A few months ago, my Google alerts pointed me to an article about the Marussia F1 Team discussing its recent major upgrade. This was just enough to tease me; I decided to tuck the article away to read at a later date. But life got busy, and I’m only now getting back to this article. And, as luck would have it, the F1 season is over. Yet I still wanted to read that article because it stuck in my mind. I still wondered, “What is this major upgrade?”
It was when I read the first sentence — “The Marussia team is hoping to take a step forward for its home race at Silverstone as it introduces what it describes as the first major product of its wind tunnel program.” — that I fell out of my chair! I was shocked because the Marussia Formula One team designed its racing car using CFD. So what is this new idea? CFD is not good enough for designing an F1 car? It is sure, according to Red Bull Racing. Does CFD provide bad results for the Marusia team? Definitely not! These guys are pros. So why would using a wind tunnel be called a major upgrade?
I found the answer in an article from The Engineer. As I have said before, CFD and wind tunnel testing do not compete against each other; they actually complement one another. But the Marusia team faced the problem of a limited budget. According to trade publication’s article, the cost of CFD is one-sixth that of wind tunnel testing. It makes perfect sense that Marussia first focused on CFD; now that the team has a larger budget, it can complement its simulation with wind tunnel testing.
At first I wondered if this article was going to put everything I thought into question. In retrospect, it actually re-enforces what I’ve always thought:
- Simulation-Driven Product Development is more cost effective than physical prototype testing and gives results people can trust. Using simulation, hundreds of designs can be tested with the click of a button.
- Testing can complement simulation. Once the best design is found using simulation, testing can be used to validate simulation results: crossing the Ts and dotting the Is.
Though I’m clearly a strong proponent of Simulation-Driven Product Development, I also think that cross-checking the design is, in the end, always a good thing. I am sure the Marussia team prefers to validate its design in a wind tunnel before a race, rather than using the race itself as its testing gorund! Marussia’s F1 Team had a descent showing this season, and I would love to hear from them about how the wind tunnel results contributed.
It would be remiss of me to not stop here and congratulate the Red Bull Racing Team for it’s third consecutive F1 win. We’re proud to have them as a customer and a partner.
For more examples about how people use CFD to get their product designs right the first time, I invite you to read this white paper: ”Getting Product Design Right the First Time with CFD.”
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