Why theres no such thing as a 'normal' Friday... 01 Oct 2010
Friday at a Grand Prix is always a hectic time, even though the teams end-of-day press releases usually just talk about a 'normal Friday'. There's a massive amount of work to shoehorn into just three hours of track time. Tyre compounds need evaluating, data needs collecting, and the drivers must find a good set-up direction for the rest of the weekend. But what exactly does it all involve? Renault explain more
To tackle these tasks, Renault drivers Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov usually work together and pool their data to ensure the team gets through the workload. Of course, there are some things that both drivers need to assess, such as the feel for tyres, but it's not necessary to repeat everything with each car.
On Friday, the cars run with varying fuel loads across the sessions, usually starting with low-fuel runs to allow the drivers to assess set-up changes and get an understanding for the car. The high-fuel runs will be used to assess tyre degradation, brake wear and race pace, and will help the engineers plan the race strategy. In this way, the team works with both qualifying and the race in mind.
As well as dialling the car into the track, Friday represents the only real chance to test and validate new upgrades. For example, Renault developed some new gearbox parts recently and ran them on the car on three different Fridays before finally racing them. At the recent Belgian Grand Prix, Renault focused on validating the teams F-duct to see if its performance would match the factory simulations.
Perhaps the main challenge facing the team on the first day of practice is evaluating the tyres compounds, especially because the allocation is so restricted. In Free Practice One just one set of prime tyres are available, which can only be used in this session, while for Free Practice Two there are just one set of primes and one set of options. Each driver never has more than one set of each compound available during either of the Friday sessions, which means fresh rubber is always in short supply.
Formula Ones official tyre suppliers Bridgestone bring two dry tyre compounds to each race, selected from their range of hard, medium, soft and super soft. Normally they choose compounds that are two steps apart. For example, in Japan next weekend Renault will have use of a hard (prime) tyre and a soft (option) tyre. At some circuits the difference between the two compounds can be small in terms of speed and durability, while at others it proves to be far greater. Assessing that difference is another of Fridays key tasks for the team, helping them to plan their tyre strategy for the weekend.
At the end of the Friday sessions there's still plenty of work to be done. The team can change anything on the cars overnight and it's not uncommon to see the mechanics burning the midnight oil as they strip and rebuild the cars. The occasional all-nighter isn't out of the question either. The usual routine involves a change of engines and gearboxes to fit the race units, as well as replacing radiators and some suspension components. And of course, it's the time to make those important set-up changes that are needed for Saturday morning.
The final Friday challenge is trying to interpret the timesheets and gauge competitiveness. It's certainly not an easy task, with lap times on low and high fuel loads varying by as much as four seconds, but the engineers usually have a fair idea of the pecking order by the end of the day. By looking at the short and long run pace of others, an assessment can be made of overall competitiveness.
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