Imola - the technical requirements 21 Apr 2006
Imolas Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, host of the San Marino Grand Prix, presents the Formula One teams with some unique challenges as they look to maximise their performance over the race weekend. There are few quick corners, many short straights, a relatively smooth track surface and, of course, the famous kerbs that are an integral part of the racing line. Here's how Renault plan to prepare their R26 machine to cope with the challenge...
Suspension: Imola is famous for its kerbs, and particularly the challenges of the Variante Alta and Variante Bassa chicanes. We must find the right compromise between the optimum soft suspension settings for riding the kerbs, and the stiffer set-up we naturally want to ensure the car has a good change of direction in these chicanes. Some bodywork elements such as the diffuser and front wing can be damaged by running over the kerbs, and we have to carefully monitor their condition throughout the weekend.
Aerodynamics: We use relatively high levels of downforce, in order to give the drivers as much confidence as possible in the car. The short straights mean overtaking is difficult, so a top speed deficit is not a significant penalty if we decide to add more downforce.
Tyres: The circuit includes numerous phases of hard acceleration from low speed, which means traction is at a premium and we need to monitor carefully rear tyre wear. However, Imola is not a particularly abrasive circuit, meaning the levels of degradation are generally lower than those encountered at many other circuits.
Reliability: The violent use of the kerbs around the lap puts the cars under particular strain, and Imola often sees a high retirement rate. As well as the vibrations generated by using the kerbs so aggressively, the transmission experiences significant shock loads' when the cars land with their wheels spinning, which can often lead to failures.
Performance: The engine is put under particular strain at Imola. We need good torque to launch out of the slow corners, and the hard acceleration phases mean that the engine's outright power is an important factor. 73 percent of the lap is spent at full throttle, which is among the highest values of the season. However, the longest period spent at full throttle is relatively short, which relieves the pressure on moving parts such as pistons. Counter-balancing this, though, is the fact that the generally cool temperatures equate to high air density, meaning the engine develops more power and is under greater strain.
Revs: The average engine speed at this circuit is relatively high, but the main danger for the engine comes from potentially over-revving when the car is launched over the kerbs and the driven wheels lose contact with the ground. We need to manage the risk of over-revving as well as possible, by judicious use of the rev limiter, without sacrificing performance over a flying lap. However, in race conditions, excessive use of the limiter can generate potentially harmful vibrations for the engine, so we may ask the driver to modify his shift points or adjust his line to adapt to this constraint.