In case you’re an everyday viewer of F1 protection, you’ll little question have heard the pundits and commentators speak about excessive downforce and energy tracks.
Though these aren’t official phrases, they assist describe the totally different traits of every new circuit and clarify why groups don’t merely qualify in the identical order each week.
Ideally groups need to design automobiles that produce as a lot downforce as potential to spice up velocity via corners, however the problem is to do that in such a approach that doesn’t end in an excessive amount of aerodynamic drag.
Extra drag will gradual a automobile down in a straight line, and consequently extra energy is required to beat this resistance and obtain the absolute best acceleration and prime velocity.
This equation is why some automobiles carry out higher at sure forms of observe than others, and why it’s not possible to construct a automobile that’s tailor made for each single grand prix.
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35, Sergio Perez, Racing Level RP20
Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
What’s a excessive downforce observe in F1?
A excessive downforce observe is a circuit the place most of a automobile’s efficiency over the course of a lap might be attributed to the aerodynamic downforce it produces reasonably than the ability of its engine. Excessive downforce tracks can have fewer and shorter straights than low downforce tracks, with extra of an emphasis on corners.
What’s an influence observe?
An influence observe is kind of the other of a excessive downforce observe. Most of a automobile’s efficiency is tied to the ability, acceleration and prime velocity made potential by the engine. Lengthy straights and quick, gradual corners are typical options of energy tracks.
How does driving type change?
All drivers have a subtly totally different method to driving an F1 automobile, and the quickest drivers are typically those who can adapt their type each week to get the perfect efficiency out of their automobile within the distinctive circumstances offered by every observe.
Extra downforce creates extra grip in corners, which permits drivers to hold extra velocity and publish faster lap occasions. Nevertheless it could possibly additionally cut back efficiency in a straight line by inflicting drag, and nice drivers are capable of work out in the event that they must be in a while the brakes heading right into a flip or earlier on the throttle popping out of it to extract probably the most velocity from their automobile.
The flipside of that is that extra aggressive cornering tends to put on tyres out extra shortly, so smoother steering wheel inputs could be wanted with a view to make the rubber last more. Most automobiles will cease a couple of times over the length of a race, and realizing which technique is quicker can resolve what type a driver must undertake to realize the absolute best end result.
What’s a Crimson Bull observe? What’s a Mercedes observe?
Lately, sure groups have adopted aerodynamic philosophies which have made them stronger at some circuits than at others. As groups have constructed up historic success, these tracks have turn into identified unofficially as ‘Mercedes tracks’ or ‘Crimson Bull tracks’.
Sochi is a primary instance of a Mercedes observe: the Silver Arrows have gained there yearly since F1 started racing on the Russian coastal metropolis in 2014, having emerged from qualifying in pole place in 5 out of seven makes an attempt.
A Crimson Bull observe is a bit tougher to outline, on condition that the crew has solely gained greater than three races in a single season as soon as (in 2018) since Sebastian Vettel secured his fourth world title with the outfit in 2013. And even in that 2018 season, it solely gained 4.
Crimson Bull has historically carried out properly at circuits that reward downforce greater than energy, however counter-intuitively its most profitable tracks in current seasons have been the Crimson Bull Ring in Austria and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico. Each of those circuits function lengthy straights and few high-downforce corners, however different components have made Crimson Bull a pressure to be reckoned with at these venues.
Max Verstappen dominated Mexican Grand Prix from second on the grid in 2018, and recovered from an terrible begin to win the Austrian Grand Prix the next season having fallen from second to eighth on the opening lap. On each events it was the Dutchman’s second consecutive victory on these circuits.
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL34, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1, Max Verstappen, Crimson Bull Racing RB15
Picture by: Erik Junius
Excessive downforce tracks
There’s no official information to what constitutes a excessive downforce observe, however the groups’ method to every circuit reveals the place they suppose downforce is a precedence and the place energy is much less necessary.
Hungary, Imola, Singapore, Spain and Monaco are all examples of excessive downforce tracks, with comparatively quick straights and many turns placing a better emphasis on cornering velocity. Particularly, Sector 3 in Barcelona – which incorporates a sequence of low-speed turns – is traditionally gauge for the way automobiles will carry out in Monaco, which usually follows Spain on the F1 calendar.
