FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2017 PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
The Grand Prix de Monaco has a special place in the hearts of Formula 1 fans in general and has particular resonance for Renault. Since 2009, the event has been the nearest we have had to a French Grand Prix, and even before that we have always had a special relationship with the Principality.
As a constructor, Renault has won twice in Monaco, with Jarno Trulli in 2004 and in 2006 with Fernando Alonso. As an engine supplier, we have tasted the top step a further four times. Our expectation is not to add to this statistic in 2017, but we are making progress and we are ambitious for this new challenge.
Barcelona was a complicated weekend for us. However, we achieved Renault Sport Formula One Team’s best-ever finish and the points scored meant we moved up a position in the Constructors’ Championship. We were somewhat disappointed on Saturday with our qualifying positions, but we were able to make amends on Sunday with a better race pace.
Monaco presents our engineers and drivers with a unique challenge and it provides a fabulous showcase for Formula 1 to the world.
This time of year is exceptionally busy for Renault Sport Racing. Just after the disappointment of our qualifying in Barcelona, we had cause to celebrate Sébastien Buemi’s victory with Renault e.dams in the Monaco ePrix. In Silverstone, three of our Renault Sport Academy drivers were in action last weekend, and they will be racing again this weekend in Pau. They have a triple-header, as they will also join us on track in Monaco.
In the GP3 Series, Renault Sport Academy member Jack Aitken started from pole in Barcelona, however his good work was undone with a technical issue. Our Development Driver, Oliver Rowland, took two podiums, whilst our Test Driver, Nicholas Latifi, was unfortunate to lose out on taking his first Formula 2 victory. Three days later, he had his first taste behind the wheel of the R.S.17 in Barcelona for the Pirelli test.
In Monaco we will start our celebrations of the forty year anniversary of Renault first entering Formula 1.. We hope we can harness the force of our forty year history for a strong result this weekend.
After a successful points finish in Spain, the R.S.17 will get a taste of the most famous circuit on the Formula 1 calendar – the Circuit de Monaco. Engine Technical Director Remi Taffin shares his thoughts on the twisting, street circuit and what challenges the bumps and dips bring.
What are the challenges in Monaco?
For Monaco you need consistency, so the job of the power unit is to give the driver a consistent power delivery without too many energy recovery strategies over the course of a very busy and frenetic lap. Fortunately, Monaco is unique in the way it is driven and some of the areas you need to pay attention to for a more normal track are not so relevant. As a driver doesn’t use full throttle as much as at other tracks, they can recover energy quite easily.
Historically, we would say that Monaco was hard on the engine because of the bumps and the driver maintaining high revs with the engine. We have addressed all the issues stemming from the bumps and the latest generation of engine revs lower and has a different torque curve so these areas are not as critical as before.
Ultimately, Monaco is about confidence. When a driver is confident it can make a big difference. So we do everything we can do from a power unit perspective to assist with the driver’s confidence.
How would you sum up the season so far?
We knew it would be a challenging start to the year – testing illustrated this – but five Grands Prix in we have finished all the races without experiencing any problems. In Spain we were able to get more from the power unit in qualifying mode. We are not subject to the same constraints as before with tokens, so we can push and develop in a different way than for the past three seasons. We are continuing with our roadmap of adding performance, balanced to the requirements of reliability.
When will we see the new generation MGU-K?
We ran with a new generation MGU-K in pre-season testing and this showed us that the concept was not ready for race conditions. The potential advantage it offers relates to its weight rather than direct PU performance benefits. This new generation of MGUK will be deployed when adequate with our power unit plan. In terms of performance improvement we are looking at every area, so the potential weight advantage of a new specification MGU-K is just one factor in a bigger equation.
No Place Like Home
A sixth place finish in Spain gave the team its best-ever finish, so a return to familiar surroundings gives Monaco resident Nico Hülkenberg added confidence to add to his points tally.
What makes Monaco so special?
There is no track like Monaco, it’s the highlight of the year. It’s unique and special in every aspect and I massively look forward to it. It is probably the most glamorous Grand Prix on the calendar and there is no place like it to give you a buzz and a sensation of speed.
What challenges does Monaco bring?
Physically it is not the most demanding track, but you have to really concentrate and be very precise. It is low speed, not a high G-force track, but very full-on which makes focus vital. An error puts you in the wall and ends your race. As a driver it is about confidence. Overtaking is hard but it is a thrilling race and a huge challenge, I really love racing at Monaco.
Are you confident going into the weekend?
The track should suit us, especially with the Supersoft and Ultrasoft tyres. I am looking forward to race day and obviously I’m aiming for a good result. Last year I performed there quite well and with the new cars it will feel even quicker. You need a good rhythm and a good harmony with yourself and the car and feel comfortable. Lap times can be tricky to find, but in recent years I have done well, so hopefully we can have another strong performance.
