F1 Newsround - 07/May/1997   HomeContentsHelp



Renault Testing Feature...Schumacher Breaks Fiorano record...Le Mans Fatality, Brundle Fastest...Newey to McLaren...

The majority of Formula 1 engine development work is carried out on the test bench. Certain aspects of the work, however, can only be done at the race track. Track test engineer Axel Plasse, who works out of Renault Sport's Development Department, talks about the importance of track testing in the course of a Formula 1 season and explains how his work complements bench testing.


Why is track testing indispensable?

"Generally speaking, testing is a means of validating a new development or a new component. It is an indispensable phase of the development process and rare indeed are the fields of technology in which engineers can allow themselves not to test."

"Despite the importance of calculation work both within teams and at Renault Sport, nothing can replace testing. To be able to predict on paper what is likely to work and what isn't has effectively become increasingly important, but testing is still essential."

What additional information does track testing provide you with?

"Although bench testing attempts to reproduce real conditions as closely as possible, it has its limits. A Formula 1 car moves, turns and accelerates whereas an engine on the bench is fixed which means that a whole host of situations can not simulated."

"Having said that, the test bench remains a rigorous tool which is capable of determining, for example, whether a particular engine is developing, say, three brake-horsepower more than another unit. This is something which a driver is incapable of doing. However, a test bench is a bit like a computer inasmuch as it can only quantify parameters that are quantifiable. Some parameters - such as the characteristics of a new type of fuel - are difficult to put into figures in order to evaluate performance gains. On the other hand, there are many subjective considerations - such as driveability and response - which can only be judged by a driver. Track testing is an intermediate phase between bench testing and race use."

The work of your team is twofold. On the one hand you validate engine developments from the technical viewpoint and, on the other, you take on board the reactions of drivers with a view to improving driveability...

"Renault Sport's policy effectively covers two areas. First of all there is the quest for engine reliability, the final phase of which is validation on the race track. All new components brought must be validated in this way before they can find their way on to race engines. Reliable engines ensure that future development work is coherent and linear."

"Renault Sport also attaches significant importance to driveability and driver comfort. We are not obsessed with engine power. We endeavour to produce an engine which is driveable in all conditions and which gives drivers no reason for complaint. Our aim is in fact to produce an engine which drivers can forget all about. It is often said that an engine on its own cannot win a race, but that it can lose one. An engine which puts out 10 or 20 extra horsepower will not change a car's overall competitiveness. However an engine which fails does. Track testing is essential for all the considerations which are related to driver comfort and driveability."

Can successful bench tests sometimes be rejected following track testing?

"There are certain types of modifications which we know in advance will benefit performance and which will have no adverse effect on driveability. A component which produces less friction, for example. These are systematically homologated...if, of course, they are reliable. However, it has been known for bench-validated evolutions which can potentially effect driveability to be dropped because the drivers weren't happy with them."

How do you organise your work once the season is under way?

"Track testing is the final link in the chain before a part or a new development can be raced. My job is to provide the race team with a perfectly finished product and team work is essential. During the season, private testing and races alternate. Test programmes tend to follow either long or short cycles with certain targets based on a time scale of perhaps one, two or three months, while other developments need to be validated in time for the following Grand Prix. Engine development accounts for around two-thirds of our work. The other third concerns problems encountered at the previous race. These are communicated to us once the race team gets back from the Grand Prix which means that our exact test job-list is only finalised at a very late stage."

"I get my satisfaction from hearing race engineers tell me that their engines functioned well over the Grand Prix weekend. That's when I feel that our job has been done correctly."

Which in your opinion is the best circuit for testing purposes?

"Estoril. It includes some very slow portions, including the chicane where engine speeds fall to as low as 4,000 rpm, which is pretty much an extreme case. Then there are the straights and some fast, 220-240 kph corners. It's an interesting circuit. The weather is generally fine and rain is quite rare."

"Having said that, it is important to test at a variety of circuits. An engine needs to be put through its paces at all engine speeds to be sure that it will be reliable at all venues."

How do you see the 1997 season shaping up following the first three Grands Prix?

"The first part of the season has seen the performance gap between teams both new and old to the championship - close quite remarkably. Tyres look set to play a big role throughout the year and that promises to liven things up and add even more interest to the sport."

April 21st 1997


Le Mans claims first victim in 11 years, Brundle fastest, Bell wants another crack.

(May 3rd 1997 Le Mans) French driver Sebastian Enjolras was killed in an accident whilst pre-qualifying for the Le Mans 24 hour race to be held in June. His Peugeot Prototype went out of control accelerating through a corner hit the banking and burst into flames. The last driver to suffer a fatality at the circuit was Austrian Jo Gartner, In 1986.

