Formula 1 Canada 2019: It all comes down to the suspension

This time we’re in Canada! And that is a promising sign for a spectacular Formula 1 race. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is considered a very challenging one, due to its tight corners and long straight. In no other Formula 1 race are the brakes and transmission parts placed under so much strain. The demands on the suspension of the Formula 1 cars are particularly high.

Racing fans are expecting a spectacle when the Formula 1 finally starts at Canada’s Grand Prix this weekend. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame near Montreal is a challenging high-speed circuit, that places high demands on drivers and materials with its long straights and slow, tight corners. Like the urban canyons of Monaco, Montreal too has concrete walls that are quick to punish every mistake.

Most notorious is the “Wall of Champions” at the end of the last chicane before the start and finish line. In the ideal case, the drivers come within centimetres of the wall with their tyres. If it goes badly, the car touches the wall and the race is swiftly over. That’s what happened to Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all in a row in 1999. Since then, the chicane has been softened slightly, but it remains a key point that leaves no room for a lapse in concentration.

Many straights, few curves at Formula 1 in Canada

The curves should not be a problem for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team. Team leader Toto Wolff is a little worried about a certain special aspect: “In six of this season’s races, we always performed very well on the curves but lost time on the straights. Canada will therefore be a huge challenge for us, as the track characteristics could hand our opponents an advantage.

There are many long straights and fewer curves in which to make up for lost time. But we are looking forward to the challenge.” This challenge includes finding the perfect setup for the combination of curves, before which the car will need to brake from 280 to 100 km/h within two seconds, and the high-speed sections, in which it could reach speeds of up to 315 km/h.

Suspension is important for aerodynamics

The difficult track profile places unique requirements on the special suspension of a Formula 1 car, which fulfils the following two functions: Firstly, it must respond to the uneven asphalt, bumps and grooves and ensure that the car can handle these uneven surfaces. Secondly, it must respond to the steering and braking of the driver. An additional function, which only occurs in Formula 1 cars, is what is known as platform control.

The faster an F1 car goes, the more downforce it generates, which can add up to several times the car’s own weight. The suspension therefore has to be able to handle several tons of additional load. And that is an immense aerodynamic challenge. If the vehicle is lifted or lowered by only a few millimetres, the air flow can change so dramatically that important aerodynamic components, like the underbody or the diffuser, work less efficiently. For this reason, the suspension of a Formula 1 car has to ensure that the tilt and the ride height of the car is always under control. Otherwise, the aerodynamic concept cannot fulfil its potential at the different speeds.

Checking the contact with the suspension

Incidentally, the suspension is one of the most expensive elements of an F1 car. This is partially due to the materials used, such as metal and carbon fibre, but also due to the many working hours that the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team has to invest in the in-house production of the entire suspension system. It is just as laborious to find the optimum suspension for each racetrack.

The suspension setup can be used to control precisely how the tyre comes into contact with the road surface and to optimise the driving characteristics and traction via adjustable parameters. That can vary, depending on the track profile. That’s why the teams are always thinking about whether they will use a new suspension for a certain track type. This was the case in Monaco. A special front wheel suspension ensured that the car was able to take the tightest corner of the season, the Fairmont hairpin, with a 40 percent greater steering angle than the hairpin bend (Turn 10) in the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix.

Canada is a good place for Lewis to pursue a victory. There, he celebrated the first victory in his Formula 1 career (2007) and has won the Grand Prix six times thus far. But last year, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was first to reach the finish line before Valtteri. It’s about time then for Lewis, who is currently leading the driver standings with 137 points, to score another win in Canada. And for our team, which is currently on top in the constructor standings, to celebrate a double victory. This would be its sixth in the seventh race of the season.

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Bradley Lord is Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Communications Director. At the age of four he joined his first Formula 1 race. Since then he's a big fan of motor sports in all it's facets.