Simulation is nothing new in engineering. In ancient times much was done by trial and error, but it wasn't long before we realised calculation could not only reduce the amount of error but also lead to more efficient design. Galileo famously calculated the properties that determined the strength of a cantilever beam in the early 17th century and proved his calculations by means of simple experiments.
This led to many protagonists of what was then called the 'natural sciences' - people such as Isaac Newton - to explore the relationship between mathematics and the physical phenomena they found all around them.
In the field of simulation of vehicle dynamics we had to wait much longer before mathematics became commonplace, although people like Maurice Olley were performing simple calculations in the 1930s.