Not only do they need to ensure that all three Pirelli compounds are working efficiently, but the unusually low temperatures will also have a significant impact on the overall cooling of the car, and therefore the aerodynamic specifications applied by the teams.

The challenge is therefore very different from that encountered during the recent races in Qatar and Mexico. Compared to the latter, where thin air requires maximum cooling, Vegas will be at the opposite extreme.

And while it’s obvious that modern V6 hybrid engines don’t like to run too hot, they’re also not designed to operate in extreme cold conditions. For example, it is important that the plenum does not get too cold.

While F1 cars race on cold winter testing and filming days in Europe, the difference is that Vegas is a competitive event, meaning there can be no compromise in terms of group usage. powertrain, etc., and that the specifications of the car are fixed from the start of qualifying.

The very long main straight that runs along the Strip will present its own challenges. Just like in Baku, this will ensure that the brakes and tires are potentially colder than the optimal temperature when the cars reach the corner at the end of the corner.

Just to add to the fun, as with any street circuit, there are only so many details that the teams have been able to incorporate into their simulations in terms of bumps etc., and the exact nature of the newly laid surface remains somewhat of an unknown.

“It’s tough,” says Dave Robson, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “I think that combination of the track surface, which we know very little about at the moment, and how it will interact with the tires will dictate a lot of how the weekend goes.

“As far as the track layout goes, we have a good understanding of it, and we can run it in the simulator and get a rough idea of ​​it.

“To go to a new track like that, one of the main things will be that we go there with a clear starting position, but we also have a whole host of options ready to cover whatever is actually happening.

“We certainly can’t predict exactly how the car will perform in Las Vegas, so we’ll go there with a lot of options. Whatever happens, we are able to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. »

F1 Las Vegas atmosphere

Photo by: Shutterstock

F1 Las Vegas atmosphere

Other teams agree that this is something of a step into the unknown.

“It looks like it’s going to be cold,” says Ciaron Pilbeam, Alpine’s track engineering manager. “We don’t really know how cold it is! It’s a new circuit, which is always interesting. We’ll do all our usual pre-event simulation work and simulator work, but you never know exactly what we’re going to get.

“There’s always some variation in the degree of bumps or the track surface, that sort of thing. We will do everything we can before the event, but we can’t do everything. We have to go there ready to learn from the first training sessions. »

Tire management has been one of the keys to the 2023 season, and as recently as the Brazilian GP we saw huge gaps between the successful teams, including Red Bull and Aston Martin, and those who were wrong, like Mercedes.

Teams typically have a narrow operating window in which they can run the tires, and finding that sweet spot in Vegas – with mechanical setup and lap preparation among the variables – may not be so simple . Restarting them after the safety car periods will be a particular challenge.

“In terms of tires, it really takes them into a different environment, doesn’t it?,” says Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan.

“A few years ago we went to the Nürburgring in October and it was wet and cold every day. And in Austin, a few years ago, I remember one day it was particularly cold.

“We address all the issues of cold cracking, tire handling, all that kind of stuff. And yes, they are right at the low end of their operating range.

“So within the freedoms we have with the bodywork as we call it now, and trying to drive the car, it’s up to us to try to get the tires to a point where they work.

“And the challenge is there for all of us. I think in all three resorts they are all going to be too cold. It’s really about whether we can keep them all in the window long enough to be able to put together a decent race relay.”

F1 Las Vegas atmosphere

Photo by: Shutterstock

F1 Las Vegas atmosphere

As Monaghan points out, there is a relationship between tires and aero specs in terms of what he calls wheel bodywork – brake ducts and other parts in that area – but obviously conditions will have an impact substantial on other areas of the car.

For Qatar and/or Mexico, most teams brought extra louvers and/or opened the Coca-Cola bottle in the back to aid cooling, and for Vegas, none of that will be necessary. You’d think this would encourage teams to focus on low drag for better straight-line speed, but it’s not necessarily that simple.

“It’s not really about an aerodynamic gain, it’s more about managing the powertrain and the gearbox and all those other things within their operating window,” Pilbeam explains. “But we’re ready for it. It could be like winter testing; it could be this cold.

“It’s hard to know exactly what we’re going to find once we get there. There are times during winter testing where you have to plug up the radiators a little bit, which is something you wouldn’t normally design the car for. It could be that kind of things. conditions.

“But I think we’re ready for it. The operational window is now much wider than it was before between this type of temperature and what we saw in Qatar. This is a very wide operating temperature range.

Monaghan agrees that teams should be able to adapt to what is required.

“To be honest, I don’t worry too much about the cooling of the car,” he says. “I don’t think it will be that bad. We had our first promotional day in February this year, and I was sitting there, shivering at Silverstone, wishing I wasn’t there and we could make it happen.

“We will see more closed cars, maybe some people will modify the cooling outlets towards the rear at the top of the body, which will make it a little smaller.

“It’s about not wanting to block all the radiators because they have so much back pressure that they don’t work. But that’s our problem.

Las Vegas GP rendering

Photo by: Las Vegas GP

Las Vegas GP rendering

Teams will have to juggle the complex relationship between cooling and downforce levels.

“I think what you generally see, and this is kind of a general summary, if we open the car up, we lose a little bit of downforce,” Monaghan says.

“So the more closed we are, the better our support. So generally the drag comes more from the tires and rear wing than necessarily from the cooling devices.

“If we can put a little load on the car, by shutting it down, we will. But we’re kind of coming to the end of the season, so it’s not going to be some kind of brand new body top or something that we choose to do. We will try to do it with the options we have.”

This is an intriguing admission from Monaghan. As teams begin to exceed the cost ceiling, designing and manufacturing new parts for a specific race begins to become a luxury, and not just for the big players.

“What’s interesting is what do we do now that we live in this cost-capped world? ” says Robson.

“Previously, we probably would have made a new little cooling system and swapped the cooling we didn’t need for downforce, and there might have been a few other things on the car that we would have done.

“But now we have to ask ourselves, ‘Well, is it worth doing this?’ » Particularly as the end of the season approaches, this may depend on the amount of attrition and spending you’ve had to put into it in previous months.

“I think it’s a good example of how, in a world of cost caps, do you choose to optimize the package for that particular circuit? Because the parts you might make, you probably won’t use anywhere else. Do you want to do it or not ?

“And part of it depends on what you think the other guys will do. So this all becomes a nice little game theory problem.

Las Vegas GP rendering

Photo by: Las Vegas GP

Las Vegas GP rendering

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