F1 Racing (UK) - - PRO -

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

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