The blade design to the track test: this is how to build a Formula 1


When the last banderazo of the season falls on all drivers ending the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, each team member takes care of his task. The drivers cater to the press, the engineers collected the most recent data from the weekend and the mechanics dealing with a few cars that will not come back to tread the asphalt of the Big Prizes anymore.

After that, each one takes care of their part in the art of leaving the circuit without leaving any trace: tap to return to home. But, what happens when all the staff and displaced material reaches the factory? one Might think that it is time to take a good vacation, but nothing could be further from the reality.

When the car jumps the track in Montmeló, the initial objective will be to identify weaknesses

What is certain is that the project of the next season is already months working and, in the case of a season as of 2017 in which the regulatory change involves redefining completely the majority of the concepts polished for three seasons, some teams are working on the next prototype of the single-seater from a little over a year. And at the end of the current season, it is time to intensify such work. An intensity that will not cease until it reaches the first pre-season test in February. And it is not that after the intensity is gone, but it does change form. Mutates from the obsession with rush until the last second to best understand a new concept to the race of evolution. The refinement of the successes and, above all, to understand or to solve the mistakes.

The failure of a project can be successful the following

When the car jumps the track in Montmeló, the initial objective will be to identify weaknesses to remedy them in time for the second version of the car, usually introduced in the Great Prize of Spain or, later, in the Great Britain. As a result of the current regulations-which limited the test and focuses on the reliability- the pace of development has been changing in the last few years.

Now we see modifications in every Grand Prix and two or three updates something stronger during the season. Only Force India or Sauber -forced by economic circumstances- have continued to prepare for versions B of their single-seaters. But 2017 could bring back this custom more widespread, especially on computers that have detected an error concept in the interpretation of the new regulation.


Also it is time to identify the faults that cannot be rectified by being overly serious. Let’s not forget that the project of 2018 has already started or will be about to do so and, therefore, must start it, making sure not to make the same mistake. A gearbox may be smaller or with a housing of aluminum instead of carbon fiber. A suspension geometry more simple to adjust. Wheelbase is somewhat longer. The sort of things that, once decided, may not be modified until the following season.

From what is urgent to what must be met by 2018, it is essential to identify if the design is right.

In terms of the new car step on the asphalt of Montmeló, the engineers will begin to develop a list of tasks depending on their priority. From the most urgent to what must be met by 2018. it Is essential to identify if the concept design is suitable, if the systems of the car work, and the reliability is on a good way. Design of the suspension, the gearbox, positioning of the LRA and, in general, packaging of all systems and internal elements of the car focus the attention of the engineers in this first phase.

The understanding of the aerodynamics, geometry, suspensions, shock absorbers or management of the tyres in iran, little by little, gaining prominence in the day-to-day of the test.

The test

The first week of test is essential and in the first few laps the team already knows if the car works as expected. At that time they can produce surprises -often negative – and the panic is at risk of seizing of the equipment. If not, the team will begin to optimize the car.

After the system testing and other preparatory processes, reach the test in a straight line with constant speed and different settings to gather as much information as possible. This information is compared with the simulations to verify more accurately if all goes according to plan. In this phase, the pilot does not increase the rate because the team aims to predict what will happen when you do to not have scares such as, for example, that car between in loss suddenly in a curve. Also compared to the parts available -even though they are of the same specification – to check that they work evenly and there are no defects.


Grill sensors that computers use to study the aerodynamic flow in certain areas.

Subsequently come different settings, mechanics and their respective combinations to better define the operating window of the same. But the track conditions change and tires are also, complicating such a comparison because they are changing their behaviour. To minimize this effect, you try to do this process with the tyres more stable than you have available.

The team must leave the test knowing everything that you need, and with reliable data.

The understanding of the tyres also just focusing the attention of the teams, especially in a year like this in which the changes at this level are very noticeable. checks Are performed with the intention to elongate their life as much as possible without penalizing in excess of its performance over a lap. A car prepared for qualifying at 100% will degrade rear tires soon. There’s that set the car with a little understeer by reducing the incidence of the front wing to be able to perform a race simulation reliable. But it is important not to overdo so that performance does not fall. As in everything, there is a balance between speed and consistency.

