Aerodynamics most efficient and economical way of finding speed
Working in the context of new regulations is always a thrilling experience for an aerodynamicist. However, in a period of stability finding performance is a much more challenging task, but the Renault F1 Team believes that progress is still possible.
The R28 will be the fourth F1 Renault complying with the same aerodynamic regulations. Since the 2004-05 winter the aerodynamicists have been working in the context of a virtually unchanged text, so the rules of the game as well as what works are common knowledge. But progress is still possible. The wind tunnels and the simulation programs that work 24H/24h 7 days a week, are increasingly sophisticated, and they help the engineers to achieve progress.
“When the first texts of the 2005 regulations were made public in July 2004, we took the gamble of allocating a lot of our wind tunnel time to this program to evaluate its impact,” explains Bob Bell, the ING Renault F1 Team’s Chassis Technical Director. “Although the new rules had a considerable impact on aerodynamic performance with a loss of 25%, we were very encouraged by the gains we achieved and we made a big improvement in the car’s overall efficiency. The efforts made to find the most compact package possible gave a lot of freedom to the aerodynamicists, and they managed to claw back part of the performance lost at the beginning.” These periods of change are always a godsend. “For the teams that have done a good job, it’s possible to make that vital difference before all the cars gradually start to look alike,” Bob continues.
So can it be said that after 3 years of stability the optimum aero performance has been achieved? Should the team concentrate on another area to find that little bit of extra pace?
“No,” is Bob Bell’s answer. “Aerodynamics are still the most efficient and the most economical way of finding speed. We’re still progressing even if the gains we make are comparatively smaller. We can reach an incredible level of detail; we’re concentrating in areas that have sometimes been neglected, and it gives noticeable results.”
In addition, the arrival of the V8 engine changed the game. When the cars became less powerful the aerodynamicists concentrated on drag limitation and channeling the air flow as much as on the search for downforce. The result is the many devices that have appeared on the bodywork over the past few years, winglets on the engine cover, pod vanes on the sidepods, boomerangs on either side of the car etc, which do not generate load. In fact, they play a role in the overall efficiency by channeling air to zones that help the performance. Had the engine rules remained free they wouldn’t have had the same shapes.
For 2008, the ING Renault F1 Team’s mission is to adapt the R28’s bodywork and front wing to the characteristics of the Bridgestone tires. This specification has led to the birth of a car that looks visually new –even though the regulations have remained unchanged. In F1, despite appearances, nothing stands still for very long!