Monaco - the technical requirements 26 May 2006
Monaco is unique among Formula One race venues. The Monte Carlo event is often talked about as the race of the year, and the tight, twisting street circuit needs a very special approach to get the best from a car. Renault explain how they will go about it with their R26 machine
Ride heights: Monaco is not only a very twisty circuit, but it is also extremely bumpy, sharply cambered and slippery, particularly early in the weekend when little rubber has been put down on the racing line. We therefore raise ride heights by between 5 and 7 mm relative to normal in order to cope with the surface variations on the circuit.
Suspension: In order to obtain the best possible level of grip, we use soft suspension settings, which also help the car ride the bumps and cope with the sharp cambers. The bumpy surface means the wheels must be able to move independently to ride the bumps, and we soften the anti-roll bars to achieve this. Camber angles are also a focus of special attention, and we run them fairly high - but not so much as to make the car unstable in the bumpy, high-speed braking zones.
Aerodynamics: Monaco sees us run the highest downforce level of the year, and the cars often sprout extra appendages for this race to claw back even more aerodynamic advantage. The downforce brings benefits not just in the corners, but under braking and acceleration. Straight-line speed is of little importance at this circuit, and we sometimes run higher drag levels than normal in order to get more downforce.
Steering angle: The Grand Hotel hairpin is the tightest of the season, and demands the highest steering angle of the year. It is, for example, two times more than anything required at the last race in Barcelona. We also calibrate the traction control system and differential to help the car turn on the throttle.
Performance: Monaco does not initially seem a demanding engine circuit, as the drivers spend just 50 percent of the lap at full throttle - the lowest value of the year. However, that is something of an urban myth, and numerous challenges must be tackled to get the maximum from the RS26. The bumpy surface means there is a real risk of over-revving. In terms of performance, it is important to have a driveable engine with good torque, even from very low revs, in order to launch out of the slow corners.
Gearbox: We use closely-spaced gear ratios at this circuit in order to optimise acceleration, and get the most from the engine at slow speeds.
Cooling: The absence of significant straights makes cooling the engine difficult, especially as the short gear ratios mean the engine is often running at high revs even though the car is moving relatively slowly through the air. This presents a challenge for cooling the car effectively, and we sometimes have to open up the bodywork to ensure the engine does not overheat. However, with aerodynamic efficiency less of a priority here than elsewhere, this does bring its usual lap-time penalty, should it be required.