Nurburgring - set-up and strategy explained 27 May 2005
Saubers technical director Willy Rampf on how to get the best out of a Formula One car around Germanys Nurburgring circuit, venue for this weekends European Grand Prix. He knows what hes talking about - last year Giancarlo Fisichella used one of his cars to go from 19th on the grid to a sixth-placed finish!
"The Nurburgring has a good mix of corners, mostly slow and medium-speed. The cars tend to understeer here, which is the main consideration for us in setting up the car. Particularly in the long corners, where the camber drops off to the outside edge, understeer tends to predominate. It's possible to compensate for this by several means, such as achieving good aerodynamic balance by adding frontal downforce via different wing adjustments. However, this can generate oversteer in the faster corners. Another means of compensating is via mechanical set-up, by running a relatively soft set-up in the front suspension. It's a matter of finding the right compromise.
"As for downforce level, the new regulations which have limited aerodynamics have put the Nurburgring firmly into the category of tracks that require the maximum. The surface has quite a level of grip and there is medium tyre degradation, so we tend to run medium soft tyre compounds.
"Thanks to its flowing characteristics the circuit is not particularly demanding on brakes. This enables us to use brake material which on one hand has a higher degree of wear but on the other provides enhanced controllability.
"After Sao Paulo the Nurburgring is the highest track above sea level and the thinner air generates a performance loss, so the stress on the engine is automatically reduced. The maximum speed is around 310 kph and this is reached either at the end of the pit straight or before the NGK chicane, depending on wind direction.
"The ban on tyre changes has made the window for optimal strategy even smaller. There are only really two-stop races now, unless you have to start from the back and switch to another strategy as a penalty for an engine change. The Nurburgring is one of those circuits where the fuel load strongly influences the lap times. Since overtaking is difficult here - apart from in the first corner - a good grid position is essential. Therefore low fuel load is recommended for qualifying. But if you have to do your first pit stop too early you immediately lose positions. This conflict ultimately obliges the teams to adopt a similar strategy."