Force India is fronting a technical shift in the sporting regulations that will allow the team and others in similar financial situations to use CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) instead of costly wind tunnel rentals.
F1 teams are currently obliged to use a combination of wind tunnel and CFD in the annual design phase of each season, and teams like Force India have to spend a massive amount of money to rent out wind tunnels owned by other teams for usage.
In an attempt to cut costs, Force India are hoping that a new system, that allows a CFD-heavy design phase, can run in parallel with the current system. Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley said,
“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.
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.”
The biggest issue with solely relying on Computational Fluid Dynamics is that it is a purely theoretical way of developing the aero on an F1 car. Virgin Racing tried this approach in 2010 to little success, but CFD has come along way since then. Surely a team will always want to revert to the physical wind tunnel for tests, to make sure that their CFD theory and calculations hold out in the real world?
CFD will eventually be the outright means of aero development. But as a solution, it would require a much heavier amount of in-season testing so that parts can be evaluated in reality. Fernley also mentions a “wind-tunnel biased Formula”. One could argue the case that the sport is only wind-tunnel biased because wind-tunnels remain relevant, even if CFD use is increased.