Mark Hughes

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Right now, all 10 Formula 1 teams are hard at work configuring their responses to the reworked aerodynamic regulations coming into force for the 2019 season. The outline of these regulations was known for some time, but the specific details that would allow teams to accurately model the cars was deliberately left until quite late – in order to minimise the head start the bigger teams would gain over the smaller ones simply by dint of their greater resources. Although wind tunnel time and CFD capacity are both limited by regulation, the number of resources – such as people and computing – let loose upon analysing the results varies greatly between the teams. 

At this relatively late stage of the process, the aerodynamicists and the designers following behind them will largely have configured the car. The hard points – gearbox length, axle placement, monocoque shape, cooling capacity – will long ago have been decided, narrowing down the area in which the aero departments will be continuing to strive for more performance by manipulating the body surfaces. 

How they go about this stage has evolved over the years and continues to do so, and it’s now about so much more than simply conjuring the best possible lift:drag ratio (ie maximum downforce for minimum drag). 

There are basically two methods currently being used between the various teams. But both are looking to find the best compromise between the peak lift:drag ratio on the one hand and, on the other, the best combination of useable, driveable, downforce across the full range of operating conditions. 

A given lift:drag number combined with a given engine performance will in theory give you a predicted lap time, but that’s of limited value if the driver cannot access the car’s full theoretical aerodynamic performance because its traits make it impossible to drive on its limit. 

The current most commonly used method in aero simulation is the ‘weighted number’ technique. The model of the car will be tested in the full range of ride heights front and rear, yaw angles, steering angles and roll. This will be the car’s basic aero map. The aerodynamicists can then manipulate that map by prioritising the parts of it deemed most critical to lap time. So it may be that the ultimate lift:drag number is produced by a certain configuration, but that number falls away way too fast at a certain angle of steering because of the way the steered wheels are interrupting the flow to the barge boards and down the side of the car. In this example, a lower than ultimate lift:drag number might have to be accepted in order to give the required downforce consistency. The downforce levels at the various dynamic states of the car will thus be massaged into a whole. This is represented numerically by giving appropriate weightings of importance to each of the lift:drag numbers at the various dynamic states of the car. These are then combined to give an overall weighted aero number and any progress is measured by this number. 

Whatever car spec has given the best weighted number by the time the crucial parts of the actual car build has to begin (ready for winter testing) pretty much defines the initial car. 

Assessing which dynamic states carry which weighting involves some subjectivity on the part of the aerodynamicist. How well they work with the vehicle dynamicists is crucial in this. But there is a development of the technique relying less on number weighting and more on manipulating the shape of slices taken through computer-generated images of the aero map, with the objective being to achieve a nicely progressive shape change from one dynamic state to the next. 

Whether this is more subjective or less than the weighted numbers method is a point of some debate. An experienced aerodynamicist with a great feel for his craft might tell you that the subjective ‘shape’ method actually more accurately represents reality because the weighting numbers can never incorporate all the nuances. As Colin Chapman once remarked: “Air is funny stuff.” 

But regardless of whether the weighting is numeric or shape-based, in at least one of the top teams – and probably in three of them – the process is further refined by using the driver-in-loop simulator to give a simulated lap time for a given aero map. So you can put your actual driver in the simulated model using different aero maps and in this way finesse the fidelity of your weighting – so you actively improve your methodology as you go along.

But it’s still all simulation at this point. The reality of the track could still hold a nasty surprise. That’s what progress in driver-in-loop simulation is seeking to minimise. But it’s an ever-evolving technology itself – and the budgets are virtually limitless. A standard contemporary driver-in-loop simulator can be yours for about 4.5 million euros – and it will typically take a couple of years to get it working properly. But if you want it to do tricks such as incorporating with your aero maps, that’s a new research and development programme in itself – and there is no predicting how expensive that may be. 

All the above is by way of illustrating how there is still black art among the science and how incredibly intricate it all is. 

But to get to play at the margins of where the science meets the black art, to attempt to become nature’s master, requires gazillions of pounds of budget and investment. If most of those gazillions were removed, the teams would just find other ways to do the best with what they had and to us outside observers the cars would still race each other and be the fastest road-racing cars on earth. It isn’t only air that’s funny stuff – the same is true of money.

Since he began covering Grand Prix racing in 2000, Mark Hughes has forged a reputation as the finest Formula 1 analyst of his generation