This weekend the F1 teams are racing in Istanbul, one of the newer circuits on the calendar, which features a celebrated corner.
Istanbul’s mighty Turn 8
All F1 fans love seeing high speed corners and the ultimate is Turn 8, not a particularly romantic or iconic name, but a corner which excites both fans and drivers alike. Turn 8 is one of the longest corners in F1; the cars spend eight seconds going through it, covering 600 metres before they exit onto the back straight. The average speed for the corner is 260km/h and the peak is 270 km/h.
But, believe it or not, the teams do not set the cars up around performance through that corner. That said, it is important to set the ride height correctly to allow for the bumps, especially when the cars are full of fuel.
According to the engineers, Turn 8 is not anything like as significant in terms of lap time as Eau Rouge at Spa or Turn 9 at Barcelona, both of which give out onto long straights. If you are three or four kilometres an hour slower through those corners, it can cost you as many tenths at the end of the following straight. Turn eight has a short following it.
In practice on Friday we saw lots of cars flying off the road at Turn 8. This is partly because of the bumps and partly because of the lack of risk.
Drivers take calculated risks in every corner as they try to find the limit in the short time available for practice. The reason why so many of them fly off at Turn 8 is because the huge run off areas allow them to try to find the limit as quickly as possible. Drivers take their time to find the limits and Monaco or Montreal where the track is lined with walls. Conversely, they crash all the time on the simulators!
New Tech on the cars
This weekend there are some eye-catching new things on the cars, including another new front wing on the Renault, which is quite different in concept from the previous ones (compare to previous Tech Reports).
Ferrari has an evolution of its double diffuser, but the main talking point has been the introduction of the drag reducing rear wing on the Red Bull. Up to now the team has delayed it, because the harm it did to downforce levels was greater than the gain from extra speed on the straights.
The value of the system was shown by the speed the McLarens had in practice. It is worth around 4/10ths of a second a lap and gives a gain of around 10km/h, if you get it right.
McLaren were the pioneers of the system. It was a finely balanced decision but Red Bull decided after practice not to go with it for qualifying and the race. They will take the learnings from today’s test and hold it over to Montreal where it will be a massive gain due to the long straights. As Montreal has no fast corners, a Red Bull strength, they will be looking to claw back performance from the rear wing.
McLaren’s car was designed around the concept, so they have an air intake hole in the optimum place on the top of the chassis, just ahead of the driver’s knee, with which he switches the wing on. Other teams trying to copy it have found it hard to get sufficient air into the system to have an effect when it exits through the duct at the back of the wing.
Engineers say that a fully functional system is worth 4/10ths of a second per lap at Istanbul.
Telemetry in F1
I've been looking into where telemetry technology is up to these days with Virgin Racing. During a 90 minute session the team will collect between 5 and 6 gigabytes of data from the car. It comes off the car in a raw format over radio.
The car transmits at 2 megabits. The transmitter is placed in the sidepod and then a cable runs to an an antenna on the nose on the car.
Data is transmitted from the car using the standardised McLaren electronic system and is picked up by an antenna on the roof of the race truck, behind the pits. The data then goes into the garage to a telemetry receiver rack. The signal is encypted to keep everyone's data separate.
The data is then decoded and converted into a signal that can be understood by a PC. It goes through a software system called Atlas, which displays the telemetry channels for the engineers. This is the suite which displays all the wavy lines on the screen.
The system is connected via internet to the factory in the UK
The race engineers and drivers look at steering, throttle and brake inputs. There is a sensor on the car which detects when the tyres are slipping across the surface of the track. It measures driver inputs compared to how the car is reacting.
Working with the telemetry data, a large part of the time is spent working on the differential, the most tunable part of the car. The differential, which allows the two rear wheels to rotate at different speeds, can be adjusted for corner entry, mid corner and corner exit. It plays a big role in cornering stability and done well can contribute a lot to the lap time.
You often see the drivers studying telemetry print out sheets. So what is on them? It is mainly the driver inputs; throttle, steering and brakes. If one driver is doing a better lap time than the other, they can look at the traces and see what the inputs are compared to the car speed and that tells them how they can improve by using the controls differently.
In this Virgin telemetry print out, the wavy lines represent (from top to bottom) Revs, Gear, Car Speed, Delta time between runs, Steering angle, throttle and brake pressure overlaid.
For the Virgin Racing team the IT is managed by CSC, who take care of all the telemetry management as well as setting up the a broadband network for the team at every race.
It takes a day and a half of set up time before each Grand Prix to build the IT system, rigging the cables and the racks, connecting the connections to the car.