FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
We might not have scored points in the Japanese Grand Prix, but our upward trajectory continued. On pure pace alone we were able to overtake and out-race Toro Rosso and McLaren while we were fighting with Williams for the race duration. It’s very positive to see we can genuinely mix it in the midfield and that we are there, ready to take advantage of any opportunity.
We are now entering the final four races of the year in a positive frame of mind. Things are moving in the right direction on track and off track our plans are beginning to take shape as well. We are starting our extension of Enstone very shortly and the new recruits are coming in steadily after our recruitment drive at the start of the year. We also announced the first of our drivers for 2017, Nico Hülkenberg. We are delighted to welcome Nico – he’s experienced, yet still hungry for success and should complement our plans perfectly. Certainly we’re looking forward to working with him in 2017 and beyond. It’s an exciting time for the team all round.
Cyril Abiteboul, managing director
Sweeter than Fiction
Fred Vasseur debriefs on a solid Japanese Grand Prix and looks forward to the ever-popular USA Grand Prix.
The Japanese Grand Prix didn’t yield any points but it was a strong performance from the team. How would you review the weekend as a whole?
It was our best weekend in terms of performance even though we didn’t score points unfortunately. We had a very strong FP3 on Saturday morning and even though we missed out a little in qualifying, in the race we were able to overtake Toro Rosso and McLaren and not be too far away from the Williams. In terms of pure performance it was certainly our best weekend so far this season. It confirms the progression we have made since June and how we have been able to maintain it.
Would you say that those teams are our closest competition at this point in the year?
In Japan we overtook Toro Rosso and McLaren and were much closer to Williams than we have been in the past, so we have raised our level in the race. What is clear is that we need to improve in qualifying to have a stronger baseline with which to start the race, and then hopefully the results will follow.
Are the drivers responding well to the improved performance?
Jo did a very good race. We had quite an aggressive strategy in that he only made one stop and had to look after his tyres. Kevin was also able to make up positions and fight, so they both have confidence in the car and are able to use it effectively now.
How is the team morale now with four races remaining of a very long season?
The last results, independent of the points scored by Jo or Kevin, have energised the team. It confirms we are moving forward, which is always very positive. Even if tenth place is not where we want to end up long-term, it is progress and that is always encouraging for everyone. The last four races are physically tough, but we’re up for the fight.
Last week the team announced the first of the 2017 drivers. What made you go for Nico?
Nico is one of the drivers that has really made his mark, with in particular a GP2 title in his first year in the series. Only three drivers have done this so far: Nico, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. He has succeeded in everything in his career to date, including Le Mans. He is also a real leader and able to motivate a team and take the troops with him. He has a lot of experience and is very fast; that is very important for us in this stage of our development. From a technical perspective, an experienced and conscientious driver can give precious feedback as well as knowing exactly what they want from the car. This allows the team to work fast and efficiently. We are really happy to have him with us.
Shake it Off
Our Kev’s a big fan of the US so heads there wanting to make the most of the Circuit of The Americas.
What are your thoughts on the US Grand Prix?
I do love the United States and I know it well from visiting many times. The race in Austin is a great event and the circuit is really good. The fans really get behind you and I’m sure they’ll be out in force as the weather looks like it will be a lot better than all the rain we saw last year!
What are your thoughts on the circuit layout?
The start-finish with the big climb at the end is pretty notable then there’s a fast and flowing section that follows – and that’s pretty fun. It’s a good layout that has quite a few different challenges and we have seen some decent racing there. Overtaking is possible and there can be a variety of tyre strategies too, so I think we could have a fun race.
You raced there in 2014; what are your memories of that race?
I can remember holding on to the car when we were getting a lot of tyre degradation at the end of the race and I finished in the points. That would be good this time too.
How was your race in Japan?
We all worked hard over the weekend but the car wasn’t quite 100% to my liking in the race. There are a few areas we’re looking at for Austin and I also get a new floor, which usually helps with the overall balance. There were no big issues; it’s just that we knew we could have performed better if everything was perfect.
