RenaultSport Indian GP Preview

The FIA Formula One World Championship ventures into new territory this week with the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, which takes place on 30 October at the Buddh International Circuit. The 5.137km track is located some 40km from the Indian capital, New Delhi, and has been built as part of a massive redevelopment of the Greater Noida area, which will eventually include residential and professional buildings.

The circuit layout has been designed by Hermann Tilke with extensive input from the Formula One teams and features several interesting features, including a 1.1km straight that goes steeply downhill before rising uphill and a double apex cambered radial turn named the Parabolica. The wide track – at many points over 21m in width – also features marked changes of gradient over the course of a lap, so there is likely to be several overtaking opportunities.

Indian Grand Prix facts and figuresSince the Buddh International Circuit is a new addition to the calendar a great deal of work must be completed at the factory before a car has even turned a wheel on the tarmac; this enables a good base power-train set-up to be determined and available track time to be maximised. Renaultsport F1 will use all the tools at its disposal, such as computer simulation and engine dyno running, to meet this objective. More than double the time is spent testing engine maps on the dyno than would otherwise be the case for a ‘normal race’; so approximately four days of dyno running and simulations.

To get an accurate idea of the track, each of Renaultsport F1’s chassis teams will supply GPS data from which the respective engine team can recreate the circuit layout. The layout will then be run through various computer simulations to achieve a base engine map that can then be refined on the dyno. This process takes a further four days of manpower.

Simulations have shown that the track will have a lap time of around 1’30 with two distinct halves. The first part of the circuit requires good top speed and power since 75% of this part consists of straights. The second part of the track however is more twisty and requires a more driveable and responsive engine. The resultant engine requirements will be similar to Korea in this respect.

The track features several undulations, notably the first corner that falls steeply downhill before climbing uphill again into the hairpin leading to the long back straight. The internals of the engine will therefore be subjected to huge pressures and stresses as the lubricants are compressed with the high lateral and vertical g-forces.

The long 1.12km back straight will see the engines at full throttle for over 15secs. Interestingly this straight also features an altitude change with the track going downhill to the midway point of the straight before then climbing back up. Engine-wise, this gives the same ‘workout’ as the downhill descent from the La Source hairpin and then climb to Eau Rouge in Belgium.

The multi apex, highly banked turn 10 has a similar profile to turn 8 in Turkey – taken at high speed and high revs, so requiring a smooth application of power throughout the corner.

The drivers’ view

Karun Chandhok, Team LotusI’m really proud of the track and the facility the Indian GP organisers have created and I’m confident that both drivers and public will love it. It’s going to be challenging as there are two very different parts to the circuit; the flat-out first part with the 1.12km back straight that needs a good top end power and acceleration; with DRS this year we could see speeds peaking at over 320kph before the heavy braking zone at the end of the straight. At this point, having an engine that is responsive will be crucial as the corner at the end of the straight should give a good overtaking opportunity, particularly as the track is so wide at this point. The second part of the track is twistier with a variety of low to medium speed corners that will need a higher downforce setting so engine driveability will be key. With any new track, fine tuning the set up quickly will be important so a good working relationship between chassis and engine engineers and the driver will surely pay dividends.

The engineers’ view

Head of Renaultsport F1 track operations Rémi Taffin gives his thoughts on IndiaIndia will be our first new track of the season and the first since Korea last year. As we have no previous data to work from we rely heavily on dyno and computer-based simulations to give a good basic set-up. The final 10% of the fine tuning happens at the circuit once we can accurately gauge the wind speed, weather patterns, tyre wear and the track surface.

Our simulations of the 5.1km track show that the average speed will be around 210kph with approximately 60% of the track taken at full throttle. Like Korea, the first part of the track is mainly composed of straights. There’s a quick flick downhill after the pit straight but pretty soon after that drivers go onto an awesome 1.12km straight, the longest on the calendar. Unusually this straight dips in the middle, which will require gear ratios to be carefully calibrated.

The second part of the track is a lot more twisty, with all the corners linking together without another long straight, so giving driveability will be very important. The challenge will be getting the right balance between the responsiveness needed for the off-camber turns such as the chicane at turns 13 and 14 and longer corners such as the radial turn 10 that need steady and constant application of power. From our early simulations it’s going to be a big challenge, but one we’re really looking forward to despite both championships being wrapped up. We’re still focussing on race wins; we still have some new units to introduce so we’re pushing on till the end.

Did you know…The gradient changes and off camber corners of the Buddh International Circuit will cause the lubricants in the engine to move around within the engine internals much more than at a very flat track such as Silverstone. High centrifugal g-forces through a corner can push the fuel or oil to one side, or vertical forces through a compression or dip or over a crest can push them up or down. This can "move" the fuel or oil away from the pick up of the pumps, which are momentarily starved, and cannot supply the engine with fuel, or lubrication. To avoid any loss of power, the fuel and oil systems must be designed with good "pick-up" ability, or failing that, higher fuel or oil levels must be used.

Renault in IndiaIn February 2008, Renault and Nissan announced the establishment of a 50/50 joint venture company, Renault Nissan Automobile India Private Ltd (RNAIPL) to manufacture vehicles of both brands in India. With investments of 50 billion Rupees (US$ 1.2billion), the Alliance plant started operations in May 2010, and is capable of producing cars for both brands. The Renault Nissan Technology and Business Centre India was established in March 2008 to provide Engineering, Design and Purchase services to Renault and Nissan operations worldwide.

Renault India is a 100% subsidiary of Renault s.a.s.  Forty distributor showrooms are targeted to be in operation across India from December 2011 with 100 by December 2012, with the aim of becoming one of the top 3 recognised international brands in the country by 2015.

The Fluence model was introduced to the market in May 2011 and the Koleos in September 2011. The B-segment Hatchback, built on the Alliance V-platform, will be launched in January 2012, followed by the Duster in mid 2012, with a further car in Q4 of 2012.

Renault Design India in Mumbai is one of seven global design studios for Renault and the first design studio by any car maker in India encompassing almost all design faculties, including exterior design, interior design, digital modelling and perceived quality. This centre was inaugurated in September 2008 and employs 15 people.

The plant in Chennai is the first dedicated plant for the Renault-Nissan Alliance built from a greenfield site and intended from the start to support both Renault and Nissan.