Is patience the key to success on a street circuit like Monaco?
You have to build it up step by step, session by session. The last thing you want to do is touch a wall as that will take all your confidence away. In qualifying you peak and take more risks and get closer to the barriers and really get on the limits. But it is a street circuit, we know what they entail and you have to be sensible and totally focused on the task.
What are the notable elements of racing in your back yard?
I scooter and bike around the track, sometimes through the tunnel! It is kind of weird to go home every night between sessions, but it is a nice change-up to the normal routine.
Pushing the limits
Jolyon Palmer is aiming to do the business in Monaco.
How exciting is Monaco?
It is really fun, there is nothing quite like it. It is a unique event with all the glitz and glamour, all the yachts, all the rich and famous. It all adds to make a really fun place and a great event to be involved in. It is a special weekend and one I always love. Monaco is a cool place and so different behind the wheel where you have adrenaline pumping from the first lap.
Talk us through a lap of the Circuit de Monaco…
It is difficult to catch your breath as it is 75 seconds of chaos! From the moment you hit the brakes at Sainte Devote and up the hill, it is one corner after another, super quick and very bumpy. There are walls on the outside, you literally brush them and get as close as you can. It is pinpoint accuracy required and commitment for all of it, that is the challenge.
Have you ever hit a perfect lap in Monaco?
I’ve got pretty close and it feels very good. It is probably the best feeling you get in racing. It is about commitment and chucking the car in and hoping it comes out the corner. When you do that for 19 corners, it is pretty special. I remember setting my GP2 pole position lap in 2014 knowing that nobody would beat it.
How do you prepare for this unique Grand Prix?
You need to build up to it steadily. It is a normal road so the track changes as it evolves. You build up your confidence which is important to do piece by piece. This year will be tough with the new cars. It is pretty much a two-hour race, even qualifying will be hard. You have no chance to gather your thoughts or take a breath on the lap. Mentally it is the hardest race of the year.
Do you ever find time to take in the atmosphere?
There are a lot of yachts and parties going on. I do get to scooter around when I head in or leave in the afternoon, which is fun and quite refreshing. It is great seeing the fans, but obviously I go quick on the scooter and get my knee down. Nobody is stopping me!
*Disclaimer, Jolyon doesn’t actually get his knee down when riding a scooter around Monaco.
Renault Sport Academy Round-up
Busy times for those in the Renault Sport Academy with races run in Silverstone and Barcelona, as well as races ahead in Pau and Monaco.
GP3 pole pace but pain for Aitken
Pole position was a great way for Jack Aitken to start his GP3 Series campaign, however things didn’t go quite to plan for Jack in Barcelona thereafter. Off the line he dropped a position, and despite DRS not being available until a number of laps after it should have been, Jack relentlessly hounded the leader, right until five laps from the end when an inlet pressure sensor cried foul and his engine went into safety mode.
Jack’s race one DNF meant a race two start from the back, and he worked his way up to a credible P12. Despite not securing race points across the weekend, Jack is keen to take on the positives ahead of the trip to the Red Bull Ring in July.
“We started the year in the best possible way with a strong pole position on Saturday morning which was a testament to the pace we have. I dropped to P2 at the start, getting some wheel spin and the DRS did not activate when we were close to the leader. I dropped back and then began attacking again later only for an engine fault to stop our race.
“Starting from the back in Race 2 was always going to be difficult on one of the hardest circuits to overtake at, but we still managed to get to P12 and kept our nose clean. We at least know our pace is really strong and head to Red Bull Ring sure of a better weekend.”
Triple-header goes Pau
If there’s one thing racing drivers love, it’s going racing, but three race meetings in as many weeks makes for a busy period for Renault Sport Academy Europcupers, Jarno Opmeer, Max Fewtrell and Sun Yue Yang.
Last weekend saw the trio out in action at Silverstone, this weekend sees them in Pau, before they head to Monaco on the race bill of the Grand Prix weekend.
Silverstone was a challenge for Jarno, with a P15 in race two the best to show from a weekend which had promised much.
“I was quick in the practices both wet and dry, but in the qualifying session I was not confident in the half wet and half dry track and made several mistakes. In the first race my clutch slipped at the start and I was hit from behind and the car suffered heavy damage. For race two I was staging a good fightback from the back of the grid, but was hampered slightly by my engine cover coming loose meaning I lost a lot of top speed, so it was quite far from being the perfect weekend.
