Adjusting to a different time zone, weather conditions and understanding the tyre-track affair are some of the adjustments F1 racers need to make at any new GP. Here are some more...
The Indian Grand Prix is the first-ever for every stakeholder in Formula One and that includes the drivers as they are the ones who will need to prepare the most as they will be racing on the circuit. However, what are the most critical challenges that F1 drivers face at a new circuit?
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At new venues, drivers usually have a few set challenges to overcome. On the personal front, it would involve learning the circuit to adjusting to the different time zone and weather and on the technical front, understanding and adjusting their driving style to the suit the performance and behavior of the Pirelli tyres on the surface of the new track and of course car setup for the weekend.
Formula One has added various new circuits in the past few years (like Singapore, China, Abu Dhabi, etc.) and will be doing so going forward as well (Austin and Sochi), hence, adaptability is a key requirement from an F1 driver.
Pre-race: At newer racing venues, the drivers and team personnel tend to come in earlier than usual and as you read this Sahara Force India's team personnel are already here setting up for their home grand prix. Adrian Sutil shared some good insights on how he went about preparing for the Indian Grand Prix. He has spent a considerable amount of time in the team's simulator in the UK to understand and learn the Buddh International Circuit. Also, he chose to arrive in India as early as the Sunday before the race to acclimatize to the different time zone and weather conditions. His tip to adjust to a different time zone 'as soon as you get onto the plane, shift your cycle to the new time zone'!
Thursday: Drivers will undertake their traditional 'track walk' which is one of the most critical activities to prepare for the weekend. During the track walk, the drivers will carefully study each corner and the various kerbs, verges and drains around it. They will mentally make a note of things they can do and can't do while racing their car around that corner. The circuit walk is performed with their engineers, where they also end up discussing possible strategy options for the weekend.
Friday: The drivers will use the Friday sessions as test sessions to learn the circuit and study and understand the behavior of their tyres. The teams and drivers will run more than their usual Friday practice laps to evaluate various set up options and also see how the hard and soft Pirelli compounds behave and wear. Drivers usually take around 10-15 laps to learn the circuit properly, which will mean that they will identify their ideal racing line and their braking points around each corner of the circuit.
Saturday: The morning practice on Saturday will see drivers simulate race conditions and tyre strategy. To simplify, they will use both compounds (hard and soft) of the Pirelli tyre on longer runs and study their wear patterns and its effect on laptimes.
The data collected from this session will aid the team's engineers to select an optimum race strategy on race day. By qualifying, the teams and drivers are all ready with their best setup choices and race strategies to go racing and beat their competition!
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