Monaco - the engineers view 19 May 2004
The technical low-down on this weekend's race venue
Its a circuit like no other. Among the necessities are maximum downforce, softer suspension settings, higher ride heights and very sticky tyres. But, of course, the teams never actually get to test here. No wonder it presents such a technical challenge
Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Monaco is usually the highest downforce circuit of the season. Due to the new two-element rear wing rules this year there has been a reduction in downforce so you can expect to see everyone coming up with innovative ways of exploiting the regulations to maximise it. It is vital to alleviate the problems of generating sufficient grip that often arise on street circuits. The surface in Monte Carlo is quite low grip anyway, and though there is not a lot of really high-speed work there are plenty of medium-speed where downforce really counts.
"Mechanical set-up is also very important. This means generating as much grip from the car rather than the aerodynamics. At the same time, however, there is the added disadvantage that we have to run the highest ride heights of the season in order to avoid bottoming on the uneven surface of a street course, and this also levies a penalty in terms of lost downforce. Balancing that, however, we usually run the softest tyre compounds that we will see in the year.
"Monaco also provides some very slow corners, in particular the Grand Hotel
Hairpin, a left-hander that became famous under the name Loews. This is so tight that we have to customise the steering geometry specifically so that the drivers can get round it.
"Overtaking is nearly impossible here, of course, so qualifying becomes even more critical and, with the way the regulations are today, that also has a knock-on effect on your race strategy. The pit entry is not very quick, so that is another factor to take into account. It is clear, therefore, that the only overtaking will be done during the pit stops and that strategy will be of crucial importance throughout."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"The circuit has a low grip level and the track surface characteristic changes rapidly over the weekend as the tyre rubber is laid down. The tight, low-speed nature of the circuit layout and the undulations in the road profile put a premium on mechanical and aerodynamic grip. With the highest downforce settings required and a mechanical set-up that has to balance the natural understeer a circuit like Monaco induces, against the low speed traction required out of the corners. With these factors in mind, we have been using part of our testing in Paul Ricard to finalise with Michelin the very soft compounds required for Monaco. We have also evaluated some further aerodynamic tweaks. With the change in pit-lane layout and speed, the race strategy will also require significant evaluation to determine the best overall strategy, taking into account qualifying position, race pace and dealing with traffic, which is a major problem in the tight confines of Monaco."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"The handling of the car and skill of the driver make a big contribution to a team's performance at Monaco, but we are also doing all we can with the engine to gain an advantage for BAR Honda. We have tested a more powerful unit at the Paul Ricard test and are aiming high as always for the race weekend."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
We are now embarking on a new phase in the ongoing development of the BMW P84 engine. At the beginning of the season we had achieved our first target, namely to develop an engine that would survive a virtual doubling of its lifespan, as stipulated by the regulations, without any significant weight increase or sacrifice in performance compared to the P83. The second target was to provide maximum engine speed and with it peak power all the way up to seventh gear for the entire race distance. We have now also implemented that. Our drivers should thus be ideally equipped for the race. The third target is to ensure it remains that way by continuing our development work through the season to enhance performance even further.
In Monaco, you can't win anything through sheer power alone, of course. But good engine driveability pays off in the tight turns. The Rascasse hairpin at the harbour is the only corner in the whole Formula One season where engine speed drops down to around 5000 rpm, even in first gear.
Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
We have been preparing the R5 both at the factory in Milton Keynes and at Stuttgart in Germany, focusing on the R5's continuous performance development programme. As such we will be bringing a number of performance upgrades to Monaco including new aerodynamic, chassis and powertrain upgrades. The R5 is in good shape for the street-circuit and we will be looking to capitalise on the fact that Mark knows this circuit and enjoys driving it too.