Wind Tunnel and CFD play a very important role in Formula One as they are crucial for the Aerodynamics of the car. But what are Wind Tunnel and CFD and how do they work? Let’s take this step by step.
Aerodynamics plays a very important role in modern Formula One. We are no longer in an era where the pace of the car depends solely on the engine. The Formula One car is designed as an inverted airplane. The purpose of an airplane is to fly, while the purpose of a Formula 1 car is to stay grounded at extremely high speeds. The force that keeps the car grounded to the floor is called Downforce.
What is CFD?
CFD stands for Computational Fluid Dynamics. It is a supercomputer that calculates how fluids will flow through an object. This is a very useful tool when it comes to the development of an F1 car. CFD can be used to calculate how the air will flow through each car part.
CFD will create a 3-dimensional prototype of the car part or the entire car, and it will predict how the fluid will flow along the part. This helps engineers save a lot of time by making certain calculations for them and giving them the best course of action for the design of a new car part.
CFD is also used by the FIA to modify car part regulations for future seasons. CFD played a huge role for the FIA while they were developing the regulations for the 2022 season.
What is Wind Tunnel?
Wind Tunnel is used to test new car parts to see how the part will respond at high speeds. It is used to test the drag and downforce levels of the car part. This is again a very important tool when it comes to the development of the modern Formula One car. The Wind Tunnel will produce high-speed airstreams into the car to see how the car will perform in various conditions.
The Wind Tunnel will also help in calculating what modifications could make the part better and more fluid at high speeds. There needs to be the right balance of downforce and drag to keep the car fast and grounded at the same time.
We have had multiple incidents in motorsport where the car has taken off and led to major accidents. To avoid this, the FIA brings in new rules and regulations to keep cars safe and in control.
How do Wind Tunnels and CFD work together?
The CFD will give a theoretical design of the car part based on theoretical fluid dynamics and various other calculations. The Engineers will then have to design the car part, keeping in mind the rules and regulations of the FIA.
They will first design a test part that will approximately be around 60% the size of an actual F1 car. The size will vary depending on the size of the Wind Tunnel. The Engineers will then test the part in the Wind Tunnel and will make any additional changes if necessary. After which the car part of the original size will be manufactured and installed in the car.
To put it into simple words, CFD is more theoretical while Wind Tunnel is more practical. So the design is made based on theory and tested on the wind tunnel for additional modifications.
Even though CFD and Wind Tunnel are very useful when it comes to designing the car. The FIA has placed limitations on the use of these elements.
Why are there limitations on CFD and Wind Tunnel?
Although CFD and Wind tunnels help in the development of the car, they are very expensive. A lot of teams will not have the resources to spend so much time and money on Wind Tunnels or CFD simulations. Modern Formula One has become a very expensive sport to be in. This led to a lot of teams going bankrupt and being forced to sell their team. This also led to huge performance gaps between teams.
Formula One had become a sport for the rich and wealthy. We saw teams hiring drivers just because of the kind of sponsorship the driver would bring along. One such example would be Nikita Mazepin. This was not good for the sport. Formula One has always been a sport for the most talented driver in the world, not the richest.
To solve this issue, the FIA brought in certain rules and regulations, including limitations on CFD and Wind Tunnels. This would even out the field and allow all teams a good chance to develop their car and even out the playing field.
What are the limitations of Aerodynamic Testing?
According to the 2022 rules and regulations, the team that finishes last will receive the maximum amount of CFD and Wind Tunnel time, while the team finishing 1st will receive the minimum. This gives teams like Haas and Williams, more time to develop the car, while teams like Red Bull and Ferrari will not have the same.
|Position in 2022||Team Name||% fo aerodynamic Testing|
|1st||Red Bull||63% (70-7)*|
The above table shows the percentage of aerodynamic testing each team has compared to the rest for the 2023 season. Red Bull who should have received 70% of the aerodynamic testing time, had an additional 10% reduced as a result of the penalty they received for crossing the budget in 2021. Each position has a 5% reduction from the team finishing behind them. This is to close the gap between the teams and make them more competitive.