JANUARY 14, 2009

The importance of simulation in F1

Stefano Domenicali has been talking about Ferrari's plans for the coming season at the Wrooom ski event at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy.

Domenicali says that the cost-cutting initiatives that have been agreed have altered the way in which teams go about their business and getting the cars out early has been very important in order to maximise the testing before the in-season testing ban comes into effect. Much of the running in the next few weeks will be to gather data which can then be used for the simulations that will replace circuit testing.

Domenicali says that Ferrari's budget this year is lower than in the past but says that there will be investment in more simulation technology.

"Each team decides how much to spend and what are the useful investments for the racing team and for the production cars," he said.

It is believed that Ferrari is working to expand its computational fluid dynamics capabilities but there is also major work going on to create a fullscale F1 simulator. McLaren is believed to be the only F1 currently using a dynamic simulator at the moment, but teams are incredibly secretive about what they are doing and the Woking team will not even confirm this. The team is believed to have spent as much as $40m on this and worked with British Aerospace engineers. The driver sits in a full-size F1 monocoque, in front of a large, curved plasma screen on which are projected images of the race tracks. The whole unit is mounted on a device called a hexapod, which is a motion platform which features six independently-actuated legs, the lengths of which change in order to orient the platform. Sound and imagery add to the environment created. Some of the simulators induce sickness because of a discrepancy between the perception of visual motion and the corresponding motion cues experienced by the human body. This has led engineers to develop dynamic simulators, which have the entire hexapod moving around to meet the body's need for the sensation of real motion. This means that a simulator is about the size of a professional basketball court with the simulation unit moving around inside it. This is so effective that drivers are able to establish car set-ups before teams ever go near to the race tracks involved.