After a point-score in Malaysia and a strong race in Suzuka, Jolyon Palmer is feeling confident heading to the United States.
What do you reckon to the Circuit of The Americas…
It looks like a great track and it looks like one of the best modern layouts so I’m looking forward to getting out there. In the sim it seems quite tricky with a nice bit of undulation, some blind corners and some good meaty fast corners so it should be a good challenge to drive. I’ve never driven it before so it’s going to be another occasion when I learn it on the Friday.
You seemed to learn Suzuka pretty quickly? What’s the trick?
Obviously we do a lot of simulator work and I watch a lot of on board laps. Suzuka really gelled as it’s a fantastic circuit so it was certainly a rewarding weekend. I thought it would be difficult but the circuit really came to me. If I’m honest I did expect it to be a bit more of a challenge but I’m in a good place with the car and that confidence always helps as you can focus on learning the track rather than fighting with handling or set-up that doesn’t give you what you want.
You were pretty happy with your P12 in Japan?
I think it was a very good performance and we’re almost in the top half of the field on pure race performance now. We had a good strategy and strong pace; everything is progressing a lot really. Had we had the same amount of people retiring from the race as there has been in previous outings, we would have been scoring some strong points in Japan.
Where do you think the pace improvement is coming from?
We know a lot more about the car and something the team has done really well this year is develop every aspect of how we utilise the car on track. This includes how we use the tyres, how we look at strategy and so on. From myself, I feel stronger and more confident with every race and that’s what you expect in a first season.
It’s a good place to be. If you look at the race our pace was pretty comparable to Felipe [Massa] in the Williams and if you’d said that at the beginning of the season there would have been some raised eyebrows. It wasn’t a perfect race – I did get caught-up in traffic quite a lot – but everything else was quite smooth. We had good pace, good strategy, kept the tyres alive and that’s what we’ve been doing quite well the last two races. We’ve managed to jump into the midfield..
What are your thoughts on the good ol’ USofA?
I love it! Austin itself is a fantastic city, the countryside in Texas is superb and the people are so welcoming. There is a lot more Formula 1 knowledge than I expected as you always think NASCAR or Indycar when you think of motorsport in the US.
My problem with the US is the food; there are too many temptations! This is tough as I have to watch my weight so closely. I’d love to be tucking into ribs and burgers all the time! Aside from trying to keep away from the food, it really is a nice place to go racing. It’s something different, especially to be in Texas, there’s a great atmosphere there. Last year we had huge downpours, which was a shame so I’m hoping for some good weather this year and a big crowd!
Despite most of Enstone’s attention on next year’s car there’s still scope to progress on track with the R.S.16 as Technical Director Nick Chester explains.
What’s the technical approach to the US Grand Prix?
It’s all about maximising what we have. There are a few minor aero bits we will have on the car that are just the final elements of the R.S.16 development programme. In addition we are making progress on set-up and tyre management, especially tyre management for qualifying.
Should the Circuit of The Americas show us some good ol’ fashioned US hospitality?
There’s nothing about the layout to cause alarm for our car so looking at the simulations we could have a decent race. It’s a nice smooth circuit with a high-speed first sector incorporating a lot of fast-flowing corners – the type of which have turned out okay for our car of late. If you look at the rest of the circuit too we are predicting a Sepang / Suzuka level of performance from the R.S.16.
How was the debrief from Japan?
Japan was a slightly unusual one as we were competitive in a lot of the sessions but not in qualifying, which is something we’ve been analysing. FP3 was particularly decent, our qualifying was sub-par, then the race pace was pretty respectable. Race pace was encouraging once more and if we can improve qualifying – as we have seen at certain races this year – and maintain the race pace we should be fighting for points for the remaining races.
What are the targets for the final four races of the season?
Points and progress. In terms of programmes we have different set-up evaluations to conduct and we are always looking at aspects relevant to our 2017 project, but we’re still focused on obtaining the best results possible at every remaining race.
T1: The run from pole is 500m but the track goes steeply uphill, with the turn-in point for the corner at the crest. There is around 40m in height difference from the end of the straight to the apex of turn 1.
