Turkish GP Preview – Toto Wolff: “We will face a number of unknowns”

© Sebastian Kawka for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix ltd.

Mercedes F1 Team released the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix preview featuring comments from team boss Toto Wolff. You can read the full preview below!

“Seven consecutive Constructors’ Championships is something that we can be proud of,” said Wolff.

“An achievement that is unprecedented in Formula One and in the wider sports world. We made sure everyone was able to take a moment last week to commemorate the result safely, whether from home or at the factory, and reflect on this remarkable achievement.

“The result in Imola also means that only Lewis and Valtteri are still in contention for the Drivers’ Championship. We owe it to both of our drivers to provide them with the best machines and to our fans to finish the season in style, so we will keep pushing in these remaining four races and give it our best.

“F1 returns to Turkey for the first time in nine years, which means we will once again face a number of unknowns about the track going into the weekend. We’ve shown in Imola and Portimão that we can learn and adapt quickly, which is important in a season where we race at so many venues we usually don’t visit.

“The track in Istanbul has some challenging sequences and great corners, such as the famous Turn 8, and I’m excited to see how the 2020 cars will perform there,” concluded the Austrian.

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Featured This Week: How has F1 changed since the sport last raced in Turkey?

It’s been nine years since Formula One’s most recent race at the Intercity Istanbul Park in Turkey and the sport has changed considerably compared to 2011.

But, just how much have the cars and technology evolved in that timeframe? There are clear visual differences, largely down to regulation changes, with the cars being wider and longer in 2020, with larger wings, lower noses and the addition of the halo. But the differences go much deeper than that – so we’re taking a look underneath the bodywork to find out how much F1 has changed in less than a decade.

How much has the engine technology evolved in these cars, since 2011?

They’ve changed completely. The engine of 2011 was a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre V8 that revved to 18,000 rpm and weighed at least 95kg. It included early hybrid technology with the KERS unit, which harvested kinetic energy from the car under braking. This gave the driver an additional 80hp for 6.7 seconds per lap, which he could deploy when needed. KERS boosted the engine’s peak power output to around 815hp.

Fast-forward to present day and an F1 car’s source of power is remarkably different. Since the introduction of hybrid regulations in 2014, the sport has used turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 Power Units which hit the scales at 145kg (minimum regulation weight) and rev up to 15,000 rpm. Peak power is considerably higher with today’s PUs producing well over 100 hp more than those in 2011 – while being way more efficient at the same time. An F1 Power Unit in 2020 achieves a thermal efficiency – the amount of fuel energy converted into useful work – of more than 50 percent, compared to around 30 percent in 2011.

The increase in power, the higher efficiency and the higher weight are largely down to the sophisticated hybrid system used in F1 today – made up of the Energy Store (ES), Control Electronics (CE) and two sources of additional power, the Motor Generator Unit Kinetic (MGU-K), generating power from brake energy, and the Motor Generator Unit Heat (MGU-H), producing power from the exhaust gases. The additional electric power from the ERS system is deployed through the lap, giving the driver more hybrid power for longer compared to the quick boost from the KERS unit in 2011.

The modern hybrid system also improves the drivability of the car as the electrical system can deliver instantaneous torque. This can be used to smoothen the power curve from the ICE, for example during upshifts.

Today’s engines also have to be much more reliable: In 2011, each car had eight engines to use across the 19 races; today, teams are limited to a much smaller allocation of each Power Unit component across a season, with three Internal Combustion Engines, Turbochargers and MGU-H units and two MGU-K, ES and CE units.

What else has changed under the skin of the cars?

Something that isn’t so obvious is the electronics on the car, where technology has gone through a major advancement in the last decade. One example of how much the electronics on the car have evolved is looking at data. In 2011, F1 cars logged around 500 channels of data. In 2020, cars are limited to 1,500 high-rate channels and many thousands of background channels, too. The increased data logging also has an impact on the amount of data a single car collects over a race weekend. In 2011, the Turkish Grand Prix weekend would amount to around 18GB per car. Today, this will be closer to 70GB.

The car’s electronic layout has changed a lot, too, with an increased use of small sensor nodes around the car. These are each capable of acquiring data from many sensors and communicating back to a central datalogger. Wireless sensor technology has undergone a vast improvement, allowing an increased use of small, wireless nodes for data gathering and wireless offloading of data generated on test or practice days. One example is the tyre pressure monitoring systems, which were quite bulky in 2011 and transmitted in the 400MHz range. Today, the sensors are smaller, with higher frequency transmission and lower battery use – an evolution that our Electronics department compare with going from a walky-talky to a smartphone!

