If you’ve been following the F1 pre-season testing in Barcelona, the aero rakes on the sides of the cars are hard to miss.
Photo credit : Formula 1
These aero rakes are essentially grids made of sensors that measure air flow.
Aerodynamics is a massive part of Formula One and a lot of computer simulation goes into the design and development of the aerodynamic components on an F1 car.
Hundreds and thousands of hours of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations are run to model, alter, analyse, and report the flow of air that interacts with the car body.
Since track time in Formula One is limited, validating the CFD results against real life aero data is crucial for F1 teams to get a precise understanding of the car’s aerodynamic performance. This is why aero rakes are used at test sessions when required at different points on the car.
Photo credit : F1 Technical
The sensors on the aero rake grids are known as Kiel probe sensors.
Because Kiel probe sensors are insensitive to the direction of air flow within their environment and are able to obtain multiple separate readings simultaneously, they are very useful to be used to examine real life aero on a car.
Virtual maps are created using the track data obtained using aero rakes and as mentioned earlier, validated against CFD data to assess true performance and for further development.
Understanding and validation of aerodynamics is conventionally done from front to rear, which is why for the most part, the aero rakes are seen fitted at the front of the cars at the first pre-season test (read a summary of it here : F1 2017 winter testing : Lessons from Barcelona).
During the last days of testing, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more cars sporting rakes at the back to measure airflow to and around the rear wing.
Photo credit : Sky Sports
I hope I’ve provided you with a bit of an insight into the technical aspects of motor racing. I shall do more of these in the future. Cheers!
– Aditya Bhat.