In con­ver­sa­tion with F1 Rac­ing

F1 Racing - - WORLD -

Was there pres­sure to fin­ish de­sign­ing the FW37 by a cer­tain point?

The pres­sure point changes through the year. In mid-De­cem­ber it was get­ting through the im­pact tests with the nose and the rear struc­ture. A few weeks later it was the build of the car and the man­age­ment of the pro­duc­tion re­source in the fac­tory to en­sure we had enough parts of the right qual­ity to put it to­gether. Next the pres­sure moves to de-bug­ging and fault res­o­lu­tion of the early tests, and then it’s all about adding per­for­mance in time for race one. After that, the pres­sure shifts to mak­ing key de­ci­sions for car lay­out for the next year. There’s al­ways a new fo­cal point.

As chief de­signer, how do you man­age all the ar­eas of the car?

The de­sign of­fice is split into six groups. The first com­prises com­pos­ite struc­tures (who turn the aero shape into a real car), com­pos­ite de­sign sus­pen­sion, tub, and safety struc­tures. The next group is trans­mis­sions. Another group deals with steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and brakes, and another is an ad­vanced de­vel­op­ment group. En­gine sys­tems is next, cov­er­ing en­gine in­stal­la­tion, hy­draulic and fluid sys­tems, and the con­trol sys­tems that make the en­gine work in the car. Fi­nally we have a stress of­fice, which sup­ports all of those ac­tiv­i­ties.

A lot of in­te­gra­tion is needed be­tween aero­dy­namic de­sign and struc­tures and we have weekly re­view meet­ings be­tween each area in the de­sign of­fice, com­bined with the ap­pro­pri­ate en­gi­neers from the other rel­e­vant ar­eas of the car.

My role is to be the in­te­gra­tor and to make de­ci­sions about where the bal­ance of per­for­mance is be­tween op­ti­mis­ing in one area and where there might be con­flict in another. It runs fairly seam­lessly as we have a strong en­gi­neer­ing team with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence. All key de­ci­sions are made inside those for­malised meet­ings so all the stake­hold­ers have vis­i­bil­ity in what’s go­ing on.

Do you ever have sleep­less nights about some­thing you might have missed in the regs?

No – I think you can be drawn into look­ing at what other peo­ple do too much. This business is about re­ally good en­gi­neer­ing and re­ally good sci­ence and that’s got to come from your own team. You’ve got to have gen­uine phys­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of what you want to achieve and ap­ply that to your en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign prac­tices to do the best job you can.

Of course it will be dis­ap­point­ing if we’ve over­looked a loop­hole that gives a big area of per­for­mance but to be dis­tracted by that is wrong. You ob­vi­ously watch what other peo­ple are do­ing and take in­ter­est. For ex­am­ple when McLaren launched their mush­room sus­pen­sion shrouds. Last sea­son, ev­ery F1 team on the grid would have looked at that ex­ten­sively and ag­gres­sively. You can draw your own con­clu­sions about whether it was ben­e­fi­cial or not as we all could have adapted it by now.

It’s good to see there is still a lot of solid en­gi­neer­ing in the sport, be­cause peo­ple are of­ten very cyn­i­cal about mod­ern F1…

It’s a gen­er­a­tional thing. If you’re Gor­don Mur­ray and you’ve come from an era that was vir­tu­ally un­reg­u­lated then you’ll be pretty frus­trated by what you can do in the sport now.

There is al­ways room for op­ti­mi­sa­tion, and if there’s more con­straint from the reg­u­la­tion side, then it re­quires you to be more de­tailed in ex­ploit­ing the car. The im­por­tant thing to recog­nise is that the reg­u­la­tions have shifted to be more in favour of tech­nolo­gies that are more ben­e­fi­cial to ef­fi­ciency and to en­gi­neer­ing in so­ci­ety in gen­eral. Rac­ing has al­ways been about ef­fi­ciency, the best cars have al­ways been the most ef­fi­cient ma­chines.

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