Whenever rule changes in any motorsport category are on the horizon, it brings about new challenges for engineers. Typically, rule changes have the potential to shake up the competitive order because some teams adapt better and faster than others. To be among those who get it right first, there are a number of different tools available for engineers to use.
Looking at Formula 1's next set of technical regulations - now delayed until 2022 - the changes to the aerodynamics and the introduction of the 18-inch wheels in particular stand out. To prepare for these, teams can employ numerous different simulations that will provide them with answers to the various scenarios they are looking at.
Investigating 'what if?' questions is inevitable when either the rule changes are not fully defined, or when the necessary input data is still a work in progress (for example, vertical tyre stiffness for the 18-inch tyres is in the early development stage), and a centrepiece for these investigations is the vehicle-dynamics simulation.
Teams can create models of the new components and run hundreds of thousands of lap time simulations with it. This is necessary because in the early stages of development, not all input data might be available, or with the required quality, and teams want to be prepared for all possible scenarios.
Notwithstanding any possible compound changes, the 18-inch tyres will definitely have different vertical stiffness and damping properties to the 13-inch tyres used now. This in turn has an effect on the stiffness and damping properties of the suspension elements as it will help to control the car attitude better, reduce the ride height and pitch window in which the car operates.
That will also influence the aerodynamic development, because it might result in peakier aero characteristics - the maximum downforce is higher, but in a smaller pitch angle and ride-height window.
So there are numerous elements in this complex game that influence each other, and teams have to make sure to cover the whole range of possible options. With that in mind, it is easy to understand why the number of simulations skyrockets quickly into the hundreds of thousands.
In every loop, the fidelity and quality of the model will get better due to the lessons learned in the previous loops, and result in more precise input data being fed to the simulation
However, due to cloud technology, it is feasible to simulate 100,000 laps within a few hours. Of course, the teams will use the data gathered in previous tests with the 18-inch tyres to correlate the model with reality and narrow down the uncertainties. The analysis of the simulated data identifies sensitivities between input and output parameters, which helps to define the most promising development directions.
To answer the questions regarding car handling and stability, it is necessary to use a dynamic vehicle simulation with a driver model capable of driving the car at the physical limit. Steady-state or quasi steady-state simulations can provide a fraction of the answer, but not the full picture.
Once the numerous options have been simulated and analysed, the next step is to go to the driving simulator and let the real driver have a say on the feeling and stability with the most promising set-up options. While that happens, the aero CFD folks will have come up with a couple of aero updates, and the process starts again by putting the updated numbers into the vehicle-dynamics simulation.
In every loop, the fidelity and quality of the model will get better due to the lessons learned in the previous loops, and result in more precise input data being fed to the simulation.
AVL RACING offers simulation and analysis tools along the whole process described above, starting from CFD services, to the fully dynamic vehicle simulation AVL VSM including cloud computing capability and the Simbook data-analysis tool, and of course a full motion driving simulator. Once hardware has been built, all sorts of testing from single components up to the full vehicle can be offered.
To learn more about AVL's range of simulation products, visit the link here.