ED WOOD CHIEF DESIGNER FW37
In conversation with F1 Racing
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.