Saturday, April 12, 2008

How An F1 Car Is Improved

The two primary ingredients for a successful F1 team--a team that manges to show consistently improving performance-- are: a competent technical director and a technically sound and/or super quick driver(s). There is one more thing that the technical director needs to do his job, which is money. We'll start with the driver's responsibility. The driver is the one who is actually putting the car thro' its paces and so he is the person who can paint the true picture of the car black and white. He has to feel the car; feel the limit of the car. To be more specific, he has to report to his engineer the following: the behaviour of the car under braking (for example in a straight line/in the midst of a corner/on the entry into the corner/on bumps), its behaviour under acceleration (all of the above said situations apply here), its turning characterisitcs (for example, whether it oversteers/understeers, how much amount of steering angle provokes understeer), its overall balance (whether any on the front/rear ends is nervous), its braking characteristics (for example, how much pedal pressure at what point of time and at what rate/how and when it locks up), its behaviour on bumps (for example, how it affects his control over the acceleration/braking/turning he might have to do just after/at the point of hitting the bump(s)), the overall grip level provided by the geometry of suspension system, the weight distribution and the aerodynamics, his confidence in driving the car at maximum attack (and this is affected by, the tyre wear characteristics, brake fade characteristics, traction control maps, engine reliability and the behaviour of the car with respect to the decreasing fuel levels), the behaviour of the car in trailing throttle/lift-off conditions. The above list doesn't include all of the details but you can rest assured that all of the above things are definitely there.

The engineer will convert the driver's "feelings" into the more immediately possible "set-up" changes and also will report to the technical director regarding the possible changes that can be made to the aerodynamic/mechanical components of the car.

There ends the work at the track level and the work is then passed onto the factory where the technical director often occupies his desk. He will have all the feedback (both at the seat-of-the pants level and in the technical level from the engineer) on his desk. He will try to distinguish between the necessary points and the unnecessary points. He will start to try and decrease the unnecessary points while at the same time improving the more positive points even further. The team will then try out his ideas in the wind tunnel and if it seems to be an improvement, it will find its way into the car.

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