The ING Renault Formula One Team's head of Engine Trackside Operations, Denis Chevrier, talks about the impact of the common ECU on the Viry-Châtillon engineers. The common ECU is one of the most significant changes of the past few seasons for the engineers.
Denis, can you tell us a bit about the impact of the common ECU on the engineers’ work? "It’s huge! It’s THE major winter assignment for all the teams, and above all a challenge for the engineers."
Why? "The engines are frozen at present. This means that the specifications of the V8s cannot evolve, whereas the arrival of the common ECU has completely revolutionized their electronic control systems. Renault had collaborated with its historic partner for over twenty years, and had perfected its own system with its own language and philosophy. Over the years the environment controlling the engine evolved according to our needs and desires. This winter all that has disappeared. We have to learn everything from scratch again. The ECU’s functions are different. The program supplied with it has different parameters, different interactions and different structures."
What’s your mission between now and the first race of the 2008 season? "It’s simple. We’ll have to try and reach the same fine-tuned level of control despite this unfamiliar environment. We’ll do it not only by achieving total comprehension of the new system, but also by training the engineers involved. A year ago, we didn’t know the functional aspect of the 2008 engine ECU: namely, analysis and data stocking. It’s not only the ECU that’s changed: it’s got its own language and way of working. I’d add that it’s not a question of each one in Enstone and Viry working in his own corner to understand the common ECU. We have to do things in such a way that the two entities communicate as fluidly as before in the car."
Does the ban on traction control upset the learning process? "Yes, it does. If the situation hadn’t changed between 2007 and 2008 electronically speaking, reoptimising the engines without traction control would have already been a big challenge. Doing it with a new ECU is a daunting task, as we have to master all the ins and outs of the systems we’re getting to know."
The technical capacities of this ECU are less developed than the Step 11 that you were using. Is this a problem? "The most important thing for us before evaluating the consequences that the potential difference entails is to master the new equipment. We’ll assess the situation afterwards."
Will some teams have a bigger advantage than others? "It’s obvious that one team won’t have to make the same effort as the other ten this winter. For the team in question, the common ECU and its language have been fully understood and assimilated. This means that it can concentrate its efforts in other areas while its rivals fine-tune the way the common ECU works. This team has also been given an advantage, as during the summer the majority of the top teams asked for functions to be added to the ECU and its program. That could have given a few clues as to how to operate certain controls, the data acquisition philosophy, stocking, data processing etc."
Despite all this, are you optimistic? "Of course! We’ve got the resources to overcome this obstacle. Our aim is not to find ourselves in a weaker position than our rivals at the first grand prix next season. We still have a lot to learn in relation to today, but we’ve been working on it for several months now."
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