Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Montreal, 2010

Factory upgrades to boost Lotus in 2011

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Montreal, 2010
Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Montreal, 2010

Whether it’s an F-duct, an exhaust-blown diffuser or something else, upgrades on F1 cars always attract attention.

But the investment F1 teams put into their factories also makes an important contribution to their race performance.

F1 Fanatic took a look around the Lotus factory yesterday to see their preparations for the 2011 season and hear about their future plans.

Linking the factory to the track

Lotus have been grappling with the demands of gathering the vast amount of data produced by an F1 car when it is running.

Head of IT Bill Peters explains:

There are 2,000-plus sensors on the car that are constantly channelling data back to our systems. The data comes back in real-time, continuously. We use telemetry to capture all of that data, that has to be analysed in real-time and we also have to compare it to historical data.

So you can imagine there?s a lot of processing power going on track-side and there?s a lot of storage requirement track-side. Year after year we?re going to have to hold more and more historical data. We get gigabytes of data every single lap.
Bill Peters

A Lotus team member works on a part for the 2011 car
A Lotus team member works on a part for the 2011 car

Last year Lotus were not being able to share data from the car at the track with the team at the factory. They’ve addressed that for 2011:

Last year we didn?t feed that data back to the factory. Most F1 teams have a data centre back at base. We didn?t have that last year because just didn?t have time.

This year we are going to have that so we?re in the process now of setting up an operations centre. Our vehicle dynamics guys and a couple of strategy guys will be based back at the factory.
Bill Peters

Back at the factory, the data is stored and processed by a 1,500-core cluster with 96 terabytes of storage space. All the team’s track-side and factory IT equipment and support is provided by Dell.

The team’s head of strategy, Jody Egginton, described this as a “critical” improvement:

The advances we?ve made there are going to be critical. It?s always good to have as much data going back as possible because it means you?ve got more eyes looking at it, more people processing it.

The faster that it the better, really. It also means you can make better use of people?s time because we are a small team and with the resource restriction it?s not possible for us to suddenly become 700 people strong.
Jody Egginton

It is especially important as all the teams have to cope with new limits on how long their staff can work at tracks on race weekends. New rules prevent mechanics from doing “all-nighters”.

Egginton explained how they plan to use computing power to replace lost manpower:

I?m trying to automate as much stuff as I can through software. There seems very little point having a guy there when something can be done automatically. We?re trying to save time so we?re not late at the track.

A number of the large teams were against this concept, I think they?re worried that they can?t react quickly enough, so we?ll see if our small size means that we can get the jobs done quicker and make best use of our time.
Jody Egginton

Race strategy

Another area the team are aiming to make progress in is their strategy software. They admitted some of their rivals’ tactics in 2010 left them baffled:

Last year, racing Virgin Racing, they often did things that didn?t make any sense ?ǣ though maybe it made sense to those guys on Friday or Saturday.

But you have to react to that, you can?t just say, ??well that doesn?t make any sense, we?re not going to do anything about it,?? you have to understand what they?re doing. What we were doing probably didn?t make sense to them on occasions.
Jody Egginton

Like their rivals, Lotus developed their own race strategy software in-house. It rapidly became so complicated they required 64-bit machines to run it:

There are three main pieces of software we’ve developed in-house.

We’ve got one package called Lotus Timing Software. It takes the timing feed which Formula One Management provide and manipulate it to try to apply a fuel load to that, because the amount of fuel in the car has an effect on the ultimate lap time.

We use it to see what everyone’s doing, what they’re not doing, how quick they are in a straight line, what their sector balance is, what their times are, tyre degradation and predicted fuel load.

Then we’ve got another one called Pace which is our strategy software. We use it in the race primarily to understand how people are using their tyres and what the knock-on effect of their tyre change will be. So we’re looking forwards to what the probabilities are of them doing something after they’ve done one event.

It?s probably one of the most closely-guarded pieces of software in every team. Everyone believes their strategy software is the best.

