How a team runs an F1 car for the first time

2011 F1 testing

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

2011 F1 testing

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31 comments on How a team runs an F1 car for the first time

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 2nd March 2011, 13:39

    Great article again Keith! Hell of a job by HRT, Senna and especially Chandhok who was doing a 300 km shakedown in Bahrain 2009.

    Did HRT confirm they will be there with the new car and what days, and do you have any clues on the drivers (that is, do they have a second driver?)

    • Xanathos said on 2nd March 2011, 15:24

      agreed. Chandhok did around ten laps over the whole Bahrain weekend and then went on to finish the Australian GP in that car.

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 2nd March 2011, 17:59

        Chandhok and Senna both deserve gold stars (not to mention real chances in F1) for what they went through at HRT last year. Hopefully this year’s driver(s) gets slightly better treatment.

  2. thats if HRT run their car next week. i want to see it properly first

  3. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 2nd March 2011, 13:43

    Fantastic insight, thanks Keith!

    Everything I expected really :)

  4. I wonder if theyve signed any sponsors yet. If not, they could start the year with ‘Cool Space’ and ‘Sponsor’ all over the car. Wonder if a ‘template’ car has ever happened before.

    • Dobin1000 (@dobin1000) said on 2nd March 2011, 14:00

      They could get some local school children to draw pictures to go in the empty spaces!

      • The New Pope said on 2nd March 2011, 14:35

        Its kind of funny how much NASCAR gets made fun of considering that it has around 40 cars with so many different sponsors on each that it is hard to count them on and several F1 teams have more empty space than anything else.

        • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 2nd March 2011, 15:23

          I’m tempted to pay HRT £50 and have “Billy-Bob-Sue’s Tyre Shack” sponsor them. ;)

          • The New Pope said on 2nd March 2011, 15:56

            Well, if you had money to sponsor them, they would take it. Ferrari too, btw. None of these teams are “above” sponsorship, and all wish they had the money and sponsors that NASCAR has. I love F1, but it has a major marketing and sponsorship problem in the majority of its teams.

          • verstappen said on 2nd March 2011, 16:14

            Just read how it works in this article on Joe Sawards blog. Then you really appreciate the F1 way of going about liveries and sponsorship.

            Good luck to HRT though!

          • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 2nd March 2011, 19:37

            Are you listening HRT? £100 each for Peniston oils and Larsen’s biscuits across the side of the car, with the barge boards making the words stand out ;)

            http://www.ttlg.com/dave/arsebiscuit.jpg

    • Tim said on 2nd March 2011, 19:47

      I can’t remember any in F1, but I’ve seen plenty of others in other series.

  5. Ben Curly said on 2nd March 2011, 14:00

    “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”.

    All true, but for some reason I’m afraid that in Melbourne we’ll see not very fast car, that keeps stopping.

  6. Icemangrins said on 2nd March 2011, 15:33

    so we’ve got to find a balance between the two.

    top teams like Ferrari, McLaren don’t find the balance between speed and reliability… they target and achieve both eventually !!

    Keith, do you have a sample telemetry data that you can post it here. The engineers look at data from the sensors to optimize performance atleast from the aero side.. just curious to see the nature of the data…..

    I guess they will have baseline figures for everything..air pressure at nose cone, air pressure at the diffuser, air pressure at rear wing…

  7. Tom said on 2nd March 2011, 16:46

    I’d give it about a .0001% chance that HRT even have a new car. Probably show up with last years car with some spraypaint.

    • nickthegeek said on 2nd March 2011, 18:14

      its not looking good is it, but lets wait and see. I am not making any judgements until Aus

    • RaulZ said on 3rd March 2011, 12:18

      I think that behind HRT there’s people well known in F1, people from RBR, Williams, BMW, Force India… Do you really think they are not working at all and in Australia we’ll see the lie of a no-new-car??

      They found very late the money to make the car. give them a chance. Just wait and see the new car next week.

  8. UneedAFinn2Win said on 2nd March 2011, 19:19

    I never really “got” just how little the Maccas have tested in comparison until I saw that. Wow. Not good.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd March 2011, 9:26

      Absolutely. It’s even more dramatic if you take the figure of 6,000 kms of racing this season from another of Keith’s articles – Ferrari have done getting on for a full season’ distance in testing already.

  9. Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 2nd March 2011, 22:31

    Great article Keith! I never realized that the cars were so close to bursting into flames like that, but at speed they must get massive amounts of air for cooling, so they can afford to run that hot.

    • Mike said on 3rd March 2011, 11:21

      Cooling is one of the greatest consideration in building a Formula one car.

    • Michel S. (@hircus) said on 3rd March 2011, 21:19

      I still remember the Williams-BMW days — whenever Montoya would get delayed in the pits for some reason or another, I’d be thinking “uh oh, would the engine overheat?” and, quite often, the car would end up parked on the side of the track within a few laps after that.

  10. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 2nd March 2011, 23:22

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

    “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.

    Good advice to fans that read too much into how fast or slow a car is in testing relative to it’s results in the season.

  11. Paul Townsend said on 3rd March 2011, 0:15

    All the best to HRT, at least they’re just making it to testing this year.

  12. Shimks said on 3rd March 2011, 10:05

    I really hope they make it. I really hope they do have a car. What a heartache for all the people involved if they don’t run.

  13. Todfod (@todfod) said on 3rd March 2011, 10:09

    I found it a bit of a paradox when the title of the article is ‘how teams run an F1 car for the 1st time’, and right next to the title is a picture of the HRT challenger, which might never see the light of day.

    • Mike said on 3rd March 2011, 11:22

      Good to see you putting your support behind the team that needs it most…

      Oh wait…

      As Paul wisely said,

      at least they’re just making it to testing this year.

  14. Tom said on 3rd March 2011, 15:50

    That isn’t the hrt car, its a model that is about a foot long and 4 inches wide.

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