RUNNING THE CARS DURING A GRAND PRIX
Two months before a race, engineers and vehicle dynamicists at the Williams factory begin to form their strategy for that event, firstly informing Pirelli how many sets of compounds for each particular tyre they would like to use.
A month before the GP, test driver Robert Kubica starts lapping the circuit in the simulator, and from his work, as well as historical data, a car setup is decided. Before it hits the track for the first practice session, wing levels, ride heights and suspension will all be predetermined.
The first practice session lets the drivers hone setup to extract the maximum from the car. Running in parallel is a programme where data is collected from new parts that are tested. With inseason testing so limited, this is the main chance for teams to research and trial new components.
“When I first started in F1, you turned up with a car you thought was somewhere near right, sent the driver out, looked at what he came back with – and reacted accordingly,” says Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “Now there is a huge tranche of experimental work to develop the car throughout the year. If we do things right, we will have more experiments than time and one of my jobs is to balance future development with extracting the best performance from the car for the weekend.”
FP1 will see cars laden with pressure sensors and flo-vis paint, and the data generated is fed back to the factory for R&D engineers to decipher. Then, in FP2, the first low-fuel qualifying sims take place, followed by high-fuel long runs as teams plan their race strategies.
“We have 200 sensors on the car looking at aero, balance and tyre data, so after FP2 the different factions analyse their specific areas and we debrief to learn what we must do for Saturday practice and qualifying,” says Smedley.“the key is not to get led astray if things don’t work because of outside influences. Then as we head into Saturday, it’s critical we are error-free.”
Constant testing feedback and analysis through the early on-track sessions allow the engineers to determine race setup