THE DE­SIGN TEAM

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Pat Sy­monds ex­plains

How many peo­ple are in­volved in de­sign­ing a For­mula 1 car these days?

It de­pends on how you de­fine the de­sign team. It’s easy to count the num­ber of peo­ple pro­duc­ing the lay­outs and schemes that lead to the de­tail draw­ings, but this is the fi­nal step in a lengthy process. Con­tri­bu­tions to the pro­gres­sion of the de­sign will have started much ear­lier, with a sig­nif­i­cant in­put from the aero­dy­nam­ics depart­ment. The early stages of de­sign, when the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture of the car is de­ter­mined, are in­ter­est­ing, be­cause it’s here that the de­sign phi­los­o­phy de­vel­ops. In­put at this stage comes from many ar­eas, such as the ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics depart­ment and even the chief me­chanic, who will have a wish list of items that may ease the bur­den on his me­chan­ics.

In terms of de­tail de­sign, ev­ery team is dif­fer­ent, but it’s nor­mal for the big­ger teams to have 60 or more peo­ple in­volved in the var­i­ous dis­ci­plines that form the main de­sign group. Even small teams em­ploy around 30 de­sign­ers.

This seems a lot – has it al­ways been this way?

No. When I started out in F1 there were just three peo­ple draw­ing the car – al­though we didn’t draw ev­ery com­po­nent. An ex­haust sys­tem, for ex­am­ple, would never be drawn but would be made as a pro­to­type on the rst car by the fabri­ca­tors, who would then make a jig from that pro­to­type to pro­duce more. All draw­ing was done by hand, which is much quicker than CAD mod­el­ling but nowhere near as ef­fec­tive in pro­duc­ing qual­ity parts with a min­i­mum of er­rors. Very lit­tle true anal­y­sis was done and a de­signer was ex­pected to check the san­ity of his de­sign with just hand cal­cu­la­tions of stress.

How is a de­sign team or­gan­ised?

This will vary a lit­tle from team to team, but the ma­jor de­sign groups will gen­er­ally con­sist of a num­ber of de­sign­ers re­port­ing to a head of depart­ment, who will in turn re­port to the chief de­signer. The largest de­sign group will typ­i­cally be the com­pos­ite de­sign­ers, who are re­spon­si­ble for the chas­sis, body­work and wings. The en­gine sys­tems de­sign group and the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing de­sign group would tend to be a lit­tle smaller, as would the trans­mis­sion de­sign team. All would be sup­ported by a team of struc­tural an­a­lysts and of­ten an ad­vanced de­sign group who will be the rst to tackle new projects. Each of these groups will take part in reg­u­lar de­sign re­views where it is the duty of the chief de­signer and tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor to guide the over­all de­sign in the di­rec­tion they wish.

What drives de­sign: in­spi­ra­tion or per­spi­ra­tion?

It is a mix­ture of both, but a num­ber of other fac­tors also drive it for­wards. Per­haps the most ob­vi­ous of these is reg­u­la­tory change. This has been the prime ini­tia­tor for the 2014 sea­son, but de­sign is also driven by such things as com­peti­tor anal­y­sis, in-house re­search and devel­op­ment and, of course, the need to ad­dress any po­ten­tial re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems.

For a team to progress, it is the in­spi­ra­tion part that really pays div­i­dends, and that in­spi­ra­tion need to be driven by a fun­da­men­tal un­der­stand­ing of the lim­i­ta­tions of per­for­mance of the cur­rent car – and the ar­eas that, if ad­dressed, will reap the most benet.

How long is the de­sign cy­cle from start to fin­ish?

As­sum­ing that there are no ma­jor rule changes, the aero­dy­nam­ics team will be­gin their ba­sic CFD stud­ies soon af­ter the cur­rent car has de­parted for the rst race. Be­fore we reach the mid-sea­son point the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign in­tent of the car must be es­tab­lished, and any long-lead items such as the mono­coque and the trans­mis­sion will be dened by the time of the sum­mer break.

De­tail de­sign be­gins in earnest in Au­gust, and by the time the car ar­rives at the rst test, around 10,000 3D mod­els of com­po­nents and tool­ing will have been cre­ated in or­der to man­u­fac­ture the 4,500 or so parts that are needed to build the chas­sis.

How big a role does sim­u­la­tion play in de­sign?

Sim­u­la­tion is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to de­sign and is largely re­spon­si­ble for the im­pres­sive re­li­a­bil­ity of the modern F1 car. CFD sim­u­la­tion will have been used for aero­dy­namic stud­ies and so­phis­ti­cated ve­hi­cle mod­els will have been used to aid sus­pen­sion and ve­hi­cle de­sign. Dy­namic struc­tural anal­y­sis is em­ployed to min­imise the num­ber of em­pir­i­cal crash tests, and of course all crit­i­cal com­po­nents will have been sim­u­lated us­ing nite el­e­ment anal­y­sis to en­sure the safety and in­tegrity of their de­sign.

Do the cur­rent set of reg­u­la­tions in­spire or de­mo­ti­vate de­sign­ers?

No mat­ter what the rules are in any given sea­son, de­sign is al­ways a stim­u­lat­ing process. It could be ar­gued that all de­sign is built around com­pro­mises, such as de­cid­ing how to achieve the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance be­tween the weight and the stiff­ness of a par­tic­u­lar com­po­nent, and while this type of chal­lenge may not ap­pear to be as in­spi­ra­tional as de­vel­op­ing a to­tally new con­cept it is still nev­er­the­less a fas­ci­nat­ing in­tel­lec­tual ex­er­cise. De­sign is al­ways a cre­ative process and cre­ation can never be any­thing but re­ward­ing.

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