Renault have boosted their development output with a major upgrade to their wind tunnel at the teams factory in Enstone.
The team took the decision to shut their tunnel for 12 days earlier this month in order to upgrade the facility to allow for larger scale models and therefore greater development efficieny.
Renault technical director James Allison took the time to explain the upgrade and what it means for the team.
“Our upgrade has allowed us to switch from a 50% model to a 60% model,” said Allison. “It doesn’t sound like a big thing when you say it like that, but any F1 aerodynamicist would nod in agreement at the huge workload involved.
“Although we call them ‘models’, the word does not do them justice as it conjures up images of a toy. F1 wind tunnel models are nearly as complicated and almost as expensive as their full size counterparts. They are beautiful pieces of engineering and it asks a lot of the aero department to generate the headroom to take on such an upgrade whilst not letting up on the development of the car,” he added.
“In addition to the model, there are changes to the tunnel infrastructure that need to be put in place: We had to modify the mounting system for the model and the wheels to cope with the new design. We had to develop new electronic measuring systems to cope with the higher loads. As each part is 20% longer, has 44% more surface area and 73% more volume, we had to upgrade our manufacturing systems to ensure that we could still cope with the throughput of making all of the thousands of wind tunnel test components at the same rate as their much smaller 50% counterparts.”
The biggest issue Allison raised was the 12-day stoppage required to upgrade the tunnel itself, but Allison says the most recent results have justified such expense in terms of both money and the loss of potential development.
“We had to modify the tunnel working section to accommodate the larger model. This involved stopping the tunnel for 12 days, stripping the entire working section back to its bare skeleton and then building it back up for the new model. This is a huge budget of work, but I am proud that we have achieved it without impact on the programme other than 12 days of lost development.
“I am also happy that the weeks that have followed its installation have justified the investment as they have been very rich in terms of downforce gained. Our challenge now is to get these gains to the track.”