Indianapolis - the engineers view 18 Jun 2004
The art of set-up on an unusual oval-infield combination
Some of Formula One racings top technical brains on their teams prospects for this weekends United States Grand Prix and on how to get the very best out of a car around the slightly unconventional track layout used by the Formula One machines at Indianapolis.
Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
The Indianapolis Motor-speedway is an interesting circuit for us as it is really two different types of track combined. The banked section requires high-speed from the car, which would ideally suit low down-force, while the infield is twisting and demands slower speeds suiting higher down-force. This requires a balance to be struck between optimising time in the banking section and infield section. There are overtaking opportunities here, most notably at the first corner. The aerodynamic set-up can be compromised here when you are trying to find a balance that suits both the low and high- speed sections. The start and finish straight is actually the longest single stint on full throttle that the car will do at any track this year. In terms of developments for the car although we have nothing specific for this race we are continuing to develop the car most notably in the areas of the Cosworth Racing CR6 -V10 engine, powertrain and control systems. We scored a point here last year and I would like to see Mark and Christian do more than that this coming weekend. The track suits the R5 and we are well prepared going into this race.
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"The Indianapolis circuit is an interesting track with a marked contrast between the slow infield section and the high speed Oval section requiring a compromise set-up. Although it has a similar wing level to Montreal, it is much less demanding on braking and has a different characteristic, needing good low speed balance and traction. It also has the longest continuous full-throttle straight on the calendar this year, so is very demanding for the engine. As always our target is to finish both cars in the points and get onto the podium."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We obviously have to resolve the problem that has caused our recent engine failures. Everybody is working very hard to find a solution in time for the Indianapolis race this weekend."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Like Montreal, Indianapolis is a medium downforce circuit where we have the second highest top speeds of the season. Because of the banked final corner that combines with the main straight and the tight infield section, the track has different characteristics. Ideally you need low downforce for the former, but plenty of grip in the latter, and these are mutually exclusive. We will run a similar aerodynamic package to Canada as a result. The circuit has the longest straight of the season, which runs effectively from Turn 12 all the way through Turn 1 from the oval down to Turn 1 of the Formula One Grand Prix track. The banked turn is not a corner in an F1 car, but flat out. Drivers are flat-out for around 23s, the longest full-throttle run of the year. Turn 1 at the end of this straight provides a good opportunity for overtaking as there are a number of possible lines.
"Brake wear and performance are not critical here, however, as the brakes have more time to cool than they do in Montreal. Indianapolis is harder on engines than on any other part of the car. The surface allows us to run softer compound tyres, but the longitudinal grooves on the oval part of the circuit can exacerbate tyre wear."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director, Williams:
Indianapolis is the only circuit on the calendar where the cars are driven at full throttle for long periods of time. The oval section is 1,780 metres long and the cars are driven at full throttle for more than 20 seconds. They are then quickly shifted up into seventh gear and stay there for about ten seconds. As a reference, the second longest straight on the Formula One calendar is at Monza, where the drivers cover 1,236 metres in 14 seconds at full throttle and will only be in top gear for about half of that time.
On Indy's long straight, the BMW P84 engine will be under extreme thermal and mechanical pressures. Nevertheless, we will still run the same revs and power we have available in qualifying for the duration of the race. What the top speed on the straight will be will of course depend on the aero set-up and on how much wing we need to add to the cars for the infield corners.
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams:
This weekend we'll be in Indianapolis for the second race of the North American double header. Like Montreal, the Speedway is a low downforce circuit, but, on the other hand, it is quite different because of the banked oval. The track therefore places different demands on the tyres and the brakes, so a totally different set-up to Canada is required in order to optimise performance. Michelin has brought two new tyres to the US Grand Prix, which we have tested with encouraging results, so I am sure they will work well at Indy. We have also made some mechanical improvements to the car which we will be running. Race strategy will be interesting, and probably similar to how it has been this season so far, so we should see teams doing either two or three stops.