“I’m looking forward to Pau. I’ve never raced on a street circuit before so it is going be really hard but also really fun. It’s a small street circuit, it has more of a street circuit feel even than Monaco due the smaller streets and more bumps. My target is always to win but I don’t expect to make that happen this weekend, however I do hope to get my first points.”
A pair of P4 finishes in the Silverstone home round for Max saw him take the Top Rookie accolade as well as fourth in the championship.
“I found a better rhythm around Silverstone than in the first round in Monza. I knew the track a bit better and I was feeling comfortable straight away, everyone can see I managed to make a big step forward, as I do not want to keep on just finishing in the points but I want to target podiums. I just missed out on this with P4 in both races, which shows the pace we had. We just need to keep the momentum going for the next rounds and I am looking forward to the street races.
“Pau looks to be very, very different to what I’ve ever raced before, it’s so narrow and I can’t wait to experience it. I have never raced on a street track before, so this a new experience for me; I’m super excited about it and I just want to get out there on the streets and go for it.
“I haven’t really set any targets for this weekend with it being my first time in Pau, especially as some of the other guys have been there before. It’s going to be a hard weekend, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
Sun Yue Yang:
Sun has seen a challenging opening to his rookie season in the Eurocup where he has bagged two P16 finishes across the opening two rounds. It was a challenging weekend for Sun in Silverstone, with lessons learnt set to be put into practice in Pau.
“Silverstone was a rough weekend for me and I take it as part of my learning curve. There was a lot of overtaking as well as being overtaken by the others. At this point in my rookie season it’s not all about position, it’s about gaining knowledge, like how to overtake better and get through the field quickly. I hope to put these lessons into action in Pau.
“I did a simulator session of Pau and it’s very narrow, but it is a tactical and interesting track. For me the sector 1 and sector 3 of the track was just about slow in fast out so quite straight forward, however sector 2 was the difficult part of this track. I believe it will be a fantastic experience.
“I haven’t raced on a street course before and I imagine it will be a difficult and competitive race. My target is a clean race so I can learn a lot, especially as we head to another street course in Monaco the week after.
Lundgaard gets going in Sochi
Three weeks after Formula 1 was in action here, the SMP F4 NEZ Championship certified by FIA gets underway in Sochi with Christian Lundgaard setting high targets for himself from the very first round.
“My goal for the weekend is to be on the top step of the podium, but not just that, I want to learn as much as possible during the weekend!
“Of course it’s so cool to drive on an F1 circuit, and I’m really looking forward to it.
“The start of the season is the most important and I hope to get as many points as possible and finish all races.”
Double podium for Rowland
Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland had a strong second round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship with a double podium in Barcelona. Despite slight disappointment with a P6 qualifying position, Oliver ran to a late stop strategy in Saturday’s Feature race, meaning he found himself in the lead of the race as those around him pitted sooner than him. Once he took his mandatory stop, Oliver was able to blast back up the order for a P3 finish. Sunday’s Sprint race saw Rowland go one better to take P2 after a late dice with DAMS team-mate, and Renault Sport Formula One Team Test Driver, Nicholas Latifi. Oliver left Barcelona in second position in the driver standings.
“I started sixth in both races and had really good pace. Without the safety car on Saturday I think we would have won. It was Nicholas’ race on Sunday, he did everything right but one little mistake cost him the victory. We scored good points for the championship, though and that’s important at this stage.”
Elusive win eludes Latifi
Renault Sport Test Driver Nicholas Latifi had a strong Formula 2 weekend in Barcelona and was unfortunate to miss out on a Sprint race win on Sunday morning. The Canadian driver moved up three places from ninth on the grid to seal an impressive P6 finish in the Feature race.
Sunday’s Sprint race looked to be set as Latifi’s first win, however the distraction of a mirror breaking off his car and bouncing off his helmet meant he out-braked himself into a subsequent corner and the lead was lost. After a battle with team-mate Oliver Rowland, Nicholas took third in the race.
Post race, Nicholas stayed in Barcelona to get his first outing in the Renault Sport Formula One Team R.S.17 as part of his Test Driver role.
“It was a great experience to get the opportunity to drive the R.S.17 and the day went really well. The latest generation Formula 1 car is something really special. You can really feel the downforce and extra grip that the new regulations provide with the wider Pirelli tyres, which makes it all the more enjoyable to push the car hard through the corners. We did plenty of mileage with 139 laps and I can’t wait for another opportunity to jump back in. Now my focus will switch to preparation with my F2 team for our upcoming race at Monaco!”
Renault e.dams – Double Duty
Just after Formula 1 qualifying had taken place in Barcelona, Renault e.dams proved victorious on the streets of Monaco with Sébastien Buemi taking his fourth win of season three of the FIA Formula E championship. There wasn’t too much time for celebrations however, as for the first time in Formula E history, a back-to-back event sees Renault e.dams in action this weekend in the Paris ePrix.
