Key shares details about McLaren's new simulator, adds on its importance
The McLaren chief explains the benefits of simulators.
McLaren's James Key feels that the simulators have become an important tool in current times in F1 due to the lack of on-track testing.
With cost in mind, F1 has gradually moved towards less on-track testing as simulators started playing a key role in development. The big teams always had the upperhand with better facilities at their base, while smaller outfits hire those or use third party facilities.
At the same time, F1 teams are investing on better simulators as drivers rack up huge miles to not only prepare for a season and or particular races, but also help the teams with their development work and experiment new bits to be put up on the car.
Almost every driver on the F1 grid has spent good amount in the simulators. Likewise, McLaren regulars Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris have had solid hours to help the Woking-based outfit, with support from Oliver Turvey, Sergio Sette Camara and Rudy van Buren.
The team is getting a brand new simulator in place for 2020 which Key states to be something big. "We've got a new driver-in-the-loop simulator which is a massive departure to what we've been using," said Key to media including me/FormulaRapida.net.
"It's a project that McLaren pioneered a long time ago - but it's also been recognised now that that world has moved on too, and that's sort of a big project within the team. [I'm] hoping that will come on by next year. It is completely new. It's quite a thing actually.
"To sort of pay tribute to the current simulator, which is obviously heavily based on what came out years ago, it's still a very, very useful tool and doing its job. It's been extremely effective for a long time. But the technology has moved.
"I think the understanding of the limitations of the first and maybe even the second generation of F1 simulators are better understood by most teams now. As a result, the third generations are really quite different animals actually.
"The technology that goes into them is very new and very different and it tries to better implement driver input. So it's a completely fresh start, this project." Elaborating on the details of the new simulators, Key added:
"It has better graphics for sure, there is also a better representation of the car model, quicker processing, so you can add more dimensions. The thing with the car is it's multidimensional. An aero map - there used to be a set of curves and it was a surface, now it's loads of surfaces that all somehow interact. The same with tyres.
"Same with certain aspects of the engine, and it's certainly the same aspects of suspension as well. And the more processing power you get, the more you're able to combine those effects and better replicate what the car does, to your tyres.
"So, as that's increased over the years, you just have to put more maths into it and get a more representative model out. Combined with that, I think all teams better understand what a driver really needs to feel to replicate the car because you can't generate sustained g-levels [in the sim]. You've got to give better indications of what the car is doing.
"And I think previous simulators were very strong in some cases and weak in others. So as the generations moved on, we're addressing those weaknesses and making it better. So, ultimately, it is to give a globally better representation of the car.
"It is really developmental, there's so many things you need a driver, it is not just his feedback but it is just that simulations on a laptop will give you an answer but they are not adapting themselves to the change in the car's philosophy and set-up.
"They are just telling you whats the better thing to do as far as the car is concerned. With a driver, you can run certain experiments in different conditions to see how the driver performs, for example, to validate the tyre model, it is very difficult to do that without the driver.
"So, it doesn't harms your knowledge and understanding significantly and of course you don't have to go and make things to improve things but test first and then make them, so it is an important tool."
When asked by me/FormulaRapida.net, Key emphasised the need of these high-end simulators, especially with limited testing. He agreed that F1 drivers would want on-track testing but with cost coming into play, they have little choice at hand.
"With F1 testing reduced, these tools are becoming more and more important," said Key. "Before there was, where something to prove an idea, we needed more evidence, but now in a way, they have replaced it with the on-track testing.
"You can now have these systems attached to these simulators which will do what they should do in real life with real drive input and then you can try different scenarios where it can be used differently, which wasn't there in the past.
"It is a great thing for engineers and development, it is definitely a positive thing for drivers. I think track testing is clearly the best place to be but the return with the cost effectiveness in the simulator is higher than track testing."
While McLaren is hoping that the new simulator will be up and ready by 2020 for them to use, Key also cleared that the new wind-tunnel will only be ready to use from 2021 onward as the British F1 team is eyeing a return to the top step of the championship.
When McLaren signed with Mercedes for 2021, there were stories linking Lando Norris to the German management.
[Image courtesy: FormulaRapida.net] [Note: This story was also written by me on FormulaRapida.net]