During the weeks between the launch of a Formula One car and the start
of a new season, the sole aims of some 800 people are to perfect its
reliability and performance.
On February 1st 2005, the new Renault R25 was officially presented to
the world. However, in contrast to the bustle of the photographers'
flashes, speeches and general festivities of the launch in Monaco, the
atmosphere was far more studious back at Enstone and Viry-Châtillon.
The countdown to the season's curtain- raiser was already well
underway and everyone at Renault F1 Team was conscious that every day
that passed had to be put to maximum effect…
Testing, testing, testing.
Prior to its presentation to the press and sponsors, the new car took
to the track for the first time at Valencia where Enstone's Chief Test
Engineer Christian Silk was on hand to oversee operations.
"Before Christmas, we ran an interim specification car with a view to
accelerating the program. This work included the validation of our new
electronic control system and certain mechanical components, as well
as tire evaluation," he says. "When the R25 first took to the track,
our initial priority was to check safety before placing the accent on
The car went out for limited number of laps each time and, following
each run, all the data collected was carefully analyzed and checked.
For the mechanics, those early tests were a chance to familiarize
themselves with the car while the engineers responsible for its major
functions also traveled out, ready to react in case of the slightest
problem. Fine-tuning performance is then an ongoing process as the
Viry: adapting and fine-tuning.
For the staff at Viry- Châtillon, the first tests were a chance to run
the RS25 in a new environment. "To a large extent we are able to
simulate the different circuits on the dyno, but nothing can replace
actual track time when it comes to getting to know the new V10,"
explains the engine test team manager Matthieu Dubois. Prior to its
maiden run, the RS25 was first put through its paces in a series of
twenty-four dyno endurance tests but it will still be possible to
modify items like the valves and pistons before the first Grand Prix.
On the other hand, it won't be possible to change such components as
the block and crankshaft upstream of the first race. "Testing not only
enables us to validate our simulation work but it also gives us a
chance to optimize the engine's integration in the chassis and to
fine-tune its performance."
Focus on reliability.
Always a major concern when a new car takes to the track for the first
time, reliability essentially stems from rational organization.
"Today's F1 cars are basically an evolution of the previous season's
machine," explains Tim Wright, reliability engineer at Enstone. "It's
therefore easier to understand the interaction between its different
functions and to obtain a high degree of reliability. The potential
for problems comes when you introduce new features."
Success in that case depends on identifying the ideal compromise
between taking risks and being conservative. A car that is reliable
out of the box makes it possible to achieve incremental gains
afterwards with a view to optimizing performance, an approach that is
far more fruitful than when the problem is tackled the other way
While the test team works flat out to develop the new car, the factory
at Enstone is also buzzing with activity. Here’s an explanation of
what goes on behind the scenes to prepare for the first race.
Reacting in real time.
After every day of testing during the winter, a report is sent to the
chassis and engine drawing offices in which all the incidents
encountered during the session are listed, from the most insignificant
to the most serious. The drawing up of any necessary changes begins at
once to ensure that the modified parts are available in time for the
next test. As a function of this list, one or more engineers are
assigned to the task, while regular meetings are held on both sides of
the Channel to decide which components need to be re-designed and
produced the most quickly. This can mean a day's work for one engineer
or a number of days for perhaps half a dozen people. It is therefore
vital for the drawing office to maintain a significant degree of
flexibility. For once testing begins it's not rare for up to eighty
drawings to be produced at Enstone every day.
On the production front, the main task consists in prioritizing the
work that needs doing, including the production of parts for
development, for stock or for the season's first race. Working out the
priorities follows a precise procedure. At Enstone, all parts
scheduled for production are listed in a file known as UDSC (Usage,
Damage, Shortage, CrossOver). This master list can be consulted on the
factory's internal server and each job is given a priority
coefficient. The speed at which work is carried out can be
breathtaking. In certain cases, digitalizing, producing and
wind-tunnel testing a new part can take just hours thanks to a
technique known as rapid manufacturing. This automatic computer-
assisted tool, only a few of which actually exist, enables certain
components to be laser-produced in resin and has understandably been
of significant benefit to the aerodynamics department. However, wind
tunnel work isn't the only area to profit from this avant-garde
technology. The cars that line up on the grid of a Grand Prix feature
maybe twenty parts produced at Enstone using this technique.
At other times, Enstone may prefer to subcontract certain jobs. "For
certain generic parts or for priority reasons, we sometimes call on
outside suppliers," confirms Keith Saunt, Head of Manufacturing. "The
reactivity and production quality of all the companies we deal with
are carefully noted and we employ only the very best." Even so, it is
still vital to ensure that sufficient time is planned into the process
to allow thorough inspection of all bought-in parts.
Planning for Melbourne.
Preparing the car is one thing, but ensuring the provision of parts
and their transport to Australia is another race against time. For
this reason, the team calls on simulation software to determine the
set-up of the cars that will line up for the first Grand Prix and this
allows the engineers to draw up a list of the parts they will need at
the circuit, including wings, gear ratios, etc. This inventory is then
passed on to the production and spares departments.
The year's private test program was also finalized in December to
ensure that all the necessary parts are available in time. Meanwhile,
the cases that will go to Australia need to be packed. At Renault F1
Team, it's the Sporting Manager Steve Nielsen who is entrusted with
getting the 26 tones of freight, the three race cars and more than
sixty staff to the other side of the planet. "We start making
arrangements a year ahead," he points out. "The fact that the 2005
season kicks off with three flyaway Grand Prix in quick succession
effectively left us with no alternative." After leaving Enstone at the
end of February, the airfreight containers won't be back in the UK
until after the Bahraini Grand Prix.
By that time, the R25 will have already covered thousands of
kilometres in race conditions...
.--Renault F1 Team--
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