T3: The start of the Esses. Turns 3 to 6 are flat out with the average speed around 210kph in fifth or sixth gear.
T11: Turn 11 is a potential overtaking opportunity as drivers come out of the third gear turn 9 into the flat out turn 10 then into a heavy braking for the hairpin at 11. Revs will drop to 9,500rpm and the car speed to just 80kph.
T12: Turn 12 comes after the 1km straight. Brakes need to be set-up so they are not too cool at the end of the straight so the driver can make the corner.
T13: 13, 14 and 15 are fairly low speed, with the line determined by the kerbs; all second gear corners.
T16: Front wing levels are tailored to counter understeer in this continuous double apex.
Power Unit notes
- Just under 60% of the lap is taken at wide open throttle, rising to over 60% in qualifying. The average speed will be a touch under 200kph with top speed peaking at over 320kph.
- Since gradient changes a lot over one lap engine speeds and turbo rotation vary constantly, and settings must be constantly adjusted to give optimal performance.
- After the first corner the driver goes back up through the gears to reach seventh for turns 2, 3 and 4, which are taken flat out with an average speed of 280kph. Similar to Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone and the Esses at Suzuka, the driver needs to be precise on the throttle and carry the speed all the way through rather than brake and accelerate. The power unit needs to be correspondingly smooth throughout the turns, delivering constant levels of torque.
- The low ambient humidity of the Texan grasslands has a big effect on the power units. The air will contain more oxygen and the ICE will generate more power, but the aridity is very taxing on the internals. We will watch ignition timing very closely.
- Similar to Abu Dhabi and Korea, the longest straight is not the pit straight. In Austin it is the burst between turns 11 and 12, which is 1,016m. The car will be at full throttle for almost 20secs. It will also spend over two seconds at maximum velocity at the end of the straight. The driver will brake heavily at the end of the straight for the hairpin so rear-end stability and stability under braking will be crucial.
Medium: Like Austin resident and Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock, adaptable to any kinds of conditions.
Soft: Renée Zellweger. Often used for great dramatic effect.
Supersoft: The Farrah Fawcett of the range. Often effective, but peaks quickly and then falls off.
Although it was regularly successful elsewhere, by some strange quirk of fortune Renault scored just a single victory in the USA in Detroit in 1986 until Austin returned to the calendar in 2012.
Ayrton Senna triumphed for Team Lotus. He started from pole but lost the lead at the start to Nigel Mansell. Senna repassed the Brit on lap 8 when the Brit had brake problems, although Senna soon slowed himself with a puncture and dived into the pits. That left the Ligier-Renaults of Arnoux and Laffite running first and second, but in the middle of the race both Ligiers dropped back when they made slow pit stops. That put Nelson Piquet into the lead.
When Piquet made his single stop on lap 40 a stuck wheel saw him lose 10s. Senna made his final stop a lap later and emerged in front. Piquet’s challenge ended almost immediately when he crashed into the concrete wall and fortunately for Senna the remainder of the race passed without drama. He eventually crossed the line and Renault duly celebrated a one-two, with Laffite second.
- Taylor Swift is due to headline the concerts supporting the USA GP. With her fifth album, 1989, she became the first act to have three albums sell a million copies a week in the United States. Its singles Shake it Off and Bad Blood reached number one in the US, Australia and Canada while the album received three Grammy Awards.
- In 1999, film star and Austinite Matthew McConaughey was arrested in Austin for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. When the police arrived, they found him dancing around, playing bongo drums. Naked.
- The greater Austin area contains 10 extinct volcanoes. They used to be violent underwater volcanoes called “explosion craters” by geologists.
- Austin really is the Live Music Capital of the World. The slogan became official in 1991 when it was discovered that the city had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else. There are more than 1,900 bands and performing artists in the city, and nearly 200 live music venues around town.
- Texas is big. It includes 267,339 square miles, or 7.4% of the USA’s total area and more land is farmed in Texas than in any other state.
Infiniti Hybrid Fact