(May 4th 1997 Le Mans) Martin Brundle, ex Benetton and Jordan driver and now co-chair and successor to aging race commentator Murray Walker, put in the fastest overall time in the weekend qualifying sessions for the 24 hour race. Driving a TWR designed Nissan R390, he drove round the 8.5 mile circuit in 3.43.15, an average speed in excess of 136 miles outperforming Porsche, Lotus and the McLaren F1’s.

Derek Bell 55, a veteran driver and five times winner, is negotiating with Gianpiero Moretti to drive his Ferrari


Lauda has new kidney

Austrian Ex world Champion and Ferrari consultant Niki Lauder, is recovering in hospital after receiving a new kidney donated by his younger brother Florian. Both patient and kidney are doing fine.


Villeneuve back to Indy?

(April 30th 1997) Jacques Villeneuve has intimated that if the racing is not "fun" he might return to Indycars. However, rumours that he will quit Formula 1 at the end of the season are unfounded especially in the light of his recent signing with Williams for a further year. Prompted by the implementation of new technical regulations regarding grooved tyres and a narrower track width on 1998 cars he said, "If it becomes boring to drive, then the pinnacle of racing will end up being in Indycars, and it could have a big influence on my decision," he said. "I'm racing because I enjoy it and I want to capitalise on it. If that's taken away, the money's not going to be enough to keep me for long. I've heard a lot of other drivers say that they would look at the other side (US) also." Villeneuve, who is not a member of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, had no intention of taking his opinions personally to FIA Boss Max Mosley, saying that, "It's one thing to talk but another to listen."


Walkinshaw in scrum with Hill (and Hill)

Tom Walkinshaw boss of TWR and the Arrows team has invested 2.5 million of his own personal wealth in the Gloucester League One rugby union club. Coach Richard Hill will join the TWR stable as part of Walkinshaw’s 75% share in the club. It is understood that he will leave the day to day running of the team with those already present, but will aim for additional sponsorship to improve facilities and player line-up.

Meanwhile the other Hill made cryptic remarks regarding his future with Arrows, "It's important for me to know what the future holds next year for the team." He said, "I won't make a decision yet, but I have to plan ahead." Insiders say that he has given them ‘til the British Grand Prix to sort themselves out.

But, ever the optimist, Hill thinks he has a chance of a point or two at Monaco, "I think we will be better off there than other circuits. I just hope Bridgestone have taken heed of my comments about the track surface at Monaco being different. If we get a good tyre for the race, I think we will be in better shape. We have to adapt this car when really we should be building a separate car."

Walkinshaw now has to wait until the debut of the new Yamaha V10 engine in Barcelona to find out if the improvements promised will enable the World Champion to become competitive. "We are still waiting and I'm glad I'm not holding my breath." he said. "We're struggling with last year's engine and reliability is one of the main issues, because in race trim we're not looking too bad at all." Despite his poor qualifying position of 13th, Hill was only 1.3 seconds off the pole position time of Villeneuve at Imola.


Both Ferrari’s break new record

(May 2nd 1997 Maranello) Both Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine have been testing at Ferrari’s track at Fiorano and continue to break the track record. After Irvine did a time of 59.501s last Wednesday, carrying out set-up work on the F 310B fitted with the 046/2 engine, Schumacher today went even quicker, stopping the clock in a time of 59.007s. The German driver continued work on finding the best set-up for the Monaco Grand Prix, trying different aerodynamic downforce and brake settings. Schumacher divided the programme into a series of runs, stopping for between 20 and 25 minutes to make changes to the car, which was fitted with the 046/1 engine. Earlier testing was done with the 046/step2 engine in order to compare the two power units. "I tried the 046/2 engine and am happy with its behaviour even on this twisty track." Said Schumacher later. "I am optimistic that our car will be competitive for the Monaco Grand Prix." Earlier in the week He drove 26 laps in the rain. His best lap of 59.545s, was only a few thousandths of a second less than the old lap record. The shakedown for the three Monaco cars will be carried out on Saturday (3rd) by Gianni Morbidelli.

Despite Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo criticising Goodyear for falling behind Bridgestone in the F1 tyre war, saying, "Goodyear is a giant asleep. If we had Bridgestones, we could be a second faster." , Ross Brawn Technical director agrees with his Number one driver, that Ferrari will be competitive in Monaco. "This is a track which will reduce the gap to Williams," he said, "It suits the areas in which we're strong, rather than those where we're not. We know where the problems are with the car, but finding solutions in the short term is another matter."


Barcelona tests 29th, 30th April, 1st May 1997

All the major teams with the exception of Ferrari and McLaren, completed three days of testing in Barcelona with Jacques Villeneuve topping the times with a 1.18.4s and team-mate Heinz Harald Frentzen lagging over half a second down.

The Benetton Renaults of Jean Alesi and test driver Alexander Wurz looked strong, working through an aerodynamic programme and front suspension geometry to find a more comfortable balance with the car. Jean Alesi seemed happy with the tests setting 2nd fastest of the sessions with 1.18.65 on the Wednesday (30th): "We had a good three days and have tested things for Monte Carlo. We've made progress and I'm looking forward to next weeks' race." Wurz also ran-in a gearbox ready for the upcoming race weekend.

