JANUARY 14, 2006
The shape of things to come?
The Toyota announcement of the TF106 underlines how Formula 1 is now developing and how the FIA's plans to limit aerodynamic development to three stages per year is likely to push more teams towards the system employed by Toyota, which now employs three overlapping design groups to produce two or even three new cars each season. Ask any F1 designer about design and they will tell that it is a continuous process and that each time a new car is produced it is like drawing a line which restricts what is possible. A completed car can be developed to some extent but eventually the lessons learned can no longer be applied to the car in question and must become of the design process of a future car.
"The reason everyone pushes their car back as late as possible is to maximise time in the wind tunnel for aero development," says Toyota's Mike Gascoyne. "Our philosophy is to get the best of both worlds by releasing the Bahrain aero package as late as possible, to maximise the development time and reliability running of the mechanical package while ensuring that the aero development time is absolutely at its peak. If we'd rolled out a new car for January, we still couldn't have incorporated any of the things we'd learned from testing Bridgestones in November. We can now react and introduce the TF106B bearing in mind all that we've learned from testing."
What this in effect means is that Toyota has now compressed the timescales involved and is building more than one car a year.
The Japanese say that this is part of the Toyota philosophy of continuous progress - known as kaizen - which has been part of the company's traditions since Sakichi Toyoda watched his mother and grandmother weaving cloth by hand and invented a series of weaving machines which not only speeded up the process enormously but eventually stopped automatically if the threads broke. He continued to work on the development of the loom even after it went into production. That philosophy was carried through into the Toyota car business which was set up with money generated by the weaving loom business and has been part of Toyota ever since.
Gascoyne applied the same philosophy to F1 design when he arrived at Renault, setting up two design teams which worked on alternate cars, which meant that the engineers had more time to think about what was needed rather than using their time developing one car. This has now been carried forward, with the financial muscle of Toyota, to create the current system which will see the TF106 serving only until the Monaco Grand Prix at which point a new TF106B will be introduced. The first TF107 will then follow in the autumn.
The FIA says it wants to introduce restrictions on aerodynamic updates to three stages a year and the inevitable result of this will be that other teams will adopt the Toyota philosophy and build more cars. This will require more staff, more research and development and, inevitably, more funding. The belief that a restriction on the number of updates will lead to less wind tunnel activity is clearly not correct as teams will inevitably be working as hard as they car and using their facilities as much as they can. Some teams now have two windtunnels working 24 hours a day and the future is likely to see more moving in that direction and more computational fluid dynamics to test other concepts before they get to the wind tunnel stage.
Given the restrictions that exist in the F1 rules which make real innovation very difficult, the F1 teams are looking more and more to production techniques to improve the flow of development and to the integration that can be achieved between chassis and engine departments to ensure that the cars are as efficient as is possible.
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