Interlagos - the technical requirements 19 Oct 2007
Interlagos is a circuit of contrasting extremes, combining slow hairpins with one of the longest straights of the season. Sitting in a natural bowl, it undulates throughout its 4.309 kilometre length, and is notorious for its bumpy surface - although this was improved by resurfacing in 2004, and the circuit has apparently been resurfaced again for 2007.
The physical demands of the bumpy circuit are intensified by the fact that it runs anti-clockwise, subjecting the drivers necks to the opposite loadings as at a normal track. It is a circuit where overtaking is possible, particularly on the entry to Turn One, and the set-up compromise therefore tends to favour straight-line speed over optimum lap-time, to ensure the drivers can make up positions, and defend them, during the 71-lap race. Renault explain how they aim to get the most out of the R27 around Interlagos
Aerodynamics: The contrasting nature of the Interlagos circuit makes very different demands on the cars. The first and last sectors are made up primarily of long straights, where good top speed is necessary to maintain competitiveness and protect position; this means a low level of downforce is required. However, the middle sector requires the opposite: high downforce to ensure good grip under acceleration, braking and cornering through the twisting series of hairpins.
Balancing these requirements gives an optimum downforce setting for achieving the fastest possible lap time. However, this optimum is then skewed by the demands of racing with other cars. To do so successfully requires competitive end-of-straight speeds - and achieving these may drag us away from our optimum downforce to a slightly lower setting which allows the drivers to overtake and defend their position into Turn One. This means we use downforce levels similar to a circuit such as Bahrain.
Mechanical: The combination of high and low speed corners means it is hard to find a suitable mechanical compromise at Interlagos. Just as with our choice of aero level, we prioritise certain sectors of the circuit over others. The most important corner at Interlagos is Turn 12, as it determines your speed along the uphill main straight - a full throttle period lasting over 15 seconds. We therefore pay special attention ensuring the car gets a good exit from this corner, even though this can generate some slow-speed understeer in the middle sector.
However, any losses incurred with this understeer are outweighed by the benefits in lap time and competitiveness achieved in Sector Three. The second important factor for the mechanical set-up is the track surface. This was traditionally very bumpy, but the resurfacing in 2004 allowed teams to run lower ride heights, and the situation may have improved once again for this year. The circuit is relatively easy on the brakes, with just three major braking events, and the overall braking energy is similar to Barcelona.
Tyres: Interlagos includes relatively few high-speed corners with high lateral loadings on the tyres. Coupled with a track surface that is not particularly abrasive, this means we can use relatively soft tyres. Consequently, Bridgestone has made available the soft and super-soft compounds from its 2007 Potenza range for this final race of the year.
Performance: The long main straight at Interlagos means engine power is a critical factor at this circuit, and the longest single period at full throttle is over 16 seconds. All the engines, though, must contend with the effects of running at altitude, as the circuit is situation around 800 metres above sea level.
The reduced atmospheric pressure costs the engines around 7 percent of their power output; as a result, the 61 percent of the lap spent at full throttle is equivalent to 57 percent at sea level (comparable to Budapest). While this reduces the demands on some components such as the pistons, other parts of the engine such as the crankshaft are still subjected to significant loadings.
Driveability is also an important factor, especially through the winding middle sector. The drivers run in the lowest gears at this point on the circuit, with sudden changes of direction and significant brake and throttle inputs. Smooth power delivery can make a real and significant contribution to maintaining a stable balance, and optimum driving lines, in this part of the circuit.