Johnny Herbert in the Sauber Petronas was third with a time of 1m 18.84s. whilst Giancarlo Fisichella still basking in the glory that even a few points can bring, set a best time of 1.19.84 testing a new electronic differential for the Jordan Peugeot team.

Significantly Jarno Trulli in the Minardi lapping at a sedate 1.22.3, was two tenths of a second quicker than The Arrows of Damon Hill in the morning session on Thursday (1st) and half a second quicker by the afternoon. Hill did 46 laps in a test for Bridgestone tyres, working on compound assimilation for Monte Carlo. Hill was however faster on the Wednesday with a 1.21.7 over 61 timed laps but still 2.3 seconds adrift of the Williams.


Berger reflective on his 200th

The San Marino Grand Prix marked the 200th race for veteran Benetton driver Gerhard Berger. Criticising increased commercial and technical pressures since his F1 debut in the Austrian Grand Prix in 1984 "everybody puts themselves under more pressure: the drivers, engineers, technical people." He said, "It can’t be healthy, doing it to be more efficient, to make more money. It's more material today, and I'm not sure if that's the right thing."

Looking back over his career, he lamented the events in1994 in which his close friend and team-mate Ayrton Senna was killed and it was fitting that he should be celebrating his bi-centennial at Imola. "I have led here, had poles here, and had big accidents here. Obviously, we all know what else has happened here. This circuit gives me the most emotions," he said.

Team-mate Jean Alesi almost as long in the business, presented Berger with a specially commissioned crash helmet, painted half in his own colours and half in the Austrian's, as a memento of their time together both at Ferrari and at Benetton over the last 5 years.


Ron sets Newey some homework

(April 29th 1997) It has been officially confirmed that Adrian Newey will be joining the West McLaren Mercedes team on August 1st as technical director, although it is thought by some, that his appointment has come too late for him to play a significant role in the design of next year's car. Boss Ron Dennis none the less, hinted that, despite new regulations and a two month testing ban after the last race in Estoril, there would be time to evolve a car that had Newey’s imprint on it. "We have always produced our car quite late and the company is geared up for that. We intend to use all the resources available to us in the best possible way." He said. Again, hinting at his determination to get Newey integrated into the team as quickly as possible, he continued, "It is unlikely that we will turn up (at the first race) having never turned a wheel on a new car, but if that was the best way to do it, we would do it." It is thought that the design process could already have begun at Newey’s home in Oxforshire, digital data being easily transferable at any time, to the team’s headquarters in Woking.

Newey had been prevented from joining McLaren for the last six months by ex-boss Frank Williams, for whom he worked as Chief Designer for seven years, helping him in no small way to three driver’s crowns and four Constructors cups. Dennis stressed that Newey's appointment would not jeopardise relations with the Williams team. "Our friendship and sharing each others' views on every subject has strengthened in the last four months." he said, referring to a united struggle with the FIA, for re-admittance to the ‘Concord Agreement’, "There remains total harmony between our companies."

With rumours abounding that Damon Hill has been seen in close conversation with Dennis, the addition of Newey, Hills close ally at Williams, could signal a change of seats for the current World Champion for next year. (see Speed Motorsport News Monoca preview)


Nakano for the high jump

Team Boss Alain Prost is rumoured to be looking to replace number two driver Shinji Nakano with petrol giant, Elf supported Emmanuel Collard, if his performances do not improve. This could jeopardise Prost’s Mugan Honda engine supply as Nakano, is to marry the daughter of Mugen's Chairman, Hirotoshi Honda. (see Speed Motorsport News April update) Elf could however soften the blow with a boost of $2 million to the team’s coffers, if the French rookie is taken on board. Nakano has accepted that his performances have not been up to par but he puts it down to ‘insufficient testing’.

Despite rumours of a move lock stock and barrel to the UK, team Prost are to relocate their headquarters from Magny-Cours to St Cyr near Paris.


Tyrell all ears with new evolution Cosworth

Tyrell Racing is to debut the latest-evolution Cosworth ED5 engine and a new aerodynamics package for Monaco. The ugly wings sprouting from the mid section of the chassis are expected to stay for Monaco at least.


Statue to Senna unveiled at Tamburello

Frank Williams attended a ceremony to mark the 3rd anniversary of the death, at Imola, of Ayrton Senna. A statue was unveiled by Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Pires at the Tamburello corner where the Brazilian driver died. Bearing the legend ‘Il nom di Ayrton Senna rimarra indissolubilmente legatta a quello di Imola sara ricordato con un altro segno visible’ (The name of Ayrton Senna will forever be linked with that of Imola by this special sign), the life size bronze figure of Senna sitting passively with his head bowed, hands on his lap, was designed by sculptor Stefano Pierotti.


Chris Richardson May 5th 1997


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