New Strategy = CFD + Wind Tunnel

The Virgin Racing (VR) Formula 1 team are parting ways with their CFD guru Nick Wirth after a poor start to the 2011 F1 season and a dismal first season in 2010. Most of the heat for VR's poor performance (wrongly in my opinion) has been laid at the feet of its CFD-only strategy advocated by Wirth. I argued in a recent blog post that the root cause of VR's problems are more likely a general lack of funding, rather than its CFD strategy.

VR Looking for a Wind Tunnel Like Red Bull's?

It now appears that VR will mix in traditional wind tunnel testing with CFD in an attempt to improve their pace through better aerodynamic optimization. Clearly wind tunnel testing will stretch VR's budget to the limit, and possibly beyond. If we see a marked improvement in the team's results next season then I guess we will be able to conclude that wind tunnel testing is part of the secret sauce necessary for F1 success. If we don't see some improvement then I believe we arrive back at the general lack of funding, which reaches across many disciplines not just aerodynamics, as the root cause of VR's problems.

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I'll agree that extra money does create a better product, but I would also add that money doesn't cure stupidity.

My area of expertize is flight aerodynamics. http://www.hegedusaero.com/bio.html. I also write CFD codes.

I'm surprised at how challenged I am to find simplified race car components and simple V&V data for various codes that would be used for race car aerodynamics (both commercial and public domain such as OpenFOAM). Even when I tried to contact Total Sim and Wirth Research I didn't hear back from them. If they don't want to assist their field, so be it.

Compare this situation to the wealth of information for flight aerodynamics. There is tons of flight vehicle, full up WT, and component data freely available. And there is a lot of V&V data for codes such as CFL3D, Fun3D, OVERFLOW, LAURA, VULCAN, TAU, etc. And, I mean quantitative V&V not qualitative pretty colored picture comparisons. Frequently the pretty pictures are misleading.

In general, NASA and DoD have success using CFD. In fact they have a lot of success using it. Not that everything is perfect. CFD has its pitfalls and, in general, it is nice to have WT results backing up the CFD. However, WT data has its pitfalls too.

So there may be more to this story than just money. Maybe race car aerodynamics has some catching up to do.

BTW, since Caedium relies on OpenFOAM, a suggestion would be to maintain links to and references for OpenFOAM V&V data here on Symscape.

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