Pat Symonds describes Fernley comments as ‘ridiculous’.


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.

16 responses to “Pat Symonds describes Fernley comments as ‘ridiculous’.

  1. I understand too little about the technical reality behind wind tunnel usage, how necessary it is indeed or if that will remain to be the case a few years down the line.

    What I would like to see from Red Bull however isn’t merely a slapdash suggestion, but a proper plan how to implement such a change to the rules. For example, why not have a transitional period of, say, 5 years in which wind tunnel usage is being limited more and more?

    As long as people can’t bother with properly formatted suggestions, I see no reason to consider them because I’m left with the impression, that they’re only whining because of their current problems (case in point, Force India).

    • Me and a mate build a wind tunnel back in school for a project, though it was a lot smaller than the real thing it showed the class that it really worked. We didn’t get data from it (neither of us was that smart and we didn’t have that much money to build it that well 😂� ) but what we did was, we hooked it up to a smoke machine like you have in the discotheques and we made the airflow visable that way.(this was only after the first test, when we poured flour in the airstream which showed many of the same results but made a bit of a mess, and after a while all the parts of the car that where influenced by aerodynamics had a big pile up of flour on them) It showed us, to a smaller degree, what the f1 wonder minds see. And I can believe to the fullest that they can use the data they get from a real wind tunnel. To say it’s as much worth as a real life test is a bit gone to far but it does help gain performance on a pure aerodynamic level even before the car drove once…

      • Sure, and since Grandpa Bernie was lately exceedingly vocal against Merc and in tandem with the Styrian Spice Boys… All this Force India on Manor and for CFD seems like the dwarf is manipulating his puppets big time.

        If we do the count, FOM now have 6+2 votes in the SG, for a total of 8. This is perilously close to 9, giving the commercial rights holder de facto “veto” powers, and even to 10, giving the commercial rights holder de facto regulatory powers…

        And BTW, Spice Boy Horner isn’t interested one… little… bit in saving money by using CFD. His pitch is more likely dictated by Newey retiring from the F1 design, meaning that now they need all other teams to be unable to develop the aero so as Red Bull to stay competitive. That little is transparent as water…

    • I was going to make the same point. It was a bold move at the time but probably a few years (maybe even decades) too early. We will get to the point where CFD is the way to go but there is a lot of work to do still to fully understand things.

      • Agreed. Digital is kicking the nuts out of analog, and it’s pretty much only a matter of time before the wind tunnels are consigned to the history bins…

        • Models aren’t reality and as a member of both the digital and analog community I can say with some security i think it’ll be a while before the models are good enough to dispense with reality altogether, LOL!!!

          • OK, good point. I was only thinking in terms of digital/analog, while CFD/tunnels has a big modeling part embedded. Yup, that one’s trickier to correlate with real life…

          • This sounds much like the quest to digitalize the qualities of analog guitar amplifiers… which, despite what many people claim, there is no sonic substitute for a tube amp. But. CFD is used to measure drag or stability in windy conditions for everything from bus stops to rockets. I’m curious to know why, if CFD is deemed accurate for measuring drag and other air movement effects on a rocket, why is it deficient for F1 cars?

  2. Whatever politics, banning windtunnels is a good idea. The minds in F1 are good enough to come up with solutions which in turn would be beneficial to a lot of industries.

    Of course the advocates are the people (teams) suffering from lack of money or the ones feeling comfortable about their simulation programs…

    • exactly, this has been, at least in the past the signature of f1 engineering, give us a formula, a rule book and we`ll build around them.
      wind tunnels effectively bans teams to enter f1 bc of the insane budget they require and i resent so much the idea of needing one to please “investors” or give them a sense of security by projecting performance— what??
      cfd is decades behind real data from a wind tunnel but that does not mean you can`t make a car and a competitive one that is, if everybody is on the same page.
      the rules need to be more inclined to development of macro aerodynamics than what it`s done right now. ppl saying that tunnel tech is beneficial for other industries is a bit delusional, the time and money spent in designing a ridiculous front wing will hardly to never transpire to other industries.

  3. Cry me a river Bob. Your whole trouble is lack of funds, coupled with you got off your areses too late. Wind tunnel or Can’t F’in Do-it, Farce India is going down.

  4. If wind tunnels are dinosaur tech, then FI won’t miss it if they just don’t use it. Why waste money on it? Unless Fernley is being a hypocrite.

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