All these processes are time consuming and to define the operating window of performance can take several tens of runs with different settings. The team must leave the test knowing everything that you need, understanding, and knowing with certainty that the information collected is reliable, as it will serve as database to know how it reacts to the car to change, something very important to be able to make quick decisions in the first race.


If the first week of testing goes well, there will be more time to address other problems in the second week and the car will be able to improve faster and better. The car will arrive in march ready to be optimized in all areas and the development will focus on solving problems, not to improve what is already good. it is essential to be clear about these issues or the season will be against the current and, by the way, the project of 2018 will be affected. Taking all this into account, we can imagine how hard it must have been the season 2015 for McLaren-Honda, that I can hardly roll in the test and spent nearly the entire season trying to recover.

parallel Programs

after the start of the season, the team will be devoting more and more resources to the program for 2018. Usually with the arrival of the summer break in August, a big group of the team moves on to the next project, but it all depends on the resources and the aspirations of sports at that time. A team to fight for the championship tends to delay this transition if the title is hotly contested.

If the current project is a failure, the more likely it is that forward. It is time to define the bases aerodynamic, which allow you to win races or a notable advancement in the grill. The mechanics, in general, just makes it lose those races, but you need to find a balance between what is more convenient to level aerodynamic and more reliable at the mechanistic level. Concepts such as ‘size zero’ McLaren or the famous waists wasp of Adrian Newey have not always resulted in the best overall performance.


The first thing to define is the chassis and the gearbox. Later will come the packaging of the other components, suspensions, keel… a domino effect that must be perfectly synchronized to meet deadlines and objectives.

time Travel

inevitably, both projects end up overlapping. A chassis takes around 10 or 12 weeks to be built, so to jump to the track in February, begins in September of the previous year. Once built, the chassis must pass crash tests of the FIA and, if not the aprueba will not be able to compete, so that should be changed in time for the second frame, as in building, you pass the exam. All of this gives us an idea of how important is the design of the chassis, as cannot be modified during the course of the season without a new crash-test and the time limits are very fair as to be able to afford a error that gives to the fret with all the programming of the season.


Test of the impact of a monohull.

The best example we had was in 2009, when the double diffuser of Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams surprised all the equipment, which took months to adjust to such a solution. Ferrari, for example, had serious problems to incorporate it because of the design of the gearbox did not allow an optimal solution. Decisions that have no turning back.

The process of manufacturing

When a team designs the mechanical parts main of the car, the design department plans the body more convenient from the aerodynamic point of view and begins to build the car.

The monocoque or the chassis is of vital importance because, in addition to being the core of it all, serves of support to the rest of the car. Is the first piece on which is based the rest of the car. In this context, it should be noted that it is the survival cell for the pilot, but also the support for the engine, the suspensions and the vehicle body. It also includes the fuel tank, and other minor elements. In he couple the anchors of the suspension, the nose, the engine and many other things that most make your design and production in a fairly complex process.


Autoclave Toro Rosso, where it is ‘cooked’ parts of carbon fiber.

The monocoque is formed by an aluminum skeleton in the form of a honeycomb of between 6 and 15 millimeters in thickness with two layers of carbon fiber lining by both parties. In the points that have to be mounted items like suspension or engine parts are inserted machined titanium, aluminum, or stainless steel depending on each case and need. Subsequently, put it into the autoclave, which is a furnace at high temperature and pressure ‘cooking’ the carbon fiber to endow it with resistance.

Subsequently, analysis is performed of stress, safety, and functionality to meet the crash-test the FIA. this is Not to manufacture a monohull as durable as possible, but finding the balance between such quality and lightness so that, in addition to insurance, be as competitive as possible. Each catamaran has an approximate weight of 50 kg, but this very much depends on each team because, for example, some include the arch roll and others placed as an additional piece.


The treatment of the carbon fiber requires specialists and allows for multiple variables to work with its properties.

