Raikkonen's Valencia test - An engineer's perspective

By on Sunday, February 5, 2012

Kimi Raikkonen during his test session in Valencia, Spain

For his re-acquaintance with an F1 car Kimi Raikkonen used a Renault R30, chassis number 3, as used during 2010 pre-season testing by Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica. The car was subsequently raced by Robert Kubica from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix until round thirteen, the Belgian Grand Prix. The R30-03 was also used for the end of season young driver test.

Lotus F1 Team engineer Simon Rennie was present in Valencia when Raikkonen was testing the 2010-spec R30 and shares his thoughts from an engineering perspective about the Finn's test.

What are your impressions of Kimi after the two-day test in Valencia?
It went very well. He’s a fantastic driver with a proven track record and a lot of experience so it was no surprise to see him on the pace straight away. Having said that, we were all impressed with how quickly he got up to speed in the car; his first run produced a lap that was only a few tenths away from his best lap of the day which was incredible to say the least. On the second day he was even quicker, so it was all very positive.

What was Kimi like away from the technical side? How did his relationship with the team evolve over the course of the two days?
He is very easy to work with; extremely professional and focused. But on top of that, he’s extremely laid back and we had some good banter with him while he was with us which is important as it builds a good relationship with the guys. There were four engineers as well as myself working with Kimi and he made a real effort to keep each of us updated on what he liked and didn’t like about the way the car felt. Again, this is really useful for us, as it helps us to get the car working in a way that suits him best, which ultimately will of course lead to him feeling comfortable and producing his quickest lap times.

We heard Kimi commenting that he felt an unexpected difference in the brake balance of the car at one stage; what happened there?
This really showed us something about Kimi. Overnight the brake balance was shifted slightly rearwards to help lock up the rear wheels during a bite point learn, and when Kimi returned to the car for his install lap the next day he instantly noticed the difference and exactly what had caused it. To have been out of a Formula 1 car for two years and still pick up on these subtle differences so quickly really demonstrates how sharp he is as a driver.

F1 2009 Vs. F1 2012
There have been quite a few changes since Kimi last contested a Grand Prix.
Here are some of the more significant ones

The Regulations
Refuelling: Part of Formula 1 since 1993, in-race refuelling was banned by the FIA at the end of the 2009 season. Kimi has not completed a race since this regulation change, and has therefore never driven a Formula 1 car containing a full distance’s worth of fuel.

Team Orders
In 2011, the ban of team orders was lifted by the FIA. The regulations still state that any actions liable to ‘bring the sport into disrepute’ will be reprimanded, however teams are permitted to switch the positions of their drivers on track.

Defensive Driving
New rules introduced for the 2012 season state that drivers may not make more than one change of direction to defend a position, but may move back onto the racing line if enough room is left between the car and the edge of the track.

The Cars
Drag Reduction System (DRS)
An aerodynamic aid introduced in 2011 to increase overtaking opportunities, the DRS system will be completely new to Kimi, although his reputation as one of the best overtakers in the sport will no doubt ensure that he uses it to full effect.

Adjustable Front Wings
Used by Kimi during his last season in 2009, the adjustable front wing was effectively replaced by the DRS system in 2011.

When Kimi left the sport in 2009, Bridgestone was the tyre supplier to Formula 1. In 2011 Pirelli took over this responsibility.

The Tracks
Delhi, India (Inaugurated 2011) and Austin, United States (Inaugurated 2012) are two circuits which Kimi will never have experienced (although the same can be said for the rest of the Formula 1 grid with regards to Austin). By contrast the Turkish Grand Prix, in which Kimi was victorious in the 2005 season, has been removed from the calendar.

The Competition
Of the 24 drivers competing in the 2012 season, Kimi will have faced only 60% of the field. Perhaps the most significant of these is fellow Formula 1 returnee of 2010 Michael Schumacher – In 2003, Kimi finished just 2 points behind the German legend in the Drivers’ World Championship during only his third season of Formula 1.

Aside from competing with the Lotus F1 Team in 2012, having previously faced the outfit when it was known as Renault F1 Team during his previous Formula 1 career, Kimi will encounter a host of new teams on this season’s grid.

The arrival of three new competitors (Team Caterham, Marussia F1 Team and HRT F1 Team) combined with the departure of the Toyota F1 Team and Brawn GP (now Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team) represents a significant swing in the population of the Formula 1 grid this year.

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