Another example is the way in which the teams gather tyre temperature information. In 2011, we ran large, external infrared cameras. Now, the sensors are completely integrated and give drivers access to multipoint tyre temperature information at all times.

How do the cars stack up and compare, when it comes to pure numbers?

Regulation changes over the years have created the considerably chunkier F1 cars raced in 2020. They now measure in at over 5,000mm in length, compared to 4,800mm in 2011. Present-day cars are wider, too, taking up more track width at 2,000mm compared to 1,800mm in 2011. They’re also heavier, in part due to the higher weight of the Hybrid Power Units. F1 cars hit the scales at 640kg in 2011, whereas 2020-spec cars now weigh at least 746kg.

But the cars haven’t just grown in size, they also produce considerably more downforce. That means that the tyre loads have increased a lot. Around a lap of Istanbul Park, we’re expecting the front and rear tyres to see around 50% more load compared to 2011. And when you focus specifically on Turn 8, the front-right and rear-right tyre will have a 30 to 40% increase in load.

It’s also worth noting that the tyres have changed considerably, too. The last Turkish GP took place in Pirelli’s first season as F1’s sole tyre supplier, so the construction and structure of the tyres has changed since then. The tyres are also wider now, having increased around 25 percent in size through the introduction of the 2017 regulation change. With a bigger contact patch on the ground, the tyres can generate more grip and thus quicker lap times.

What does this all mean in terms of lap times?

In 2011, Sebastian Vettel took pole position for Red Bull at the Turkish GP with a 1:25.049. We expect that the 2020 cars with their increased power and higher downforce, will be around four seconds quicker in Qualifying trim. And while the session format itself hasn’t changed much since 2011, some of the rules and technology around Qualifying has.

For example, Vettel’s lap time at Istanbul Park in 2011 was set with unlimited DRS use, whereas today there are only two designated DRS zones at the track. However, drivers had less energy deployment from KERS (only 6.7s per lap) in 2011. Fast forward to 2020 and the energy deployment from the ERS system is being utilised through the entire lap.

What can we expect from the Turkish GP track, in 2020?

The higher cornering speeds and the subsequent higher lateral g-forces will make the track a more physically demanding challenge this year for the drivers. Braking and cornering can reach up to 5g whereas nine years ago, it was around 4g, and those stronger g-forces really add up.

With the current spec of Pirelli tyre, where we’ll have the three hardest compounds in the range in Turkey, we’re expecting it to be tricky to get the tyres up to temperature with these modern cars – which is the opposite issue to what we experienced in Turkey back in 2011.

Due to the increased downforce levels, the iconic Turn 8 will be less of a focus than before. It was pretty much flat-out in the 2011 cars, but it will become even less of a challenge in these 2020 machines. So, teams don’t need to compromise the setup so much for it.

Unlike some of the other unfamiliar races on the 2020 F1 schedule, we do actually have some historical data for the Turkish Grand Prix. However, because the cars have changed so much and the track has recently been resurfaced, the historic data is only useful as a reference.

Mercedes Motorsport also sent out a short rundown of the Istanbul Park Circuit’s history:

The return of Imola to the F1 calendar is to be followed by another. After a nine-year absence, the premier class of motorsport will be back in Turkey this weekend. Between 2005 and 2011, Istanbul Park hosted seven Grands Prix. The Mercedes works team has only competed in Turkey on two occasions so far. In 2010, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg finished fourth and fifth respectively; in the 2011 season, Nico repeated his P5 result, while Michael finished the race in twelfth place. Three of the seven Turkish Grands Prix were won by cars powered by Mercedes engines: Kimi Räikkönen was victorious at the wheel of a McLaren-Mercedes in 2005, the debut year for the track; in 2009, Jenson Button won in a Brawn-Mercedes developed at Brackley; and one year later, Lewis Hamilton chalked up his sole victory in Turkey to date, at that time still a McLaren driver. The record winner on this 5.338 km track is Felipe Massa with three victories. The record for the fastest race lap is held by Juan Pablo Montoya who clocked a time of 1:24.770 minutes in his McLaren-Mercedes, equivalent to an average speed of 226.693 km/h, during the 2005 season. Sebastian Vettel set the fastest qualifying time to date in the 2011 season with a time of 1:25.049 minutes.

Source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Mercedes-AMG Motorsport

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