high speed stability is so important, the set-up on the car is usually compromised in the slow speed sections to ensure that the driver has the confidence to push hard in places like the Esses. Good braking performance is also required for the hairpin and chicane corners.
We have been testing at Jerez, in Spain, with Ralf, Marc and Olivier working mainly on set-up and tyre compounds. We have a small aero change for the Japanese Grand Prix and Michelin are bringing two strong tyre choices to help us challenge. Strategy is usually straightforward in Suzuka but it can always change from the previous season due to different tyre developments.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
Suzuka is an extremely demanding circuit for the drivers and the technology. The BMW P84 engine will be subject to particular loads in Suzuka, especially in the high speed 130R turn where the oil system has to withstand a lateral load of 4g. So far, the BMW engine has proved a powerful and reliable unit in 2004, so it should be able to meet the challenges awaiting it in Japan.
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone:
"Suzuka is renowned for being tough on tyres. It has an abrasive track surface, which means we need to bring tyres using compounds from our mid to hard range. Its layout is also challenging as the figure of eight track configuration means that both left and right side tyres are under stress. Combined with the rising and dipping undulations of the track, this means that the balance of the tyres and cars must be good and tyre degradation will be a key performance factor at this circuit. To be competitive in Suzuka efficient directional changes are important, at the S Curves for example, and other high speed corners such as Spoon Curve and 130R. From past experience we have learnt that tyre stability is essential for good lap times. From a more general point of view, we will be trying our utmost to give our home supporters a good result on race weekend. While this is one of 18 races and we are unable to test here beforehand, we do expect to be competitive on our home soil - it is a circuit we know well."
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Operations, Renault:
At Suzuka, the engine's role is two-fold: not only must it provide plenty of power and good torque, but its characteristics have a big role to play in terms of maintaining the car balance through the corners and preserving the chassis handling.
The circuit is characterised by the high average engine speeds we see, which are among the top five of the season. In general at Suzuka, the car is either in high-speed corners or accelerating to high gears out of the slower turns, such as the hairpin or the chicane, which means the average revs are in the high range. This factor, as well as a sixteen second full throttle burst from Spoon Curve to braking for the chicane, means that the fuel consumption at this track is the second highest of the year.
The long corners at this circuit, as well as the sequence behind the pits, place severe demands on the chassis balance. The engine has a key role to play in these corners, as it must be as smooth and progressive as possible in the transition phases between the turns. Equally, we work to achieve the smoothest possible gearchanges so that the car balance is not disturbed. Everything in the engine's operation must be as fluid as possible: any brutality will be punished in the final lap-time.
Indeed, when preparing the engine for the race, we work hard to ensure the driver is assisted as much as possible in this task by the way the engine and gearbox are configured. Through a section like the Esses, we select the gear ratios in order to put the engine in the best part of its power band during the short accelerations between each corner. In this context, a wide power band can be a definite advantage as it may allow the sequence to be driven without needing to change down, thus once more preserving the car balance.
Finally, poor weather is always a possibility at Suzuka. These conditions always favour the good engine driveability that we have already said is necessary for other reasons at this difficult circuit.
Geoff Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"Despite our 9-point advantage over Renault, second place is certainly not yet guaranteed, so we will be ensuring that we take minimum risks in Suzuka to maintain and, we hope, extend our lead. The BAR Honda 006 should be competitive at this circuit, which requires good aerodynamic efficiency, stability and change of direction. We have a number of small developments on the engine and chassis, which we hope will help in qualifying and the race. Despite our confidence in the car's performance, we expect both the Ferraris and the McLarens to be very strong here as well. Our target, as always, will be to get good points finishes from both cars and possibly a podium place. However, we must keep our primary objective in focus - to leave Suzuka with our lead over Renault extended."
Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
"The Suzuka circuit in Japan is a fantastic track. Mark has raced at Suzuka before and he is comfortable with the demands on him and the car. Christian and Bjorn on the other-hand have no experience here and will be relying on Friday practice sessions to get the most out of the car. Although both drivers are currently in Australia undergoing fitness training they have been in contact with their engineers ensuring that they are as prepared as they can be for this coming weekend. The track is technically a very difficult track but that only motivates us to push the R5 and drivers as much as we can. The down force level is medium to high and overall there are few overtaking opportunities. We have been preparing very hard back at the factory and we have taken the decision to have Mark use the new R5b-06 chassis. I am really looking forward to these last two races and I know that the team is determined to score some points.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
This is one of the finest and most challenging races of the year. Its a real headache for aerodynamicists, who have to devise a set-up that offers the best compromise for high- and low-speed corners plus some long straights. Its late slot in the calendar makes it a good benchmark for teams and suppliers, because they can capitalise on the lessons that have been learned during a long, hard campaign to gauge their standing within F1s hierarchy.
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
The key factors in Japan will be several sequences of quick corners, where the slightest mistake can cost an awful lot of time. One key facet of Suzuka is its figure-of-eight configuration, which creates an equal blend of left- and right-hand corners. This balances the tyre load so wear rates are not as severe as the circuits high-speed characteristics might suggest. The track tends to evolve significantly during the course of the weekend, too, and that helps to reduce the strain on rubber by Sunday afternoon. We will have two dry-weather options available for Suzuka, from the medium-hard sector of our range.
Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"The secret to a quick lap at Suzuka lies in the balance of the car. We will run a similar aero configuration as we did in Shanghai. Our principal focus will be on creating a driveable, neutral car, especially as the "esses" at the start of the lap are crucially important. You need a car that can change direction quickly and precisely, and if it doesn't you can lose a lot of time there. Elsewhere, the circuit presents a great challenge to drivers and race engineers alike because there is such a wide variety of corners. 130R is one of the great corners in Formula One.
"Tyre degradation is also very important, because Suzuka has many corners, and therefore tyre wear is high. The more you can do to preserve the efficiency of the tyres, the better.
"We showed at Spa, Monza and Shanghai that the Sauber Petronas C23 is very well suited to fast corners, so I am confident that we can be very competitive again this weekend."