Computational Fluid Dynamics is serious stuff. Do it wrong, and you can lose the race.
That's what the Marussia F1 team (the ex-Virgin team) learned over the last couple of racing seasons. Autosport.com reports that the team relied solely on CFD for its first two designs—and found that their cars lacked performance in high-speed corners.
Autosport quoted Marussia Racing consultant Pat Symonds: “Let's face it, most of the performance from an F1 car now comes from aerodynamics, that's where we were lacking and that's where it put us back.”
As part of its design restructuring, Marussa is embracing wind-tunnel testing—and parting ways with its former aerodynamics consulting partner, Wirth Research.
While the big lesson here, for engineers, is that CFD isn't a panacea, there's a more subtle lesson: you need to help managers to understand the capabilities, and limitations, of advanced technologies such as CFD.
Wirth Research doesn't just do CFD work—they do full-scale wind-tunnel testing as well.
Though no one who wasn't there knows what conversations went on between Marussia and Wirth, it might have been something like this:
“We want to hire you to do some CFD analysis for us.”
“Would you like to do wind-tunnel testing, to validate those results?”
“How much does that cost?”
“Quite a lot.”
“Nah. We'll just stick with the CFD.”
There may be a day when CFD, coupled with optimization tools, will give such a good result that wind-tunnel testing and track testing aren't necessary. That day may well be here for many motorsports racing classes, but I doubt that it's anywhere in the immediate future for F1—or even for NASCAR.
Autosport Magazine http://www.autosport.com
Marussia F1 Team http://www.marussiaf1team.com/
Wirth Research http://www.wirthresearch.com