Friday, April 11, 2008


This weekend, the Grand Prix teams are going to a new venue for the Japanese Grand Prix. Fuji Speedway. F1 last raced at this circuit back in the year 1976. The track has undergone major circuit layout revisions to increase the lap times from the 70's time of a 1m 20 odd seconds to a 1m 30s. So, this circuit is brand new for the F1 teams. What's the challenge for the teams here?

First up, we've to analyse what it takes to race an F1 car in a Grand Prix circuit. It's not that you take an F1 car to the race track and race it straightaway. The teams have to do a lot of home-work to get the various parameters of their car working at their optimum for that particular circuit. The parameters are: the downforce level of the car's aerodynamic package (low downforce for higher top speeds, high downforce for maximum grip around corners, medium downforce which is a compromise between a high and low downforce package), gear ratio of the transmission system (that determines the top speed that the car attains on the main straight, acceleration of the car out of the various slow, medium and high speed turns), mechanical setup of the car's suspension system (softer suspension setting for bumpy circuits, hard suspension setting for circuits that are smooth and/or that contain a lot of 150 kph or more high speed corners, ride height), strategy for the race (1 stop/2 stops/3 stops for fuel and tyres), ideal racing line for achieving the fastest lap time, engine mapping (how the torque produced by the engine is spread over it's rev range), engine's fuel burn characteristics (this plays a big role in the strategy choice).

All these parameters should be as close to perfection as possible even before a Grand Prix team starts it's first practice session of that weekend. For circuits that they visit regularly, the teams have a huge pool of data from their previous visits to the circuit that they can rely upon. But, for newer circuits like the upcoming Fuji Speedway, the teams have no such previous years' data to rely upon. So, they resort to computer simulations to get the above said parameters close to perfection. Click on the below link to see how BMW Sauber prepares to race at a new circuit:

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