Product: NX, Simcenter
Industry: Automotive and Transportation
The rise of Scuderia AlphaTauri
On February 23, 2022, the world got a taste of the new Formula One (F1) cars as they completed their pre-season test days in Barcelona. This was followed by testing days in Bahrain in early March 2022, where the drivers focused on getting comfortable driving the new cars before the race season began on March 21, 2022.
During the test days and the first few races, two young Scuderia AlphaTauri drivers, Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, worked with the Scuderia AlphaTauri engineers to discover how the new car performed and fix the mistakes that occurred with the new design.
“There are new things to discover with this car every time we go out on the track so we have to make the most of each session and learn as much as we can before the first race here,” says Pierre Gasly, trackside during the test days in Bahrain in March 2022. “The feeling was unique. I was excited to discover these new cars and see how they felt on the track.”
That feel-on-the-track performance enhancer
In F1 racing, the driver and the car become one. This feel on the track comes from the part of the car that normally doesn’t get to be in the spotlight, the driver’s seat.
“The chassis is one of the most sophisticated parts of the car for safety and performance reasons. You need to start working on that part immediately even if you don’t have all of the information,” says Raffaele Boschetti, head of information technology (IT) and innovation for Scuderia AlphaTauri. “Before partnering with Siemens, we spent three months producing a good chassis. With Siemens software, we did this in one month. This saved us a lot of time and gave us many advantages.”
Aside from the chassis, the seat is important for driver safety and overall driver performance. Overall seat design is strictly regulated by F1 safety and crash test rules. If something goes wrong, drivers need to be able to exit the car quickly and safely. The safety marshal and medical teams need to be able to extract injured drivers from a crash effectively. Boschetti is quick to point out that there is much more to the seat in an F1 car than just safety.
“The seat is a part of the car that delivers performance. The driver feels all of the vibrations, accelerations and handling through the seat. On the track, we can modify the car settings to improve the car based on the driver’s needs,” says Boschetti. “In Formula One, you have a couple of tests in February or March. In this situation, the software and platforms Siemens provided us were vital to building the seat.”
One size does not fit all
Not every F1 seat is the same. Composite design engineers will tell you that half of the challenge isn’t the seat but how to fit the driver in the car.
“It is like a tailored suit. You have to look at things in terms of helmet position, back position and you have to be as low as possible,” says Francesco Dario Picierro, senior composite design engineer for Scuderia AlphaTauri.
To ensure these critical performance aspects were correct, Picierro and his colleagues developed a unique seat-designing process. To start, they designed a slightly larger seat than necessary and then heated a batch of special resin and took a physical mold of the driver’s body in the ideal position. From the resin mold, they used NX™ software to create a complete scan to design the seat. NX, the Fibersim™ portfolio and Simcenter™ software are part of the Xcelerator portfolio, the comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software.
“The process might seem simple, but thanks to Siemens’ products it becomes smarter,” adds Picierro.
Using digitalization for F1 success
With the complete design and chassis change in the 2022 model, the team had to simulate every detail in computer-aided design (CAD) from overall visibility to how the driver would fit into the chassis design.
Getting the driver to squeeze in, reach the pedals and obviously see – while considering the helmet, safety regulations and the new chassis and car design – is an engineering feat in itself. The team knows that digitalization is the only way to succeed in F1 these days. Using Siemens’ digitalization tools removed most of the grunt work from the design, engineering and production cycles.
“Using NX helped us with our digitalization efforts. For example, we can replicate the exact handwork on the steering wheel or the visibility using the driver’s camera. We can also scale the digital mannequin according to the measurements of the driver,” says Picierro.
Racing against the clock
While the composite design engineers are custom fitting the driver to the seat (a process that can happen several times per season based on the needs of individual drivers) other members of the Scuderia AlphaTauri engineering team are optimizing the new car design for driver performance in time for race day.
Aside from the tight deadline, the other challenge for every F1 engineer is weight. F1 engineering teams struggled to make the minimum driver plus car weight of 795 kilograms (kg), especially with the new safety regulations and ground effect pull. At the last minute, the teams reached a compromise to increase the weight to 798 kg.
“Of course it’s always difficult. It’s a completely new regulation. These cars are complicated and it is difficult to design everything to meet the weight limit requirements. As we can see, nearly all of the teams are overweight. We also have to consider costs. It is expensive to reduce weight. Considering the cost cap, our teams were able to come to a compromise,” says Franz Tost, team leader for Scuderia AlphaTauri.
Zooming around over 300km/h during a normal F1 race, drivers experience up to four or five lateral G’s routinely under braking and cornering and during acceleration on the long stretches.
One platform and a secret to success
As Tost explained, balancing design parameters is always a challenge for engineering teams. Using the same digital platform and software suite to examine the real behavior of the car helps the team make the right decisions for the races.
“Our job is to evaluate the strength and stiffness of the part. The driver’s seat needs to be strong enough to support the acceleration loads and stiff enough to make a proper interaction between the driver, the chassis and the rest of the car,” says Giuseppe Stiscia, a chassis group leader and structural engineer for Scuderia AlphaTauri. “We use Siemens Simcenter to generate the finite element model and generate the load model conditions.” Simcenter clearly shows the standard stiffness values of the structure via a color strip. Each color represents a state of stress or displacement of the part.
“Structural engineers use this information to understand the real behavior of the structure. Our goal is to make the part as strong and stiff as possible, but we need to optimize the weight first. He adds, “Simcenter helps us calculate the part faster and use the same platform for everyone involved in the project.”
Development time is gold
Andrea Rizzo, a research and development (R&D) digital layup group engineer, uses this same platform with his colleagues. They use Fibersim tools to finish the actual part.
“We use Fibersim to achieve a perfect connection between the FEA results and the real lamination,” says Rizzo. “With this material, you need to cut a shape in the ply to be laminated on the mold. Any extra or unnecessary material applied to the mold is an additional cost. We try to laminate with as little material as possible to save time and money.”
The Scuderia AlphaTauri engineering team also uses Fibersim to maintain the consistency of the customized parts. Unlike commercial vehicles, F1 cars contain many handmade carbon fiber parts created by carefully layering composite plies inside the laminate. Each part has unique structural characteristics. Although the team wouldn’t say for competitive reasons, one can guess that spare parts and replacement parts are created on an as needed basis.
“Each carbon part is a laminate, so we need to make sure the first one is the same as the last one. This is why we use Fibersim. We save time during the production process with this comprehensive simulation. We can prepare plies to be the same for all laminations.
“With Fibersim, we know what is happening in the component. We know the quality standard of the plies. We follow every single ply during the process. We can prevent problems before they happen because we ‘live’ in the same platform from NX to Simcenter to Fibersim. And more importantly, we save time,” says Rizzo.
“The problem with F1 especially – but even for standard cars – is that you need to produce the same part with the same quality at the same time. If you use the same suite that calculates everything for you from the CAD part to the production line, then you end up with a quality part that will deliver performance on the track. That’s the goal,” says Boschetti.
Thanks to Siemens Xcelerator tools like NX, Simcenter and Fibersim, the team can customize each seat to the driver using layers of composite plies to create a hyper-light-weight laminate that performs well to achieve safety and design specifications for the new Scuderia AlphaTauri cars. This provides Gasly and Tsunoda with the ideal connection to the car they need to perform well. Thanks to some superb engineering from the team in Faenza, Italy, and help from the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, the Scuderia AlphaTauri team is more than ready for the upcoming F1 season.