F1 / Paul Ricard: between flexible and road surfaces |


F1 / Paul Ricard: between flexible and road surfaces |
Written by aquitodovale

Time for holidays, but not for Formula 1, which will have to face another double win before the summer break. We start with Paul Ricard in the south of France, a particularly varied layout in the layout but equally flat in terms of elevation. The famous Mistral straight separates the first part of the circuit dominated by slow and tortuous curves from the final sector where there are high-mileage folds with high aerodynamic load. This variety arises as optimal test bed for the competitiveness of the complete vehicle packageoutlining from this point of view a subtle analogy with Barcelona, ​​so much so that it is no coincidence that the Le Castellet plant is often designated as a test site, especially outside of Formula 1. The critical issues highlighted by Paul Ricard on the front of the spectacle therefore obscure a challenge on a technical level that offers various points of interest.

Once again, the search for balance will be central, to which any imbalances will be even more deleterious than elsewhere given the substantial balance between load curves limiting the front and low-speed sections where traction and stability of the rear emerge. According to Pirelli, in fact, the stresses on the tires deriving from the longitudinal traction loads and the lateral forces when cornering are of equal importance, demonstrating the same weight covered by the two aspects and by both axes. Like any other track, finding the correct balance between aerodynamic load and low drag on the double extension of the Mistral will be equally crucial, with the choices likely to converge towards average levels of downforce. The implications of a wrong choice in this area emerged in 2021, when Ferrari opted for a very low aerodynamic configuration, defending well in qualifying, but serving in the race the worst level of graining of the entire season, an episode that marked a turning point in the management of the Maranello Scuderia set-up.

There is a lot of talk about assets in that it will be precisely the preparatory work that will once again determine who between Ferrari and Red Bull will be more at ease on the French track. In the first half of the season there was a substantial balance between the two contenders, broken from time to time only by the ability to enhance the package available every weekend. For example, we saw how at Imola the Milton-Keynes team got the better of a track on paper more similar to F1-75, which instead proved superior to the Red Bull Ring on a track expected to be more favorable to its rival. . In some cases, inverted values ​​were even observed in the individual sectors, such as the supremacy of the RB18 in the slower section of Miami where greater agility of the Red was expected, differences due precisely to the set-up choices and the balance given to the single-seaters. Also for France, therefore, there is a ban on predictions until the traffic lights go out, although Ferrari, already strong in a high-load car and that the Paul Ricard could bring updates to further reduce the gap on the straight from Red Bull, can look to the away match French with cautious optimism. In the rear, however, there can only be great curiosity to see the real potential of the renewed Williams, equipped with a car with a revolution in aerodynamics already tested at Silverstone and Austria, but which only in France will it be able to exploit the experience gained with the data collection on how to extract the potential of the new package through the set-up.

Parallel to the mechanical and aerodynamic setups, however, there is another issue to take into consideration. In recent days on the pages of an article by Federico Albano has been published focusing on transients, highly recommended reading for its clarity on the terribly complex aspects of modern Formula 1. Among the considerations reported, stands out the difficulty of some teams, Mercedes above all and to a lesser extent Red Bull, to make the cars work at a stable performance close to that estimated in the wind tunnel, with the single-seaters showing a discrete instability. aerodynamics. However, the leveled asphalt and low curbs of the Paul Ricard will reduce the external disturbances to which the cars will be subjected., facilitating the search for the optimal set-up and bringing the working conditions of the aerodynamics closer to those estimated in the design phase. The same lack of significant roughness in the road surface will allow to further stiffen the internal elements of the suspension group, stabilizing the aerodynamic platform and increasing the generation of average load. These are central aspects in the challenge at the top in France and which could potentially help bring Mercedes closer to the leading duo.

In Le Castellet Pirelli brings the intermediate range compounds, the C2, C3 and C4. Static inflation pressures remain high, with a prescription of 24.0 psi at the front and 21.5 psi at the rear. Precisely the progressive increase in the average static pressures imposed for the race weekends suggests how the teams are increasingly able to contain the increase in stabilized driving pressure, a real parameter of interest for Pirelli, and how the single-seaters release load levels. higher and higher. In the last edition the winning strategy in the race turned out to be the double stop, but the race was characterized by a green track and low temperatures that made graining a limiting factor. The upcoming event could instead see different dynamics, given the high temperatures expected around 30 ° C, which will also put a strain on the reliability of the power units.
With the new generation of single-seaters, the drivers are able to make even more of the difference in braking than in the past, but braking at Paul Ricard is not particularly convincing. Brembo has in fact classified the severity of the track for the braking system with an evaluation of 2 out of 5, the lowest in the whole World Championship like Silverstone. The most demanding braking where it will be possible to make the most difference is the one before the Mistral chicane. According to Brembo simulations, at the end of the straight the cars decelerate from about 320 to 135 km / h in the space of 116 meters, reaching a peak deceleration of 4.7 g.

In France, however, we will also discuss the anti-porpoising technical directive destined to debut in the Belgian Grand Prix and which will also stem the flexibility of the plank, the resin axle that runs along the underbody. By exploiting the materials and production techniques, the teams are in fact able to create more or less yielding planks, with an increase in aerodynamic load as the ultimate effect. The flexion brings the plank closer to the roadway by encouraging the generation of load through the ground effect, but at the same time the lower wear induced by the impacts against the asphalt allows to reduce the height from the ground of the car during the definition phase. , all to the advantage of downforce. It remains to be understood exactly how the FIA ​​will intervene to contain the plank flexibility. Initially there was rumor about a standardization of the anchor points to the frame, where the deformation is measured during the static tests, to better verify the actual compliance with the rules already prescribed by the current regulation. The recent document released by the Federation, however, refers to a “stiffening” of the flat bottom starting from Spa, suggesting a potential reduction in the flexibility granted. Although not mutually exclusive, these are two different approaches, as the improvement of the controls is countered by the possibility of a modification of the design parameters during the current season. An issue on which it will be appropriate to clarify as soon as possible, to put out any controversy in the bud.

FP | Carlo Platella


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