Then we’ve got another tool called Raptor which is our simulation tool. Basically, if we want to predict how our car will react to a particular set-up change, be it a downforce level or a mechanical change, we load in the parameters and that very quickly tells us how the car will behave, be it an ultimate lap time, or just its ride height at the end of the straight, or how it will make use of its engine and gearing.
Jody Egginton

Working at a race track presents its own challenges – and one of the hazards comes from the car itself:

The vibrations from a Formula 1 car will crash a normal hard disk. You can’t really run a normal spinning disk near a Formula 1 car so we had to go solid state because it’s very important that we have robust and reliable systems trackside.
Bill Peters

Building a wind tunnel

View of airflow around a 2010 Lotus T127
View of airflow around a 2010 Lotus T127

Looking to the future, Lotus plans to build a wind tunnel housed in a new facility in Hingham.

The team is heading in a different direction to fellow 2010 newcomers Virgin, who in 2011 are again designing their car entirely using Computational Fluid Dynamics.

CFD and R&D manager Lesmana Djayapertapa explains why the team uses both CFD and wind tunnel data:

I?m very fond of CFD. One big advantage of CFD over a wind tunnel is that it gives aerodynamicists and engineers insight into the behaviour of flow structures. CFD can show you where the downforce is coming from by looking at the flow behaviour around a car, and you can pursue even more if you can tweak the design or add a few parts.

But as good as CFD can get, it?s still a simulation. When you?re dealing with unsteadiness around a race car it?s difficult to fully trust CFD. One example is if you want to do development on a rear brake duct or the diffuser. The flow that arrives there is so disturbed that it?s difficult for us to believe the data that?s coming from CFD.

Our philosophy here is that we combine CFD and the wind tunnel for aerodynamic design.
Lesmana Djayapertapa

He said the team was not yet using the maximum allowance of wind tunnel time or CFD processing power permitted under the Resource Restriction Agreement.

However he also said the RRA limit may be lowered in future:

At the moment, as a new and small team, FOTA says you can have [between] 40 teraflops of CFD and zero hours of wind tunnel work, to 60 hours in the wind tunnel and zero CFD teraflops [per week]. So we have to find the right balance between the wind tunnel in Italy, which gives us about 14-16 hours per week, and our CFD cluster.

At the moment it doesn?t really present a big problem for us because the sum of our wind tunnel hours and CFD teraflops is still below the FOTA restriction.

I think it?s going to become a problem when we get closer to the line. Also there?s a discussion that they?re going to reduce it next year to 40 teraflops or 40 hours.
Lesmana Djayapertapa

The team were working hard on building the parts for its 2011 and several of the new components could be seen around the factory.

Its final design remains a secret – but not for long. We’ll get the first indication of how the new Lotus will perform when the team commences testing at Valencia on February 1st.

2011 F1 season

Browse all 2011 F1 season articles

Images ?? Cosworth F1, F1 Fanatic, Lotus Racing.

32 comments on “Factory upgrades to boost Lotus in 2011”

  1. Great information Keith, are you on for another visit at Virgin Racing this year as well?

  2. I think they will be surprisingly fast next season. Just a sneaky suspicion they will be up with sauber next year.

    Great insight by the way Keith.

    Not long now until the first test.

    1. possibly even higher than Sauber. Even if they are not, their approach is professional and worthy of good results.

      1. Why Sauber? Toro Rosso was beaten by Sauber and is Lotus’ first objective as the worst of the “old” teams.

      2. I hope not. As much as I want to see them do well, I hope Sauber is up fighting with Williams this year, so we can see even more of what Kobayashi’s made of…

    2. I think it’s possible, but considering the disadvantage they have compared to the established teams, I’d be careful about getting excited. If I had to bet, I’d say they will be nipping at the heels of the main teams… Although… Personally I’d like them to be very wrong, and see them battling Williams for the title… But that’s me dreaming again…

      1. Also Keith… Fantastic article… I can already see this being in this years “best articles”.

    3. I think there are tremendous and largely unreasonable expectations regarding this team, and it’s building up to a major disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be good, I want then to fight in the midfield, but I will be positively surprised if they manage to score points this year. I will call it a huge success.

