Canadian GP: Renault technical preview
Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a stop-start, temporary circuit. The long straights mean plenty of heavy braking, while numerous slow corners put the emphasis on strong traction and good engine torque to launch the cars out of them. A competitive car will give the drivers confidence to brake late, while also looking after the rear tires on a circuit where teams will be running the softest of Bridgestone's 2008 compounds.
Montreal will see the team run with a 'low downforce' aerodynamic package. The circuit can be considered as including no high-speed corners, as turn 5 is taken comfortably at full throttle in fifth and sixth gears. The primary focus is therefore on minimizing drag levels in order to achieve competitive straight-line speeds (with a maximum of over 320 kph), while the downforce will assist vehicle stability under heavy braking. The low downforce levels mean the car feels light to drive, and nervous under braking, and so the drivers need to be more delicate with their steering inputs, and when applying the brakes and throttle.
The cars need a responsive change of direction in the chicanes while maintaining good stability under braking and traction out of the slow corners. Brake locking must also be taken into consideration when tuning the suspension, as excessive locking at front or rear will cost lap-time.
Along with Monza, Montreal is the most demanding circuit of the year for the brakes. Overheating is not the primary concern, as the discs and pads have ample time to cool on the straights. However, the braking energies are very high, with four braking events from over 300 kph - and the other two from above 250 kph. Basic wear is therefore our primary concern, and we monitor this in real time during the race. The driver may be asked to adjust the brake balance if wear levels become alarming at front or rear, and some of our work in practice will focus on ensuring that brake wear levels are under control on representative race fuel loads.
The temporary nature of the circuit means that the circuit begins the weekend very 'green' and grip levels improve constantly throughout the weekend - just like we see at similar venues such as Melbourne or Monaco. The track surface is not particularly abrasive, and the absence of high-speed corners means that tire energies are among the lowest of the season. Consequently, the teams will be using the Soft and Super-soft compounds from Bridgestone's 2008 range, as was the case for the last race in Monaco.
Traditionally, Montreal has been a race with strategies ranging from one to three stops - although a two-stop strategy is likely to be the most competitive solution under the 2008 tire regulations. The absence of high-speed corners means the fuel effect (the time penalty for carrying fuel weight) is relatively low at this circuit, and combined with low fuel consumption, this means there is relatively little penalty in qualifying for carrying extra fuel. Teams will also need to consider the ever-present threat of a safety car period, and so a flexible strategy could reap rewards come Sunday afternoon.
The engine is used in a very stop-start fashion around the Montreal circuit, which is essentially compromised of six extended full throttle bursts separated by chicanes. The engine spends just under 60% of the lap at full throttle, which is not a particularly high percentage, but the longest full throttle section last for 14s - a more demanding value, which puts the circuit at the higher end of the scale for engine severity. Cooling is not normally a problem thanks to the long straights, but cut grass and other debris are potential hazards. We monitor temperatures closely, and debris can usually be removed at the pit-stops. Credit: Renault