At his first F1 strategy group meeting, the once much loved straight talking Yorkshire man tried to stymie the 2015 entrance of the Manor team.
Then following Manor’s inability to fix a problem on Will Stevens car in time for the qualifying session in Malaysia, Fernley alleged that Manor F1 never intended to run two cars and in effect called upon the FIA to investigate the matter.
On the matter of wind tunnels, Bob too appears to be out of step with the general considered opinion. During the press conference in Malaysia he described wind tunnel technology as ‘dinosaur technology’.
The deputy team principal of Force India argued that wind tunnels were a huge barrier to entry for new F1 teams and they are anti-environmental as they consume a huge amount of electricity.
Fernley called for a ban on wind tunnels and suggested if Formula One really wished to push technological boundaries, then a move to design using CFD exclusively should be embraced by the sport.
Of course the idea to ban wind tunnels originates from Red Bull, who also receive support on their every whim from Toro Rosso.
Today at the team principals’ FIA press conference in Shanghai, those present were asked for their opinions on this matter.
Pat Symonds led the rebuttal of Fernley’s comment, stating, “I think it’s a clearly ridiculous provocative statement. Our wind tunnels are anything but dinosaurs. Just because a technology has been around for a while doesn’t mean that it joins those reptiles of old. Cars have been around for a long while. Are cars dinosaur technology?
Bob Fernley recently claimed that the reason that the VJM08 would be around five months late this year was because, “We’ve just been getting the wind tunnels operating,” adding, “People don’t realise what a big programme it is to move it to Cologne.”
Given the sad state of the Force India 2015 car development programme, Pat Symonds chose to take a pop at the beleaguered Force India boss. “Maybe Bob ought to come and have a look at a decent wind tunnel and just see how technically advanced they are.”
Yet the opportunity to explain the benefits of wind tunnels and how Formula One has again brought new technological understanding outside the sport was now open.
James Allison of Ferrari explained CFD is still to erratic to be replied upon exclusively. At the moment, you wouldn’t find too many engineers who work in aerodynamics of any hue, who would recommend developing the type of thing we’ve got, using just CFD.
“It’s just too error-prone and you need to have the wind tunnel to keep dragging you back to reality and without that, you are at very high risk of spending your investors’ money foolishly and not delivering a car with the performance you thought you would have.
“That doesn’t really save any money or do anyone in the sport any good so I don’t think it’s the right direction”.
Symonds reminded those listening, that wind tunnel usage had already come under fairly hefty regulation in the past few years. “Yeah, I disagree with the proposal to ban wind tunnels. I think some of the restrictions we’ve put in place over the last few years have been quite sensible in terms of saving money and actually forcing us into being more efficient”.
The Williams technical director then revealed how he had in the not too distant past how from his F1 experience he had been able to bring refined wind tunnel knowledge to a major auto manufacturer.
“I was doing some work with one of the top major motor manufacturers, showing them how they could use their wind tunnels better on production road cars to decrease drag, increase fuel economy etc. It’s techniques that I think we develop in Formula One that are actually quite useful in other areas.
“We’ve invested a lot of money in wind tunnels, we’ve invested a lot of money in CFD – it’s not as cheap as some people might think. I think we have quite a good balance at the moment and I’m pretty happy with the way things are”.
James Allison concluded, “We, as an industry, have caused the CFD tools for low speed aerodynamics to be pushed forward very nicely to the benefit of more than just Formula One so I don’t think there’s any need to worry about us using dinosaur technology. I just think it is the right combination of tools with technology as it stands today”.
Andrew Green of Force India meekly offered, “Force India are always looking to be more efficient and save money so it’s an interesting discussion but it’s probably going to be a discussion that’s way above my pay scale”.
The F1 strategy group meets this weekend. Though it appears given that Ferrari and Williams are publicly opposed to the idea of banning wind tunnels and McLaren and Mercedes are also disinclined toward this Red Bull initiative – the matter will die along with the rest of the suggestions from the school of bright ideas for F1.