      1. I agree with you Ben. Success takes time and it’ll only be their second year in the sport and as a team. Points would be brilliant but I’m struggling to see them do it on a regular basis just yet but it would be nice if I was wrong

      2. The pressure though, is coming from them. They’re saying circa 2s performance increase etc. You’re right to say not to expect too much, but we’ll see. They have some of the best personel at that team.

  3. Great work Keith, I loved that bit of information about normal hard drives failing due to the vibrations of an F1 car; remind me never to take a laptop into the paddock!

    1. unless you plan on driving away one of the cars, you should be ok ;)

  4. there is some properly ugly airflow on that CFD CG.

    1. still, the thing was built in a bout 5 minutes. We’ll get elegance next year.

      1. I heard a rumour AirFix supplied the basic chassis… and some of the glue.

    2. So there is a lot of potential to do better this year, I guess.

  5. Fantastic insight, thanks! It’ll be interesting to see their development over the next few years.

  6. Real nice insight into 2011 original the Lotus Renault team, that came up with the black and gold concept, but are now stuck with green and yellow. Till that is probably muscled out of them by the predatory Bahar.

    That aside, I like their systematic approach to infrastructure development, and reality based understanding of what CFD can and cant do.

    I just hope Gascoyne will not be too conservative in the for 2011 car design. Its time to focus on speed and work out the reliability along the way.
    Seeing that Group Lotus and the Bahar mafia, have taken the corporate backing from underneath Fernandes’ feet, its time to go extreme with the car design. Since their is no corporate image to maintain.

    1. Oh there!!

    2. to focus on speed and work out the reliability along the way.

      The true spirit of Colin Chapman…

  7. I can get behind any team that has a Raptor on their side.

    1. hahah.. nice :) and also Ditto :)

  8. Definitions of teraflop on the Web:

    (computer science) a unit for measuring the speed of a computer system
    In computing, FLOPS (or flops or flop/s) is an acronym meaning FLoating point Operations Per Second. …
    A unit of computing power equal to 1000 (or 1024) gigaflops
    hasn’t been tagged yet.
    A trillion floating-point computing instructions per second, a measure of the enormous number of operations carried out by the most advanced supercomputers today (tera=trillion).

    I bet I’m not the only person who looked it up ;)

    1. Some of us already knew what that meant.

  9. The best answer to this Lotus vs Lotus affair, is on the track. This article makes Lotus looks pretty serious. I really hope they’re up in the midfield, then they can stand up and be very proud of themselves. People will respect that, and it will take the edge of the naming debate.

    1. I don’t see it as a positive. I’d prefer the naming debate to be resolved on the basis of who’s actually right, not on the basis of who has a stronger car. The green car will most likely be slower than the black one, but that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the naming rights.

      1. True, but Green Lotus can showed a marked increase in performance compared to Black Lotus. They need to prove what stuff they are made of. If they lounge around the back of the grid and fight over the Lotus name, they’re gonna be humiliated. If they show they can race, they’ll carry more credibility in the eyes of the fans. Which is the perspective my comment was based on.

  10. So… not using Force India’s designs this year?

    1. Waiting for the PR release from TF saying it was Group Lotus’ idea to steal the designs from Aerolab and Force India, and how hes just a poor little boy sticking it to the big guy who got caught up with the bad crowd ( Group Lotus) ; )

  11. Keith (or anyone else) didn’t Tony Fernandes originally announce that the long term plan was for this team to be based out of Malaysia – has that plan now changed?

    1. Megawatt Hering
      20th January 2011, 11:37

      I remember him saying that before the start of last season however with all the investment they have put into Norfolk I don’t think they will want to move anytime soon. It makes sense to be based in the UK as so many of the parts for a formula one car are made here. Moving to Malaysia would mean finding new suppliers or shipping the parts an expense I don’t think they can afford.

      In short like all teams he wants results and the easiest way for him to do that is improve what he has in Hingham rather then starting from scratch in Malaysia,

    2. That idea made sense when the had the backing of Group Lotus, and Fauzy as a test driver. Now it won’t make any economic or business sense to operate out of Malaysia.

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