Europe - can Renault do it again? 27 May 2004
A look ahead to this weekend's Nurburgring race
The first thing any driver wants to do once he has started winning is to do it again and keep doing it. But will Jarno Trulli be able to emulate his great Monaco triumph, or will Michael Schumacher and Ferrari make it business as usual at the Nurburgring this weekend in the first of the seasons three back-to-back races?
None of the teams has had any time to make major changes to their cars, but the majority did all their pre-race testing the week before Monaco. Interestingly, downforce requirements for the Ring wont be so very different from Monte Carlo, as it is a high downforce track too.
Trulli is cautious in his prediction for his race. This weekend we start again, it is a new challenge. The circuit is different, the conditions are different, and we will just work as normal, trying to make the car as fast as possible. We made some improvements to the car before Monaco, but it was difficult to judge them accurately last weekend because it is such a strange circuit. The Nurburgring will give us a much better idea of how much we have improved the car's competitiveness, and so I am looking forward to starting practice.
The Italian knows the track well from his F3 days, and scored his previous best Formula One result there with second place behind Johnny Herberts Stewart Ford in 1999. The main thing is to find a good rhythm - there are lots of corners close together, and if you get into the right groove then you can be quick. When we are setting the car up, we obviously need to get a good balance as soon as possible, but you also need confidence in the car through the high-speed corners and stability during the heavy braking for Turn 1 and the chicane. Also, the conditions change a lot during the day, from very cool conditions in the morning to quite warm in the afternoon, and you have to take account of that when setting the car up on Saturday morning.
The Nurburgring is similar to Barcelona insofar as it requires every area of a car to be strong. It has few particularities, but Turn 1 does provide some great overtaking opportunities. We can expect Ferrari to be highly competitive, of course, but it should also suit Renault and BAR. Having come so close to victory in Monte Carlo, the latter is naturally very determined to turn that particular corner this weekend. The tracks characteristics should suit the BAR 006 well.
The race is also a very important one for Williams and McLaren, with their respective BMW and Mercedes-Benz partnerships. The former have just confirmed that Sam Michael has taken over from Patrick Head as technical director, and that Head will assume a new role of director of engineering in their quest for improved performance. They also opened a new state-of-the-art wind tunnel at their Grove factory on Tuesday, though it will be a while before its first products come on stream.
Last year Kimi Raikkonen took pole position at the Nurburgring and set fastest lap while dominating the race until his engine broke. McLaren will be hoping for an even stronger performance this time out.
The other team with an ultra-modern wind tunnel is Sauber. After Felipe Massas bold fifth place finish in Monte Carlo the team are hoping to exploit a big improvement in handling and stability that they made during pre-Monaco tests at Silverstone.
Other teams with German connections are Cologne-based Toyota and Jordan, via Nick Heidfeld. Both teams scored much-needed points at Monaco, where Heidfeld in particular drove a very spirited race.
The new Nurburgring is a typical modern-generation circuit and is something of a standard for the series: the percentage of the lap spent at full throttle is identical to the season average, at 59%, while the longest continuous period is some way below average, at 10.2 seconds. Its elevation above sea level, approximately 500 metres, does have an effect on power and there is a loss of around 5%.That, however, can be beneficial as the engine runs under less load.
Another factor that can influence performance is that the ambient temperatures are relatively low. At a time when Bridgestone and Michelin seem to be very evenly based in terms of outright performance, this may have less effect than it did at times in 2003.
The race runs over 60 laps, equating to 308.863 kilometres, and starts at 14.00 hrs local time.