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Sepang - the technical requirements 17 Mar 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006

The switch to V8 engines for 2006 makes the searing heat of Malaysia a bigger challenge than ever for the Formula One engineers. Renault’s technical team explain exactly what’s needed to make a car quick around Sepang…

Chassis
Sepang is what can be termed a ‘complete' circuit in its demands on the chassis. It has high-speed corners, rapid changes of direction (particularly turns 5 and 6), and slow hairpins. In order to achieve optimum performance for these contradictory requirements we must, as always, find the correct compromise on the car set-up.

Suspension: The car must be stable and well-balanced in the fast corners, and in the braking zones for the slow corners. We will use relatively stiff settings to achieve this, while still maintaining them soft enough to have good traction in the slower corners.

Aerodynamics: We use medium high downforce to optimise the car performance in the high-speed corners and under braking.

Tyres: This will be a key factor and will play a significant part in our set-up choices with the car. The quick corners coupled to high ambient temperatures put the tyres under significant loadings, and the rear tyres work particularly hard at this circuit. Tyre degradation will be a key parameter.

Cooling: Given the high temperatures expected in Malaysia, the effective general cooling of the car will be a key to success this weekend.

Engine
Performance:
With 72% of the lap spent at full throttle, Sepang is now one of the most demanding engine circuits of the year - this is the third highest value encountered all season, and represents a significant change to the V10 era. This is because of the high number of high-speed corners on the circuit. Given that the V8 engines have less power than their predecessors, this means that the drivers will spend more time on the throttle than last year.

Operating Range: The operating range of the engine is not particularly demanding at this circuit, as the engine is rarely used at very low revs. However, the high speed sections can pose their own particular problems, particularly through turns 5 and 6. The drivers use partial throttle openings at high revs on this part of the circuit, and if this is not properly managed, it can result in a phenomenon named ‘blow-by' which can damage both the pistons and piston-rings, with gas escaping from the combustion chamber.

High Temperatures: More so than in Bahrain, we will once again have to contend with the acoustic offset caused by the high temperatures. The higher temperatures, and thus lower air density, modify the intake acoustics, and mean that maximum power is produced at higher engine speeds than at lower temperatures. This means the operating range is pushed higher than usual.

Cooling: If we need to use higher engine revs in order to extract maximum performance from the engine, this will require an increase in the already significant cooling capacity at this circuit. As always, the compromise on cooling will be between keeping the oil and water temperatures within their specified limits, and sacrificing a minimum amount of performance in order to achieve this.