Adrian Newey has doubts that a Formula 1 team can successfully design a car without using a wind tunnel, as Virgin Racing's "virtual" VR-01 gets ready for its first proper test at Jerez this week.
Virgin Racing has produced the first modern-era car not to have been near a wind tunnel, with chief designer Nick Wirth adamant that modern computer simulations are good enough to deliver all the information he needed. However, renowned designer Newey thinks that CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) still has its limits – and that wind tunnels remain a vital part of car development.
"I think CFD is a very powerful tool, there is no doubt about it, and it is another way of simulating the real environment," Newey said at the Red Bull launch when asked for his opinion on the Virgin Racing car. "A wind tunnel is a simulation of the real world.
"CFD is an electronic simulation of a real environment, but it still has pitfalls – not least that every single run in CFD for a given attitude of the car, or ride height, or whatever it might be, is a discreet run. Whereas in the wind tunnel, what we call a normal run, will have 20 or more data points in it. In other words, that is equivalent to 20 runs in the CFD.
"That is a limitation of size, really, so your CFD cluster has to be that much bigger to do that many runs. And there are some areas that CFD physically doesn't capture as well as a wind tunnel – like basic aerodynamic properties.
"So, how well it turns out, we shall see. It is a different route, and my personal belief is that you still need to combine the two at the moment. But maybe their car will go very well and I will have to revise my opinion."