Although there has been a general ban on testing during the month of August, it has been a month where all but Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's drivers have been working harder than ever in recent weeks to make sure that they retain their World ...
Although there has been a general ban on testing during the month of August, it has been a month where all but Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's drivers have been working harder than ever in recent weeks to make sure that they retain their World Championship titles for another year.
Testing might not be allowed on the track, but for Ferrari engineer Luca Baldisseri and his team who look after the factory simulation programs, it is one of the moist intense periods of the season, made even tougher this year by the fact that the team has no margin for error as they go into the final three races of the season starting with their special home race in Monza.
"During the break we have been simulating all aspects of the car in the wind tunnel, engine and chassis test rigs around a basic model of the car. Information we have gathered throughout the season and in previous races at the various circuits are all fed into computers to evaluate the ideal set-up and lap times for any given race track," explains Baldisseri. Normally, it is in fact possible to predict the car's lap times to within a few tenth's of a second.
Since the Hungarian GP, the team has been concentrating on Monza, where they have just completed their first test in a month just a week before the race. "It is good to have all the answers on paper before the car even turns a wheel, but the ultimate answer comes from the drivers. We can save a lot of track time by arriving at the circuit already prepared to a certain level, but it's the driver who has to fine tune our work and come up with the final answers," he points out.
As well as the Ferrari factory, their tyre partners Bridgestone have also been working flat out to develop new tyres for the final vital three races. They too have a rolling road and computer simulation programs to help them develop new constructions and compounds, which must ultimately be proven on the track by the drivers. New tyre sensor systems are also being developed by the team to help the driver make the difficult evaluation choices over which tyre to race.
"The tyre performance is never constant because of the changing track conditions and wear characteristics etc, so much of our work at Monza was spent evaluating tyres. Bridgestone has produced around 25 new tyres for us to try," he says. "Although results during the Monza test were encouraging, it will not be until the race next weekend that we will know just which company is ahead in the red hot tyre war between the two tyre rivals."
As a test, the week before Monza was one of the most intense of the year with both the race and test teams taking part along with another test team in Maranello. Four drivers and some 100 personnel took part in the tests last week, Monza being the last low downforce circuit of the season and where brake performance is also another critical aspect of the race. "We can also simulate estimated wear and endurance for the brakes, but in the race that can all change depending on the circumstances or changes of fuel loads etc. We have real-time monitoring which can alert us to any possible issues," he explains.
With talk of further reducing testing time for teams which could probably take place in the future; sophisticated simulation programs will be used even more over the coming years. "Regulating track testing as a cost reduction method simply means that more money is spent on simulation programs at the factory and costs remain the same or could get even higher for the smaller teams who are obliged to invest in simulation if they want to remain competitive," he points out.
Whatever the outcome might be next weekend in Monza, you can be sure that every foreseeable aspect of the car operation has been covered either on or off the track, but however good race simulation might be, it cannot allow for the unexpected surprises and of those there are no shortages in Formula One, however hard you prepare!