HRT F111

How a team runs an F1 car for the first time

2011 F1 testingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

HRT F111
HRT F111

With the final test of 2011 a week away, one team is yet to do any laps with its 2011 car.

What will HRT do with their F111 when they run it for the first time at the Circuit de Catalunya next week?

Lotus’s head of strategy Jody Egginton explained what an F1 team does when it runs a new car for the first time.

“Most F1 cars are close to bursting into flames”

The car will have been extensively tested before it turns a wheel: “The car leaving the garage will have entailed endless amounts of tests. Obviously we’ve got our safety tests which are all done separately.”

A car’s first test is often called a “shakedown”. Teams do a series of ‘installation’ laps in which they’re not looking for outright performance.

One of the first objectives is to check temperature: “It sounds quite simple but generally most optimised F1 cars are very close to bursting into flames as they’re going around the track.

“You don’t want it to be cool, because that’s not efficient. So the first thing we’re checking is that it’s balanced thermally.”

Garbage in, garbage out

The team progress by making sure the car responds to the drivers’ input as expected: “Then we’ll slowly run through system checks.

“There’s an awful lot of sensor checks we do to check that the sensors are reading the correct data and the telemetry we’re getting back is sensible, everything’s calibrated correctly, the software recognises what is sent and produces sensible numbers.

“Computing capacity is great as long as you put sensible numbers in, otherwise you just get a lot of rubbish in a very short amount of time.

“We slowly increase the mileage of the car. We have a lot of engineers in the background, both at the track and at the factory, looking into all of these numbers.”

The drivers’ feedback is vital in ensuring the team can hunt down problems quickly: “The driver will come back and report to you: ‘OK, these are the problems, this is what’s going on’. You take all that data and you have to relate that to what you’re seeing on the car via software.

“A driver can have a feeling, you have to back it up with numbers. Sometimes you can’t and you go down a different route.

“But, basically, the engineers at that point are checking all the vital parameters: is the engine working as it should do, are the tyres behaving as they should, are the aerodynamic and mechanical aspects of the car working correctly?”

These initial checks can take up all of the first day of running. That puts HRT’s feat of running last year’s car for the first time at the Bahrain Grand Prix into perspective.

Looking for performance

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Valencia, 2011
Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Valencia, 2011

After that the team can move on to developing the car: “The driver will start pushing the car a bit more, start analysing tyre behaviour and how the car reacts with different fuel loads.

“As soon as we can we aim to get into the performance side of it, because that’s what we’re about.

“In the meantime, it’s not particularly good to have a fast car that keeps stopping – team owners don’t like that. Equally, a reliable car that’s not very fast is not desirable as well, so we’ve got to find a balance between the two.

“We report back to the factory, who are working on performance items to make the car go faster, and also more reliable.

“At the end of it hopefully we arrive at a car that is fast and reliable and easy to drive. That’s the goal.”

“No team will turn up with its definitive car until the first race. There’s a lot of off-car work going on.”

Teams expect to be concentrating solely on performance by the third day of the test: “But that’s not the end of the story because then you want to start looking at race simulation.

“The way the car behaves over one lap can often be dramatically different to how it behaves over a race distance. Then we have to start looking at that behaviour and also how the components last, the reliability side of it.

“Ultimately you’ve got to complete a race distance before winter testing is over. We’re targeting two or three. This year, because we’ve got a new tyre supplier, that’s even more important.”

Teams’ test mileages so far

Model Total laps Total distance (km)
Ferrari F150th Italia 1,205 5,302.02
Red Bull RB7 996 4,379.24
Mercedes W02 965 4,282.75
Sauber C30 922 4,080.17
Williams FW33 862 3,787.48
Renault R31 858 3,771.67
Toro Rosso STR6 846 3,731.95
Force India VJM04 628 2,801.66
McLaren MP4-26 558 2,544.60
Virgin MVR-02 541 2,469.32
Lotus T128 452 2,024.01
HRT F110 445 1,949.28
McLaren MP4-25 291 1,165.46
Force India VJM03 210 841.05
Virgin VR-01 185 740.93
HRT F111 0 0

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