By Francis T. Makowski|
Computer simulation has helped engineers at Ferrari make significant improvements to the aerodynamics of a Formula One vehicle. The simulation was used to fine-tune the aerodynamics of a new roll-hoop structure required by a recent rule changes. Because of the compressed design cycles required in Formula One racing, there wouldn’t have been time to evaluate alternatives if wind tunnel testing had been the primary design tool. Instead, engineers used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to model the configuration of the upper rear bodywork and optimize its design. In order to minimize simulation time, a reduced-domain simulation was performed in the vicinity of the new structure, with the conditions on the boundaries of the domain coming from an existing CFD model. During the CFD analysis, several sophisticated modeling methods were used to ensure an accurate solution, including the Reynolds Stress Model (RSM) and non-equilibrium wall functions for the turbulent flow. Subsequent air tunnel testing revealed that panels whose design was based on the simulation met the design objectives; they were essentially invisible aerodynamically.
In 2001, the body governing Formula 1 racing required that, for safety reasons, the roll hoop structure be capable of supporting higher vertical and lateral loads. This requirement forced all F1 teams to revise their chassis structures and bodywork in the vicinity of the inlet to the airbox snorkel. It ultimately became necessary for each team to re-optimize aerodynamically all of the upper surfaces of the car aft of the cockpit.