Rob Smedley on how to solve problems during testsFebruary 28, 2019
Rob Smedley, a technical expert of Formula 1, talked about how teams operate in cases where different kinds of problems and abnormal situations arise on tests.
At the time of the car’s departure from the highway, we usually almost immediately receive information about what happened, because we use telemetry systems that work in real time. After that, as a rule, some information is reported by the driver. Sometimes they can explain very clearly what happened, but sometimes they just don’t understand what the meeting is about.
From this point on, several processes run in parallel. A team of mechanics sent to the track to pick up the car and deliver it to the boxes on the tow truck. Depending on the nature of the gathering, some kind of repair may be required immediately, and the racer at this time is picked up by a medical vehicle.
At the same time, various experts and analysts are engaged in checking those parts of the machine for which they are responsible. In addition, usually the chief engineer of the team or one of the system engineers coordinates the main work and tries to gather as much information as possible. For example, he may contact a transmission specialist, and if he says that the transmission worked perfectly, then this part can be excluded from the list of what needs to be checked.
Sometimes it is impossible to immediately get to the bottom of the essence, and then you begin to understand in more detail how the driver acted. Usually his engineers do it: studying telemetry, they can say: “The driver slowed down at the same point as in the previous round” or “He slowed down 10 or 15 meters later.”
If the picture is still not clear, you can get recordings of cameras located along the route – teams use this information quite often, as well as analyze the recordings made by onboard cameras. In the end, at some point you come to specific conclusions.
If it is a mistake of the rider, then everything is simple, you just need to repair the car and go back to work on the track. We are all human, therefore mistakes are not excluded. If any of the systems of the machine has failed, then a detailed analysis of the problem itself and the reasons leading to it are required. The team will not be able to release the car on the track, until the end with everything does not understand – safety is paramount.
Serious difficulties begin if the car got into an accident, and the chassis was damaged. Many teams prepare for the winter tests only one chassis, although the top teams may have a spare one. If the damage is of a structural nature, then the work on the tests can be suspended while the chassis is being repaired – usually it can still be repaired and there is no need to prepare a new one. But, for example, there are situations when you have only one front wing, and if it is broken, you will not be able to start working on the track until you have fixed it, and this can take almost a whole day.
In the winter tests I had cases when the car was brought to the pits in such a state, when only one of the four wheels remained on it, and the chassis was damaged, which upset everyone very much. To fix everything, it took a lot of effort. It is necessary not only to analyze the incident, but also organize the delivery of new parts, try to restore the car as soon as possible and make sure that you do not release it on the track in an unsafe state.
You can get the details from the base of the team, but usually it requires the involvement of private air carriers and all sorts of additional costs associated with delivering everything to the airport closest to the highway, then quickly install it on the car.
In general, to deal with the problem and eliminate it sometimes takes just five minutes, and sometimes it takes a whole day. In any case, this disrupts the normal rhythm of the team, we should not forget that the staff at the base not only do things related to winter tests – they usually work with full effort to prepare everything for the Australian Grand Prix and the subsequent stages. Any violation of the schedule of this training will certainly affect the course of the modernization of the car and your racing program. So it is best to try to avoid such complications!
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