These « cafes » between aerodynamicists who worry Szafnauer

For several years, Formula 1 has experienced a limitation in the number of aerodynamic tests, whether these take place in the wind tunnel or via computational fluid mechanics (CFD). In addition to the reduction in number, since 2021, the discipline has implemented a graduated system in which, depending on its position in the constructors’ ranking, a team is entitled to more or less than the imposed limit, the last team being the one with of the maximum opportunities to perform tests and the first of the minimum.

Newly arrived at the head of Alpine, Otmar Szafnauer spoke about these limitations with F1 TV. Asked about the role he had played in putting these rules in place, he explained: « Everyone used to say a lot in F1 Commission meetings that we should do something like in the NFL, where if you’re the worst team, you have first pick in the draft to help tie a little deal. And I thought to myself, ‘How can we do this without penalties for good [équipes]like sinkers and all those things’. »

« Fans don’t want weights based on wins and things like that. So I thought, ‘Maybe what we could do is have a gradual scale on the wind tunnel time. And the he idea really came from the fact that we used to do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So suddenly the FIA ​​said that for reasons of economy, we were going to limit the ‘about half of what we were doing before.’

He who worked on Honda’s F1 project between 2001 and 2008, he recalls: « And in the days of Brawn, they used three different wind tunnels, or in what was to be Brawn [en 2009], it was Honda at that time. There was Super Aguri, Honda in Japan where the double diffuser was actually discovered, and Brackley’s [qui était l’usine de Honda, avant de devenir celle de Brawn puis de Mercedes, ndlr]. »

« And at one point it’s not without cost to use wind tunnels. So the FIA ​​said, ‘Let’s cut the time in half’. And that’s when I was like, ‘If we do that , couldn’t we just have a sliding scale to help those at the bottom of the rankings, without [recourir aux] weights according to success’. Believe it or not, the winning teams held on; the three who are at the top really didn’t like it! »

Then asked about his confidence in the control carried out by the FIA ​​on this subject, he replied: « The good thing is that the monitoring has been in place for quite some time now, because we decided that we couldn’t operate 24/7, and there needed to be a limit. And that check started as soon as we started setting limits in the wind tunnel. It’s no different. And the check is done the same way, with random FIA checks. They come and spend the day with you. . And then they’re like, ‘Show us all your wind tunnel time measurements, show me how you measure them’. They come. I think that part is robust. »

However, Szafnauer considers that there is a real risk of circumvention of this regulation in the close collaboration that certain teams may maintain, especially since Alpine is, in this area, a little isolated by having no customer team for the Renault engine. In the viewfinder mainly, the collaborations around the wind tunnels; and more specifically, without saying so, the two teams owned by the Red Bull clan who have been using the same facility since 2021 but also Ferrari and Haas, whose strengthening ties have led to part of the operations of the American team is now based in Maranello.

« The concern is that those who share wind tunnels can have coffee together »explains the former Aston Martin manager. « And especially if they’re partners and say to each other over coffee, ‘How was the last floor you tried?’ ‘Don’t go in that direction, it’s not very good’. »

« That definitely didn’t happen at Aston/Mercedes because we had strong processes in place. And there was no coffee with our respective aerodynamicists. But it could happen if the aerodynamicists live in the same place, use the same tunnel, same canteen. Because we were only a few miles apart on the road, that didn’t happen. We were lucky enough to use a wind tunnel on the weekends, and Mercedes used it during the week. The aerodynamicists didn’t even see each other. »

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