“I am really happy to be winning again. I was quicker in the first half of the race and everything was under control. In general, we changed a little bit the set-up on the second car in order to use the extra grip of the circuit. I am delighted with that result.
“After our success in Monaco, I arrive in Paris even more motivated than ever to score another podium. It’s a special weekend for us with the team and I will do my best to continue our top form.”
“When you start from the back of the grid in Monaco, you don’t expect much. But the car felt really good and the job of the team was incredible.
“The Paris ePrix is a special one for us. The circuit is very challenging with unusual corners and I look forward to racing there once more. I arrive in Paris with all the motivation I need to get on the podium.”
‘Like trying to ride a bicycle around your living room,’ a quote attributed to Nelson Piquet, who probably never tried navigating his Brompton around his coffee table and pouf, as driving the Armco-lined rollercoaster ride that is Monaco is a daunting challenge rewarding confidence and precision, but penalising the slightest mistake or lapse of concentration.
The shortest lap on the Formula 1 calendar at 3.34km, Monaco features nineteen turns, with all the bumps, camber and drain covers you’d expect of a road used as a public highway.
The narrow first corner has very little run-off and has been the scene of many incidents over the years. Drivers need to keep their wits about them to avoid any meeting with the infamous wall on the outside, especially as the bumps on braking make it easy to lock the fronts.
The bumpy track between turns four and five (Casino/Mirabeau) requires drivers to modify their line, from left to right to avoid bottoming the car too much on the run down to Mirabeau.
Taken flat out, the tunnel is the fastest part of the track. The contrast of natural, artificial, and then natural light takes a split second to get used to. Good trajectory for all-important braking in to the chicane is vital.
Exiting the tunnel into the chicane is the scene of many out-braking manoeuvres. This is a real opportunity to pressurise the car ahead, but also a place where mistakes are often seen.
This section is entered very quickly and is a ‘flick-flack’ where kerbs can be used and a few thousandths of a second can be made.
La Rascasse (named after the restaurant there) – is the second slowest part of the circuit, with the cars running very close to the inside wall. Braking and accuracy on line is critical; for good traction up to Anthony Noghes and the completion of the lap.
Start/finish straight. With so few overtaking opportunities around the lap, a good exit from the final corner – Anthony Noghes – is essential leading on to the start finish straight. There are high traction demands here and torque management will be key.
Power Unit Notes
- Monte Carlo has the lowest average race speed on the calendar at just 150kph. Top speed peaks at only 290kph.
- Less than 30secs – roughly one third of the lap – is spent at full throttle, which places an emphasis on the overall package’s driveability rather than outright performance.
- The tunnel section and pit straight are the only chances to hit maximum speed.
- Monaco is a very bumpy circuit with lots of camber change. This can induce drops in oil pressure as the oil pumps aren’t able to properly scavenge the oil system, or the oil tank succumbs to an unexpected loading. A temporary lack of oil pressure can be harmful to the turbo as lubrication is vital at the speeds at which the turbo operates.
- Energy recovery is easy with the amount of braking points – the 19 corners are all taken at an average of less than 100kph and the MGU-K will have more than enough opportunity to recharge the ES.
- Since energy recovery under braking is relatively easy, Monaco is one of the few races of the year where fuel consumption won’t be critical, particularly as the overall race distance is so short and there is so little time spent at full throttle.
- Grand Hotel (or Loews) Hairpin. The track descends from the Mirabeau and turns almost 180° back on itself in front of the hotel. When the cars round the hairpin the engine is running at just 45kph and around 4,500rpm, the lowest speed and revs it reaches on track at any point in the year.
It’s the season-opening allocation of the Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft for Monaco, a street course which cries out for the grippiest rubber available. Expect the tyre markings to get rubbed off the sidewalls on occasion, but any harder a blow could see damage ensue.
SOFT (yellow) –.Like the Monte Carlo Beach hotel, less frantic than the more street inclined Supersoft and Ultrasoft tyres, the Soft is likely to be seen less over the course of the race weekend.
SUPERSOFT (red) – Not gaining the attention of its softer sibling, the Supersoft is the Hôtel Hermitage of Pirelli’s allocation; more discreet but filling a vital function all weekend.
ULTRASOFT (purple) – Like the Hôtel de Paris, likely to be a focal point of the Monaco weekend by gaining all the attention.
2.02 – Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, covering just 2.02 square kilometres (1.24 square miles).
30 – Around 30% of the population are a millionaire.
154 – Casino de Monte Carlo was opened 154 years ago.