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Formula 1— Winning is Everything
Posted Fri September 17, 2004 @03:06PM
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Application Formula racing is defined as “single-seat automobile racing in which the designs of the cars are strictly regulated”. Vehicles used in Formula One (F1) racing are considered the highest form of single-seat racing cars due to the sophistication of construction and ultimate speed. Their design, in which the airflow over and under the car (aided by sophisticated “wings” and the closeness of the car to its racing surface) creates a downward force, which holds them close to the ground—despite extremely high speeds.

F1 teams want to win—not only for the high purses received at the finish line, but because F1 cars are considered to be the height of single-seat racing car construction. So, if you win, you’re considered to be the best in what many consider to be the most glamorous automobile racing events in the world.

But, if you don’t get the aerodynamic package of your F1 right, you won’t have a hope of getting near the front of the grid—much less win the race! F1 teams spend up to $50 million on the latest thing in wind tunnels in order to be at the head of the pack.

That’s why Advantage CFD, owned by the B.A.R. F1 team, came to the industry leader in CFD design manipulation—the Optimal Solutions Software team—in their efforts to more quickly and accurately aerodynamically improve the B.A.R. Formula 1 race cars.


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To predict the effect of a design modification on the aerodynamics of a car, one of the closest working relationships Advantage CFD Chief Engineer Rob Lewis has is with aerodynamicists. Utilizing Optimal Solutions’ Sculptor™ interactive design program, Lewis and his team are now able to make these design mods in real time—not only saving time and money, but with greater accuracy.
“Sculptor™ has enabled us to optimise aerodynamic components quickly and easily. The speed of the process has increased our CFD throughput and quickly found gains.” - William Toet, Senior Aerodynamicist, B.A.R. F1

Toet believes CFD is crucial to aerodynamic development, chiefly for the colossal amount of information it generates. For example, with the wind tunnel, if the team looks at the brake cooling system, they might get a couple of numbers telling them how much air is going through it—that’s about it. Thanks to CFD, they are able to look inside the intake hole and see what the air is doing as it flows toward the disc. Working with that much detail, the team knows they can make the car better.

Lewis notes that by trying out design changes with CFD on a computer, there is no need to build a prototype—a process that could easily add thousands—tens of thousands—of dollars to the cost of developing new cars. And, as he points out, the tiniest change on the surface of the car can affect the airflow over the whole surface.

But, measuring aerodynamic performance is just one function of CFD—it can also profile the flow of fluids, such as oil and cooling water.

“For example, you have an oil separator, a catch tank which is going to separate the air from the oil to feed it back into the engine nice and clean,” says Lewis. “We can model that flow accurately and improve the process, the distribution and the pressure loss.”

Similar modeling is done on the flow of cooling water, and if you can reduce pressure loss there, you can save engine power. On screen, Lewis manipulates a 3D image of an F1 car. It is broken up into a “mesh” of cubes as small as one square millimeter. And for aerodynamics the airflow is modelled to that astonishing degree of accuracy. To make the information accessible, a graduated field of colors is used, with red at one end of the scale to simulate high pressure and blue at the other for low pressure. The color scale can be applied to any parameter that the CFD software is analyzing.

The result is a stunning, graphic visual that presents the precise nature of airflow, or water and oil flow, over the various surfaces of the car. A CFD profile can generate up to 100 million numbers for computer interpretation.

Add the capabilities of Sculptor™ to the visual interpretation, and you are not only able to “see” the nature of the flow, but you can now alter the shape into a new design, in real time, and iterate towards improving the car’s performance.

Lewis sees a great future for CFD in Formula 1.

“The ultimate goal is where you arrive at the end of the season, get next year’s rule book, last year’s car, put it all into the computer, press “go” and come back after Christmas to collect the new car. Sculptor™ provides us with a significant step in that direction.”

And while it might seem a million miles from the visceral world occupied by an F1 driver, these guys all share the very same dream:

It’s all about faster lap times and those precious championship points.

F1 car
Flow past an F1 race car.

 

airbox
Flow into an IRL race car airbox.

 

F1 wheel
Flow around an F1 race car wheel.

 

Motorbike
Flow past a racing motorbike.

 

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Related Links
  • Advantage CFD
  • B.A.R. F1
  • Optimal Solutions
  • More on Application
  • Also by nwyman
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