This investment in CFD has allowed the team to run increasingly complex simulations of race car aerodynamics, far quicker than was previously possible. This has enabled the BMW Sauber F1 Team to analyze and implement design changes more quickly, which combined with other advances the team has made, has delivered the team's best performance in the Constructors' Championship to date.
"The launch of our latest supercomputer was a decisive reinforcement of our CFD capacity. Unlike other teams, we didn't plan to build a second wind tunnel. Instead, we have used the key relationship commitment with ANSYS to continue to develop and exploit the expanding potential for CFD that high-performance computing gives us," explained Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director. He added that wind tunnel testing will continue as an important design element of their F1 racing car design because of validation of results and other areas of car development.
"The big difference with CFD compared to wind tunnels is that you not only get results, but also get an understanding of what goes on. Wind tunnel testing remains important with experimental work and CFD complementing each other," Theissen said.
To optimize the performance of the FLUENT CFD software, the BMW Sauber F1 Team invested in a custom-built supercomputer called "Albert2," the successor to its original Albert supercomputer developed in 2004. Powered by 512 Intel(R) Xeon(R) 5160 dual core processors, Albert(2) is 5.5 times more powerful and three times faster than the first Albert computer.
Albert2 was specifically designed and built to run CFD simulations using the latest version of FLUENT software. It has the capacity to make 12,288,000,000,000 calculations per second, which highlights the staggering pace of advance in the potential power available to perform CFD simulations.
Theoretically, the BMW Sauber F1 Team could run simulations approaching and even exceeding the landmark figure of 1 billion cells. When FLUENT became the first CFD software tool to be used in F1 -- by the Benetton team of 1992 -- simulations of only 100,000 cells were possible, such as the analysis of a front wing.
The possibility of FLUENT meshes of 1 billion cells or more demonstrates how the continued partnership between the BMW Sauber F1 Team and ANSYS is proving critical to driving CFD development and making the technology ever-more important in the design process.
"Working together with the BMW Sauber F1 Team, we are exploring how maximum benefit can be yielded in aerodynamic design," said Ferit Boysan, vice president and general manager at ANSYS, Inc. "Relationships such as this are genuinely pioneering the engineering simulation possibilities of the future, and they could well have implications far beyond F1 racing. We are working at the leading edge of the technology, with the exciting thing being that we don't even know what the limits are yet."
Computer-aided engineering and CFD simulations can be applied to many areas of the racing car, allowing team engineers to quickly and accurately test a number of design candidates before developing only the most promising for wind tunnel testing. The new compute power offered by the Albert2 supercomputer allows full-car simulations in addition to the aerodynamic testing of components such as the front and rear wings, turning vanes, brake ducts, fuel tanks and more.