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Author Topic: Stratergy  (Read 1592 times)

Offline Wizzo

« on: April 23, 2006, 05:16:27 PM »

A fast car and a good driver are not the only factors for success in Formula 1. The right race strategy is also becoming more and more important. In top-class motor racing, not only technology but also tactics are absolutely decisive for a good performance – and can be the difference between victory and defeat.

The hour of the strategists strikes long before the start. Thanks to the restrictions placed on the teams by the new regulations, they have even less time this season to tune the car or to experiment with various strategies. So the engineers at WilliamsF1 and at other teams concentrate even in the week before the race on simulations which will help them to develop a promising race strategy.

Sam Michael, who is Technical Director at WilliamsF1 and so is also responsible for the race tactics, explains: “First of all, we simulate the fastest line on the track and then we compare the various strategies from the point of view of time.” During the grand prix weekend, the main concern then is to fine-tune the strategy that he has chosen with his engineers further and to ensure that the cars cover the full distance. “Just before the race, we don’t even try to make the car faster,” he says. “At that stage, we just work on the reliability.”

In their strategic considerations, Sam Michael and his colleagues normally rely above all on information collated from telemetry data from previous races. With the help of powerful computers, they can also simulate the race in a virtual landscape and, if necessary, modify various variables, such as tyre type, fuel level, engine tuning and downforce. These simulations are particularly important for new tracks, such as the Shanghai International Circuit, where no data from tests or previous races are available. These computers can also provide the necessary processing power at the track if the tactics have to be adapted at short notice to suit new conditions – for instance, because of a sudden change in the weather."

One of the most important factors for planning the race strategy is the starting position. “If you are starting from the front row,” explains Sam Michael, “it is easier to implement your ideal strategy, because you don’t have any other cars in front of you.”

In spite of all this preliminary work, the strategy is always under the microscope during every stage of the race. Thanks to the data transmission to the pits, the engineers are constantly kept informed about the temperature of the engine and the transmission and the tyre pressure, and they can also keep an eye on the brake wear. However, quick strategic decisions are not only called for if there are technical problems or if damaged body parts make an unscheduled pit stop necessary. For instance, a safety-car phase can be a good reason for an early pit stop: the teams like to use them to change the tyres or to fill up with fuel without losing too much time. Even if a driver is blocked by slower competitors for a relatively long period and so cannot fully exploit the potential of his car, a change to the strategy at short notice – by moving forward a pit stop which will soon be necessary anyway – is a good idea.

In modern Formula 1, this kind of move belongs to ‘race strategy for beginners’, but in 1957 it was still a sensational coup: in that year, Juan Manuel Fangio started the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring with his tank only half full, because he was certain that the tyres of his Maserati could not last the full race distance, unlike those of his Ferrari rivals. With the lighter car, the cunning strategist easily built up a lead big enough for the necessary tyre change, won the race and, with that victory, clinched his fifth World Championship.

Nowadays, the teams almost always take such strategic decisions for the drivers. “The driver,” says Sam Michael, “just doesn’t have the information to be able to make that sort of decision. He has to concentrate entirely on driving fast.”

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