18 May 2011
Renault: Pit-stops can wipe out development gains
Lotus Renault GP will look for improved pit-stop performance in Spain in order to maximise the impact of its latest upgrade.
Lotus Renault GP technical director James Allison has confirmed that the Enstone team will be bringing another raft of developments to the Spanish Grand Prix, but insists that the gains that they bring will mean nothing if there is no correspondiong improvement in the team's pit-stops.
With the Pirelli tyres having shown that a greater number of stops is likely at most races this season, and the field proving closely matched in midfield, the pressure is on for teams to ensure that their drivers are turned around as quickly as possible, but Allison admits that Renault has not been as efficient as he would have liked.
"We bring another handful of aerodynamic upgrades for the next race - none of them are individually large, but there are six in total and they add up to another 0.15-0.2secs per lap," he revealed, "It isn't a huge upgrade but, if we can keep that up for every race, then it starts to tell.
"Our aero upgrade for Barcelona will be worth around ten seconds over the whole race, but one bad pit-stop and the value of that upgrade is entirely wiped out. Making fast and reliable pit-stops is as important as developing the car aerodynamically. Even if you avoid a single very poor stop, but make four stops around one second slower than the opposition, then it is the same as taking a reasonable upgrade off the car.
"So pit-stops are important and they are an area where we haven't been as strong as we would have liked this season. The race team, supported by several engineering functions back in the factory, are putting a big effort in to bring our stops up to the required level. We are not there yet, but we took a noticeable step forward in the last race and we will to continue to make progress in the coming races."
With both Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov scoring points in the same race for the first time in 2011 in the Turkish Grand Prix, Allison admitted that is satisfied with the way the team is progressing, but insisted that strategy and managing tyre wear will be the key to repeating the feat this weekend.
"Having both cars in the points, nose to tail, is satisfying," he confirmed, "All of us would have preferred it to be closer to the front, but it's okay and probably a fair reflection of the pace of the car.
"By far the biggest influence over the ease of overtaking in Turkey was as a result of the track being very tough on the tyres. Barcelona is likely to be similar, with soft tyres that degrade up to 0.3secs per lap, and this means that small variations in strategy yield very large differences in performance at different times in the race. So having a very careful plan on Friday to prepare for the race is very important, and it has increasingly become clear to everybody to conserve tyres during qualifying in order to maximise results on Sunday.
"The Barcelona track places a very high premium on aerodynamic efficiency, so the main challenge is designing a car that is efficient aerodynamically. A string of long, high-speed corners and the nature of the asphalt make it very hard on the tyres. Although we will have a revised hard tyre from Pirelli at Barcelona, which may change the picture somewhat, it is likely that the race will be loaded with pit-stops in Spain.
"Stopping just three laps different to another car will give nearly a one second per lap difference in performance. Set against that, the DRS and KERS have only a second-order effect on the ease of overtaking, but we can expect another breathless race with a lot of on track action - not a traditional hallmark of the Spanish GP."
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