The Sauber Racing Team's wind tunnel was used by the FIA to work out the new regulations for the 2021 season. The model cars are 50% smaller than the real thing.
It was interesting reading an article about where the Red Bull team has improved this year and it makes perfect sense. Adrian Newey is the head of development with Red Bull or Chief Technical Officer who has been around the block being in the industry for many years and explains things how they panned out.
The team made mistakes in the development of of the 2019 car and thought they had progressed with upgrades for the 2020 car, but in fact hadn't. Ferrari did something similar and went backwards so this does happen to the best minds in the game. Adrian said that understanding the wind tunnel effect on performance was misread and they concentrated in the wrong areas.
Williams partnered with Nexa 3D in March to be able to manufacture parts for their wind tunnel car model. It is these partnerships which will bear fruit over time.
It doesn't matter if you have the top technical tools to assist you
like simulators and wind tunnels as you have to decipher the information correctly. Having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve could lead you the wrong way misreading the information. Imagine adding upgrades only to find you are now slower than before or there is no added performance benefits. This must happen often but with limited testing times allowed in the wind tunnels teams have to make every hour count more than before.
The regulation changes this season was mainly reducing 40% of the current downforce and the Red Bull team new where to try and gain some of it back. The gearbox casing had to be reshaped along with a change to the rear suspension yet the team was still not sure if it was enough to make a difference. Testing at the start of the year gave them an indication they were on the right track but still they were unsure if it would make that much of a difference.
Only in Baku at the first race could the team see it was coming together as planned and this is all form learning where they had gone wrong before. Technology is marvelous in the right hands but you also have to be able to read what the data is telling you.
Mercedes have been years ahead of their rivals with the technology they have in their factory thanks to Toto Wolff and his business involvement in tech startups including the gaming industry. Mercedes have been one step ahead of the rest and why they have been so dominant.
This years changes in regulations affected the low raking cars that much more than the likes of Red Bull who are higher raked. When the car is sitting low down already there is very little room to maneuver trying to find more downforce. The likes of Mercedes and Aston Martin were affected the most by these subtle regulation changes. The 3 token budget that the teams had this year meant any changes had to be minimal and these two teams were impeded from the start due to the car set up.
Adrian Newey talks about mistakes and the challenges of learning from them and one could argue Mercedes has gifted points to Red Bull this season from stupid mistakes. Mercedes have never really been pushed in a title fight like they have this season and a team known for it's precision has had instances of stupid blunders from the drivers and the racing strategy employed. Possibly any other season and Mercedes would be 30 points clear at the top as they have missed so many scoring opportunities.
I do expect an exciting start to the second half of the season in 2 weeks time as this summer break has given the teams to reflect on where they can improve. Will there be upgrades to the cars that make a difference to the performance? Ferrari have already mentioned that their power unit is more powerful with a much needed upgrade so who knows how good it will be. We have heard this in the past and nothing has transpired.
I do believe every team does go through a massive learning curve especially as they are all at the front end of innovation. Not everything will work as planned and only by pushing the boundaries will they know what they have created.