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John O | August 2017

Thermal management a priority for performance of Formula 1 cars


A recent article from Pit Pass explained that overheating remains one of the biggest threats to the performance of the highly-tuned vehicles on the Formula One (F1) circuit, which is made particularly difficult to maintain because of the precise aerodynamic and power requirements of each car.

 


Lewis Hamilton races his Mercedes car in the Formula One circuit.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

Mercedes is one of the biggest competitors on the international F1 circuit and was used as the case study in the article.

 

It explained, “On the surface, the solution to overheating is straightforward. Open up the bodywork and increase the mass flow of clean air in through the radiator ducts. On average, F1 cars suck in a massive five cubic metres of air through the radiators every second at 300 km/h. But that's the first challenge of keeping a modern Grand Prix car in the right operating window, as any effort to manage cooling requires some sacrifice of aerodynamic performance.”

 

To open the bodywork of an F1 car could cost 300 milliseconds per 0.5 cubic meters of cooling air because the air no longer flows over the rear wing or diffuser but through the radiator.

 

The article continued, “Mapping out cooling requirements starts early in a new car's life, with radiator design - both shape and size - all linked into chassis design. Underestimate the task here and the angle grinders will soon need to be deployed on a cold-winter morning in Barcelona, as the crew set to work opening up the car's bodywork.”

 

Simulations cannot be limited to one particular surface, as track conditions and shapes demand varying levels of cooling. “To combat overheating,” the article added, “teams take a war chest of parts to each race to cover any potential issues that can be created by anything as simple as a misjudged ambient temperature setting. Most cars carry a series of louvres alongside the headrest which can be swapped out to offer different levels of cooling, as well as specially shaped rear bodywork for those extra-challenging races.”

 

In addition to the engine, brakes also suffer from thermal overload, as most teams run the braking systems to the 1,200°C limit. Charge air from the turbo also needs to be cooled to maximize power output, as well as ensuring thermal management of the ERS Energy Store.

 

The article concluded, “So, what does overheating actually result in? Simply put, a loss of performance.”

 

Read more at https://www.pitpass.com/59728/It-pays-to-be-cool.

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