F1 test drives: high reliability

Formula 1 test drives in Valencia
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I n Valencia, the wheels do not stand still. From ten in the morning to five in the evening there is no interruption in the journey. When the cars come to the pits, then at most to rebuild the voting. Five years ago, a red flag stopped the test runs every half an hour. Sometimes an engine burst, sometimes a transmission went on strike, sometimes a car flew off the track.

Only a few interruptions

On the first day of testing after the long winter break, there were just an interruption. Rubens Barrichello parked his Williams Cosworth on the side of the track because the accelerator control didn't work. 'After the switch from Toyota to Cosworth, the engine, transmission and hydraulics still have to learn to talk to each other,' said technical director Sam Michael. 'That's why we spend the first few days calibrating the systems.'

The Cosworth V8 remained intact. The engine manufacturer from Northampton was out of business for four years. And yet the eight-cylinder, which is based on the 2006 engine, runs like clockwork. Today it has to survive twice the duration. Engine damage practically no longer occurs. 'In quality assurance, almost bulletproof procedures have been developed,' say the engine technicians.

High-speed gearboxes run like clockworks

But even the highly complex high-speed gearboxes run like clockworks. The defect that Toro Rosso does the majority Stuck in the garage the first day was a trivial matter. Toro Rosso built its own transmission for the first time. Just like the whole car. And yet, on the second day, Sebastien Buemi already completed more than one GP distance. A compliment to Franz Tost's crew.

The other new cars also showed hardly any flaws. The vehicles were pushed into the vans at the last minute, rolled out of the garage in Valencia and they show a stability, as if one had secretly trained somewhere over Christmas. And if, as in the case of Renault am first day there is a problem with the brakes, then you can still drive and collect data. Rubens Barrichello and Lewis Hamilton dared the first endurance run on the second day. A few years agounthinkable. 'But the limited test days force us to pack a large program into 15 days,' says Williams man Sam Michael.

State-of-the-art tools ensure high reliability

The reason for the amazing reliability lies in the modern tools in the factory. The first test drives take place in the laboratory. The aerodynamics are optimized in the wind tunnel. Hundreds of detailed aerodynamic solutions can be calculated in a short time using the CFD simulation programs. 'The hit rate is over 95 percent,' reveals McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh. The influence of lengthening the wheelbase on driving behavior and lap times is also simulated beforehand. 'We tried every conceivable wheelbase and came to the conclusion that the influence is not that great,' reveals Sauber technology director Willy Rampf. The chassis is shaken on special test stands. At Mercedes GP in Brackley a so-called eight-punch machine. At the push of a button, the test vehicle is shaken as if it were driving a round of Valencia. Or Jerez. Or Barcelona.

The perfection makes an impression, but it is also the biggest enemy of Formula 1. While test drives used to be a kind of war reporting with large and small disasters, one question is always asked this evening: who drove when with how much fuel on board. The simulation computers cannot calculate that in the early test phase. How nice that there is at least one stranger.


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