Wednesday, August 27, 2008

F1 Information technologists

The information technologists can form up to half of the number of people employed by a team. Computing power is an intrinsic part of a Formula One team. In its most obvious form, computers are used to record and transfer data from the car to the team in the garage during a race weekend, via telemetry. But telemetry is just one branch of the IT department. Computer programs are used throughout the team’s operation in design, engineering, manufacturing, development, and racing. Some of these programs are bought in; others are developed in-house in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage over rivals. A top team employs several hundred software specialists.

F1 Model makers

Long before a full size car is built and put in a wind tunnel, a scale model of it has to be built. This model is then put into the wind tunnel to assess the design’s potential. Different noses, wings, underbodies, and other aerodynamic details are also built in model form first. The models can be anything from 20–60 per cent scale, and they must be stiff enough for the aerodynamic load not to deform the body and thereby skew the data. These models are built by highly skilled model makers.

F1 CFD (computational flow dynamics) analysts

Computational flow dynamics (CFD) is the computerised study of how fluids behave, and air is classed as a fluid for the purposes of aerodynamics. CFD experts mainly aid the aerodynamicists (explained in the section “Chief aerodynamicist” earlier in this chapter) by studying in detail predicted airflow over key parts of the car. By studying computerised renderings ideas can be tested without the time and expense of actually making the parts. If the ideas don’t work, they can be discarded without ever having bothered the production department.

Some say that one day CFD will replace the wind tunnel and that whole cars will be designed using just the computers – and the aerodynamicists and designers of course! This day is a long way off. At present, no computer is powerful enough to do all the calculations, even for a relatively small part, and many of the results are extrapolated from behaviour in key cells. But detail designs, like wing mirrors or front wing endplates, are currently being designed using only CFD. The technique is also used in predicting oil and water flow in engines and radiators.

F1 Chief mechanic

A team of mechanics is assigned to each car and another team to the preparation of the spare car. Their roles are split between engine, chassis, gearbox, and hydraulics on each car, and they don’t interchange responsibilities. Each is a specialist in his own area. There is also a tyre man whose is responsible for washing and stacking the tyres for each driver and each practice, qualifying, or race. Selected mechanics also double up as the pit crew during pit stops. Overseeing and co-ordinating all these people is the chief mechanic.

F1 Team manager

The team manager’s job is to coordinate the activities of the mechanics, engineers, and drivers in order to ensure that everything runs as it should do and to represent the team at the track in any sporting query, either in lodging a protest against another team or defending his own team from a protest. Some years ago the team manager would be next one down in the team hierarchy after the boss but the explosion of technical specialists – and chiefs to coordinate them – means this is no longer the case.

Friday, August 15, 2008

F1 Race engineers

At the track, each driver has his own race engineer. Between driver and race engineer, they try to find the best set up for the car on the day. The driver and his engineer communicate even when the driver is on the track. The race engineer and driver work hand-in-hand with a tyre engineer, supplied exclusively to the team by the tyre manufacturer. In some teams, the race engineer makes the call on what the driver’s race strategy is going to be – whether he fuels once, twice, or three times and at what intervals. At other teams this decision is made by the technical director or engineering chief. Still others have strategists.

Production manager

The manufacturing side of producing a Formula One car is highly complex and very critical. A huge number of different manufacturing disciplines need to be brought together in the most efficient way possible, and everything has to be on time. This is the job of the production or factory manager. Working for him are a team of fabricators, machinists, tool makers, welders, and assemblers. The production manager may have risen from these ranks himself, or he may be a former chief mechanic who got sick of the travelling or whose family have grounded him!

Powertrain engineer

Some teams manufacture their own gearboxes and therefore have their own team of transmission designers and fabricators. But even those that buy-in their gearboxes from specialist manufacturers have engineers who specialise in the mating up of engine and transmission.

Engine design chief

The engine design chief oversees the design of the engine in much the same way that the technical director oversees the design of the rest of the car. The chief engine designer – that is, the person actually designs the engine – is not necessarily the same as engine design chief who will be a technical manager overseeing the department, including the chief engine designer!

F1 Wind tunnel chief

The accuracy and repeatability of the wind tunnel is essential for the aerodynamicists to know how good or bad the team’s car is. Setting up a wind tunnel is a highly complex business and the top teams have someone whose job it is to engineer the tunnel itself

F1 Chief of engineering

Some teams separate out the design and application elements and appoint a chief of engineering to oversee how designs are translated into reality. This person – such as Renault’s Pat Symonds or Williams’ Sam Michael – often plays a strong managerial role during a race weekend.

Chief of R&D

New materials and technology and new ways of using existing technology come from the R&D (Research and Development) department, headed by the chief of R&D. Investing heavily in research and development invariably translates to lap time on the track. The more inventive minds, who might go off at a tangent too readily to make a chief designer, may nonetheless make a great R&D man.