In recent years, marked by the ban on free testing sessions during the season, the world of Formula 1 has learned to prepare for races in the simulator, investing in the best simulators around, capable of recreating all aspects of a race weekend.
And so also the design has begun to make more and more use of means such as wind tunnels and CFD analysis capable of testing the aerodynamic efficiency of the single-seaters without putting the wheels on the track. But these systems, however advanced, are not perfect and therefore it can happen that cars which appear ultra-competitive to the computer are not able to show a similar pace on the track.
This is what teams call a “lack of correlation” between the data of the simulator and that from the track, and for example this aspect manifested itself in a big way with the famous porpoising effect – the bouncing in a straight line produced by the new generation of ground effect Formula 1 cars introduced last season -, not foreseen neither by the Federation nor by the teams before the winter pre-season testing session.
New Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, in a recent interview granted to Racecar Engineering, analyzed the development of the single-seaters in the factory: “Simulations and simulators are our best tools. The rate of development is extreme, thanks to these tools. Teams can now confidently use simulation technology to influence what happens during the race weekend.” In fact, it is not unusual to learn about set-ups prepared after free practice on the simulator, which enhance the performance of the cars, as confirmed by the French manager:
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“The team in the factory performs set-up simulations throughout the night, after collecting the data on track on Friday. A more performing set-up can therefore be decided before free practice on Saturday morning. The four pillars of performance are wind tunnel, CFD, simulator and the car. And each of them must work effectively to make the whole performant”.
The Ferrari team principal then provided details on his analysis: “The simulations analyze all possible set-up variations, including wings, ride height, suspension and so on. But then there is the actual track event, which offers a multitude of variables that are difficult to predict. Teams therefore have to constantly balance theory and practice. Today the theory is very close to reality, much more than a few years ago. The teams rely more on it, but to say that it can provide all the answers is far from the truth. If the simulator delta deviates by just one percentage point, you risk finding yourself in the lead or in the back. A small percentage difference between simulation and track can make a huge difference'” – new Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur concluded.