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CFD versus tunnel versus track – part 1

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Formula One aerodynamics is driven by several toolsets – track testing, full-scale tunnel, model-scale tunnel testing and CFD. The debate as to which method is most accurate or productive seems to be never ending; debate is healthy but sometimes it helps to step back and look at first principles. Of the four toolsets, only one – track testing – is truly correct, the rest being approximations of real-car aerodynamics at the track. But track testing is restricted, expensive...

Why CFRP makes Formula One cars safer

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McLaren and Lotus debuted cars in the 1981 Formula One season featuring CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced polymer) chassis, and since then the sport has been dominated by the material. Its combination of high strength and light weight makes it the perfect material for car construction. And in the intervening 30 years, engineers’ understanding of the material’s properties and capabilities have improved markedly. Some of the biggest advances have been in the area of design and...

Wheel aerodynamics

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At first glance, wheels may appear to be a fairly simple component, but in Formula One they are in fact highly optimised aerodynamic devices. The airflow through a wheel can have a considerable impact on the overall aerodynamic performance of a car, and is the subject of intense development by teams. Although the FIA has tried to regulate out such developments, teams are constantly finding ways to circumvent the rules to gain improved performance. So what systems have been devised to eke...

Design & manufacturing software

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Software plays a major role these days in defining the Formula One racecar, providing engineers with the primary tools for designing and manufacturing the vehicles. Thanks to its highly competitive culture and substantial budgets, Formula One has always been at the leading edge of software technology, embracing the latest software tools in pursuit of every performance advantage. These range from weight reduction and improved aerodynamic efficiency to decreased development and manufacturing...

Managing driver comfort and heat stress

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For all the focus on developing a Formula One car to improve performance, relatively little is done to improve the driver’s physical conditions when seated in the car. Most of the allowances for the driver are as a result of safety requirements, but comfort and heat stress are equally important factors. Safety in the cockpit, aside from the fundamental function of the monocoque as a survival cell, is largely about driver restraints and fire protection. Each driver is held in place by...