Tracks like Silverstone and Spa function excessive downforce sequences that may see the drivers pulling as much as 6G in some circumstances. Nevertheless the lengthy straights and high-speed corners on these sectors imply that energy nonetheless has an enormous affect on the pecking order.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is the closest you’ll get to a real energy observe in F1. Drivers are believed to spend 75% of the lap at full throttle round Monza, and the quickest laps ever recorded within the historical past of the game are sometimes set right here. Lewis Hamilton holds the file for the very best common velocity recorded over a single lap, averaging 164.267mph (254.362km/h) on his method to pole place at Monza in 2020.
Different energy tracks with lengthy straights embrace Russia, Mexico, Canada, Baku and Austria, amongst others.
Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-20, Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43
Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
How do groups put together for several types of observe?
Monza is a particular case in F1, with most groups bringing a singular package deal to the observe that isn’t used once more in the course of the season. With so little downforce required all through the lap, groups are likely to run extraordinarily low-profile rear wings that considerably cut back drag in comparison with a standard set-up. Allowances additionally need to be made for the additional pressure positioned on the engine all through the race, and the variety of occasions the automobiles must brake from full velocity.
Spa is one other circuit with lengthy straights, and the part of observe from the exit of Flip 1 till the top of the Kemmel straight is without doubt one of the longest stretches the place F1 automobiles are at full throttle throughout qualifying. Nevertheless there are a number of high-speed corners in Sector 2 and Sector 3, so groups are at all times looking for the fitting compromise between straight-line velocity and downforce in Belgium.
The Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is one thing of an outlier. Its lengthy straights and low- to medium-speed corners ought to make it a pure energy observe, however groups normally run full downforce set-ups right here. It’s because the circuit is positioned 2,285 metres above sea stage, and the air is so skinny that groups can afford to run as a lot downforce as they like on their automobiles with out creating extreme ranges of drag.
Some analysts imagine because of this Crimson Bull has fared so properly in Mexico lately regardless of the crew having an influence drawback when the crew used Renault engines till the top of 2018.
Max Verstappen, Crimson Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
What’s a excessive degradation observe?
Energy and downforce aren’t the one issues that dictate how properly automobiles will carry out at a observe. Groups additionally need to account for degradation, which is what causes a tyre to lose grip when it will get too sizzling.
Completely different circuits use several types of materials within the development of the observe floor, which implies degradation might be extra of a menace at some venues than at others. Excessive degradation tracks pressure drivers to drive in such a approach that their tyres don’t construct up extreme warmth and result in a lack of lap time.
Degradation shouldn’t be confused with put on, which is the gradual erosion of the tyre tread because of friction brought on by the observe floor.
Road tracks like these utilized in Baku, Monaco and Sochi are thought of low-deg circuits, and the observe floor isn’t as abrasive as is usually discovered on a custom-built race observe. The F1 circuits utilized in Canada, Austria, Mexico and Abu Dhabi are normally sort to tyres too.
Excessive degradation might be brought on by a mix of two issues: the roughness of the asphalt and the pressure going the tyres because of transferring at velocity. Silverstone, Spa and Suzuka have among the highest cornering speeds on the F1 calendar, so these tracks are naturally fairly powerful on tyres. Bahrain can be considered a high-deg observe, and Pirelli has chosen its most sturdy compounds for the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch Grands Prix in 2021.
Degradation can be linked to downforce: on some tracks, excessive downforce could be a good factor because it helps carry the tyres as much as their most popular working temperature, serving to automobiles to go quicker. However at others it could possibly trigger the rubber to final fewer laps, and if drivers need to make an additional pit cease in comparison with their rivals then this will generally be slower total.
What different components do groups take into account?
Temperature additionally has an enormous bearing on how automobiles carry out in qualifying and within the race. A heat observe could make it simpler to warmth up tyres, however temperatures which are too excessive could make it tough to cease the rubber from overheating. In the meantime increased air temperatures will produce much less resistance than cooler air temperatures, additionally affecting efficiency.
Probably the most excessive, current instance of all these components taking part in out occurred on the Turkish Grand Prix in 2020. A mixture of a brand new, low-grip floor and comparatively cool observe temperatures meant that many of the area struggled to get their tyres as much as temperature round Istanbul Park, leaving championship frontrunners Mercedes in the midst of the pack and Lance Stroll’s Racing Level on pole place.
The automobile’s capacity to generate temperature within the tyres higher than the remainder of the grid in these situations is why he and teammate Sergio Perez ran in first and second for greater than half of the race. However the cause Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag is that the Briton – realising he would wish a number of laps to carry a brand new set of tyres as much as temperature – was capable of nurse his intermediates for nearly your complete race distance, successfully carrying them down into slicks as a drying line appeared on the in any other case soaking moist observe.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes F1 W11, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11
Picture by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images