Wind-tunnels and Aerodynamics: How Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Designs Some of the Fastest F1 Cars

Großer Preis von Aserbaidschan 2018, Samstag - Steve Etherington

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s leadership comes from every aspect of the program delivering at peak performance. And one of the crucial areas that need to be at peak performance is the car and engine design. As a five-time consecutive FIA™ Formula One™ World Champions, the team thrives on a data-driven culture. Over the last several years, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has leveraged data analytics and insights to gain a competitive advantage over its competition.

To make their cars even faster, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport looks at the car’s aerodynamics using a cutting-edge wind tunnel in conjunction with dynamometric (otherwise known as “dyno”) testing. The wind tunnel is described by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team as “a large hairdryer”. A scale model of an F1 car is fixed inside and the wind is blown over it at various speeds (limited to 180 kilometers per hour) to gauge the impact of the design elements.

The dyno is essentially a test bench that replicates and examines all of the car’s moving parts and exposes them to environmental conditions that could impact the drivers’ experience on the race track. The goal is to make sure all of the parts of the car are reliable and optimized for race day culminating in a fast and reliable car. Data collected about the performance of these elements are taken to the dyno group, race engineering teams, and design office. These groups collaborate to create the optimal aerodynamic package.

Making sense of the large amounts of data from the wind tunnel

Because all of the aerodynamic testing components produce large amounts of data, the team needs to find clarity in the clutter, finding the pieces of data that impact the team the most. The team uses TIBCO® Spotfire and TIBCO® Streaming to analyze the data collected during the testing of the car’s design components.

TIBCO analytics is a critical component to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s performance on the track. From improved aerodynamics allowing for more efficient use of time in the wind tunnel, to visual real-time analysis of car and driver execution during testing, to creating more reliable components that decrease the likelihood of part failures resulting in early swap penalties or a “did-not-finish” (DNF) designation, the team has found optimal ways to leverage data to gain an edge on the competition.

In addition, new for 2019, FIA imposed a fresh set of aerodynamic testing restrictions limit the amount of testing time in the wind tunnel. This means that the team has to use each test run wisely, using the data collected to its advantage to make the most of the time in the wind tunnel.

Translating aerodynamics testing to use in other industries

The method Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport uses to test aerodynamic components can be translated to businesses in other industries: applying speed of learning, quickly analyzing data, and deriving insights to make more informed decisions. Like in dyno testing, businesses can take a closer look at their operational efficiency to identify areas for significant improvements.

With the world creating more and more data, companies need to implement analytics tools to make sense of large data sets. Leaders, in no matter what industry, can use data in a strategic way. By treating data as an asset, companies become more data-driven, innovating and disrupting in their own industries.

To learn more about how Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport uses TIBCO Spotfire to make sense of their aerodynamic data for optimal car design, read the full case study.