Wind Tunnels superseded with a total switch to CFD

Hadron-F1-Experience.jpgThe FIA have received a proposal from Force India, which would alter the current Sporting Regulations around aerodynamic research. The ultimate aim being to shift the reliance from wind tunnels to CFD research.

Currently all the teams are carefully monitored under the FIA Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions, which balance wind tunnel hours with the use of CFD teraflops.

Force India believe that under the current system, wind tunnel usage is favoured considerably. Their plan would mean allowing teams to focus more on CFD if they wanted to, meaning that a second system would need to co-exist.

This idea would largely benefit the teams that don’t have their own wind tunnels, and have to rent a facility to use which is a significant cost. Force India, Haas and Manor would immediately benefit from this.

The proposal has already been discussed in the Strategy Group, and it is now being given further consideration by team technical directors.

“We’ve asked the Strategy Group to look into a position where we can do a glide path down and a total switch to CFD,” Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told

“It’s on the basis that we can now foresee that in time CFD will replace wind tunnels, and we want to facilitate that, effectively.

“What we have today is a wind tunnel-biased formula, and what we are looking for is a CFD-biased formula that allows people to switch to CFD. It’s a completely different equation, and the current system would stay in place.

“We’ve put a concept proposal together, and now we’ll ask the technical regulations group to refine it and get a consensus between them and submit it back again hopefully for approval by the Strategy Group. The Strategy Group thought it had merit, otherwise they wouldn’t have put it through. They were very supportive.”

“CFD is developing at a rapid rate, and we must recognise that. Obviously what we’d like F1 to do is embrace the latest technologies, and cutting edge technologies, which is what CFD is. We want to encourage people to consider using it.

“It’s not compulsory by any means, it’s just to give another variation in terms of aero development. Not everybody might want to go down that route. If you have a wind tunnel you might want to stay with wind tunnels.”

 A focus on CFD would represent a significant cost saving: “There are at least four teams in the pitlane who don’t have their own wind tunnels and are renting them, and we believe that in the foreseeable future – in three years or a bit more maybe – there is a possibility that CFD could become the primary or only aero programme. It is a significant saving. For a team in our position it would be many millions.”

Total reliance on CFD was previously tried by the Virgin Racing team for their introduction to the sport in 2010, the team later became Manor Racing. Virgin technical boss Nick Wirth was convinced that CFD was the future, although history has gone on to prove that his plan was ambitious in 2010. CFD has moved on rapidly since, and thoughts of CFD total design may not be too far away.

“It was a very ambitious move at the time from Virgin. Obviously it was the right direction, but too early. Like many things, you’ve got to get the technology right.

“We’ve worked for a number of years with restrictions on use of wind tunnels, and no question it’s saved money. Like all technologies CFD is developing all the time, and we have to re-evaluate every so often. I think it’s an appropriate time to re-evaluate.”

If correlation to the track proves to be reliable, then CFD really can be the future.

3 responses to “Wind Tunnels superseded with a total switch to CFD

  1. Sounds like it could be a good idea. Allow teams either to have x hrs wind tunnel and x teraflops cfd or 10 times x on CFD only. Could be good for cost reduction while allowing smaller teams to gain an advantage. Problem is that if CFD gets ‘better’ then big teams will just switch to CFD and then no advantage to small teams.

    • Your problem is not truly a big problem per say. It is actually better if the big teams switch to CFD because it will push the development of that technology, and no matter what, it is a lot cheaper to push electrons than it is to push air. The smaller teams will still have the same access to the technology as the bigger teams which is the current issue with wind tunnels.

  2. The current emphasis on aero is a consequence of the current rules which overall have led to the parlous state of F1. Banning WT use entirely wouldn’t be a bad start. Of course the expenditure saved would immediately be used to hire huge teams of programmers and to build enormous clusters of processors and associated hardware. Guess which teams would spend the most. Within a couple of years they’d be up to the same levels of expenditure as they did on WTs – and probably even more.

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