When Formula 1 lands on a track as new as Miami, the preparation of a single-seater must be done with the blessed simulation programs of the teams.
So far, Ferrari have managed to make their F1-75 functionally adaptable to all the circuits they have competed on, but the Florida track is unknown to everyone, so it is interesting to ask Enrico Sampò , 39-engineer years of Fossano and the head of the simulator of the Italian team, how they deal with this type of grand prix in which there is no data and you start from scratch.
Question: In today’s Formula 1, simulation has replaced track testing. How do you help the team prepare for a Grand Prix weekend?
Answer: The simulator is a key element in preparing for a race weekend. Activity begins several weeks in advance with an analysis of the previous year’s grand prize if available. This is followed by a few sessions with a test driver to understand the behaviour of the tyres, predict the balance of the car, check some specific components and finally test different set-up options.
A few days before the test, the starting drivers and their track engineers go through a simulator session to help prepare themselves and the car. In the case of new circuits, such as Miami, Charles [Leclerc] and Carlos [Sainz] also use the simulator to train, get to know the track better and repeat the same procedures from the race weekend.
Q: From your point of view, what is the first moment of the weekend when you understand if you have done a good job in the simulator?
A: The first moment in which it is understood if the work done is good, is usually the first free practice session on Friday. That is when the first information and comments from the asphalt begin to arrive, at that point we begin to compare the data from the simulator with what was collected on the track.
In the case of a new circuit like the one in Miami, the data on the layout itself, the configuration of the curbs or the presence or absence of elements that were not predicted in the simulated model are also important. The correlation between the behavior of the car on the track and in the simulator is perfected over the weekend, but having a good starting point is definitely essential so that the engineers on the track can focus on the details.
Q: Miami is a completely new track, so the role of simulation is even more important. What characteristics does it have and how has it been prepared this weekend together with the two riders?
A: Miami is a completely new circuit, so simulation activities are even more important. We expect a fast place, with some high-speed corners and some quite slow ones, especially in the third sector. There are some very long straights, with three DRS zones and good overtaking opportunities.
From the point of view of the balance of the car, it is a complex circuit in which to find a good compromise between the different types of corners and have good efficiency to tackle the long straights. The test has been prepared in the simulator following our usual procedures, with special attention due to the greater uncertainty of information.
That means that the range of conditions and problems that we try to anticipate is wider than usual. Both Charles and Carlos have had a long preparation session to get to know the circuit, explore the possible limitations of the car and test different set-up solutions to optimize balance and lap time.