In January, the team has to have built at least three chassis: one for the crash-test, another to finish the first car and the last to start the second car. Between the 20 and 25% of the staff of a team is directly involves in the construction of the chassis, working without rest and to top of their capabilities during that process: without holidays, or holidays.

L/D, the key of all

The time per lap of a car is primarily determined by the speed of step-by-curve or, more specifically, his behavior at half-curve. And, as we have already mentioned, the behavior of the current car will be the basis for the next season.

it Always seeks to generate as much downforce as possible with the minimum resistance to the advance. Or put another way: downforce vs. drag. To do this, the specialists work with the L/D (lift or lift over drag) and the aspiration consists in desnivelar that balance as much as possible for the benefit of the downforce, although with nuances.


the driveability of The car is very important and, therefore, must find a compromise between downforce and handling. A high total level of load causes the car to be too sensitive to the changes and, therefore, more complicated driving. You can’t lose sight of the behavior in the weight transfer, under braking, etc, and always seeking the best possible performance, but keeping the ease of driving.

The center of pressure is vital to the aerodynamic performance and, with this in mind, the Technical Director compiles a list of specifications that encompasses the whole car. Below is the delivery to the department streamlined. It is the basis of the design. As you pass the races, the drivers complain of recurring problems and the designers are seeking causes and solutions to such problems do not re-commit them in the next project.


teams are Currently working with two major simulation tools: wind tunnel and Computational Fluid Dynamic (DCF). With them trying to predict the behavior of each piece of the car and look for the one that offers greater performance. But it is easy to make mistakes if you do not follow the premise basic and the standard procedures as a result of the rush generated by the competition.


The computer simulation (DCF) is mandatory in Formula 1 today.

This is especially the case in the wind tunnel, which is more realistic, but only provides the figures. The wind tunnel help to create an aerodynamic package consistent and, if there is urgency, it is common to focus on the L/D and to forget other aspects that compromise the final result. A piece of particular piece can offer net results very positive, but subsequently impair the overall operation of the car when it interacts with the rest of the pieces and cause the car to be inconsistent or more critical.

The designer must ensure that the aerodynamic load is stable, to control not only the design itself, but also the influence of the changes of aerodynamic flow when the car rolls behind another car appears with wind, potholes. etc on the other hand, the DCF is more complicated to understand, but allows you to learn about the change of aerodynamic flow and the forces that it exerts on each piece.


The difference between the big teams and the small ones is that they have to gamble on a pathway of design and expect to be successful. The big teams open up several avenues at once, and discarded in function of the results. A piece may have 50 redesigns before being sent to production and must take into account the influence of each design, not only in the performance itself, but in the rest of the car.

it All begins in the front wing because it is the first piece that touches the air, the one that defines the aerodynamic flow for the rest of the car. The adjustment of the flaps moves the centre of pressure: more angle of incidence moves the centre of pressure forward, less angle at the back. Subsequently it is the turn of the turning vanes under the morro, the barge boards, the pontoons and adjacent elements as the generators of vortices, side deflectors and so on until you reach the rear. After that, the process restarts to undertake the appropriate changes.


The computers control the activity on the track from the box of the circuit, but also from the team headquarters.

Each team find different solutions to the same problems, very restrictive, that is the regulation, so that there will always be differences in the cars. Each team divides their department aerodynamic in different sections. A group of several people will be a specialist in the front wing, diffuser and so on. As a result, the communication between groups is essential to obtain a good set: the only way that works. Each piece must perform well individually, but work in harmony with the rest to give as a result a car balanced and effective.

The head of department makes the decision on what to advocate more without losing sight of the end date, since most of the parts of the car that jumps the track in the first test must be completed before Christmas. In such a test there is usually very few spare parts because the most important pieces have been developed up to the last minute (spoiler front and rear, etc.) and will continue to change to the next or the first race. In January, before the car step on the asphalt, already beginning to prepare the first developments with which will, one year more, the race of evolution in seeking to achieve the objectives.

A process that is only resting during the summer break as a result of the regulation. Or, at least, that’s the theory.