During this process, the design team will gather data that will be used to establish design restrictions and goals. All regulatory changes are examined here, and their impact on the design is evaluated. For example, the refuelling ban imposed during the 2010 Formula One season required teams to use larger fuel tanks and account for variations in CG height owing to fuel burnoff. In addition, in 2014, manufacturers were required to improve their engines’ efficiency due to restrictions on fuel flow and fuel load each race.

After that, a performance analysis is carried out to assess the performance of a previous design, if one exists, and to determine its strengths and flaws. The idea is to identify which aspects of the previous car the engineers should try to maintain in the new design and which they should try to get rid of.

Finally, a benchmarking study should be carried out in order to assess the performance of concurrent teams and find the differences between one’s own design and that of other teams. At general, data from opposing teams will be tough to obtain, especially in the top tiers of motorsport. However, the design team should make every effort to measure an opponent’s performance, as this is critical in defining performance targets.

Goals and Constraints Specification

At this point, the design team should consider the vehicle’s restrictions. The restrictions are the practical limits that the team must work within. The category technical and sporting regulations should be the key limits. These criteria, as well as the limits they impose, must be fully understood by the designer. It’s also possible that costs and labour limits are enforced either by rules or by a constrained budget. The 2-week shutdown in Formula 1 is an example of this, as it is the result of an agreement reached by the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) to lower the costs of fielding a competitive team.

Other limits include those imposed by available mechanical parts. Tyres, engines, transmissions, dampers, and brakes are all included. The tyres, in particular, are a key aspect to consider because they provide the machine’s whole control system. It is stated that developing a race car revolves around optimising tyre usage. A design team should understand that in order to be competitive, they must push the limitations to their maximum limit.

Following the identification of design constraints, the goals that will guide the entire design process must be defined. These could be stated as measurable metrics and should be sufficiently explicit to allow for design orientation. The objectives are divided into the following categories:

Performance – The most crucial set of objectives in a race car is to outperform any other team’s design. Several metrics, such as acceleration capabilities in both directions (g-g diagram, which will be detailed in a subsequent post), top speed, fuel and tyre usage, cooling requirements, and so on, should be used to quantify performance targets.

Performance targets can also be set for specific systems rather than the entire vehicle. For example, aerodynamic goals might include a specified lift/drag ratio and the placement of the centre of pressure (CP), whereas suspension goals might include a specific roll sensitivity, weight transfer, suspension travel, steer and camber variations, and so on.

Handling — The race car should have adequate control to allow the driver to operate it at the g-g diagram’s extremes. This comprises details for some control systems, such as steering and suspension, as well as other characteristics. At this point, there is a lot more study that might be done to improve the preliminary design.

Structure – This includes bending and torsional stiffness, as well as local strengths needed to withstand maximum loads from braking, acceleration, side force, hitting kerbs, aerodynamic loads, engine torque reaction, and other factors. Finite element analysis is currently widely used at practically all levels of motorsport to achieve these aims, particularly when rules requiring crash tests for chassis homologations are in place.

FEA is a website dedicated to FEA racecar engineering.

Driver Comfort and Safety – The cockpit must give enough space for the driver, with comfortable seats and restraints, a comfortable temperature, and a decent enough view of the track to allow the car to be controlled at performance limits. Furthermore, a responsible design should make use of the best safety equipment available, such as fire suppression, rollover and crash protection, and so on.

Adjustable Features – Some automotive features must be adjustable in order to provide configuration alternatives for the vehicle, allowing it to be fitted to various circuits. Weight distributions via movable ballast and adjustable wheelbases, aerodynamic changes via wings (either different wings or different wing settings) and suspension adjustments (vehicle attitude and ride height), and suspension adjustments such as wheel loads (via springs and anti-roll bars), damping, static settings (toe and camber), geometry (variable swing apex), and geometry (variable swing apex) are all examples of typical setup capabilities.

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