Andrea Stella explains the situation that McLaren are in with their wind tunnel and when can they be ready it in F1 2023.

With their infrastructure still in the phase of ‘coming up’, it is not an easy situation for McLaren having to rely on others. The wind tunnel plays a big part for any F1 team as that is the first place where they put a concept into life.

Whatever the ideas they log onto their computers is put to test in the wind tunnel before it makes it way onto the simulator and eventually on track. McLaren has been using the Mercedes wind tunnel, but it isn’t easy with the limitations it brings.

As team principal Stella notes, every team has their own methodology and with limited wind tunnel time, they have to be very particular in not wasting time and energy. This is one reason why independent teams are also opting to have their own facility.

Both McLaren and Aston Martin are the teams who are investing on their own facility. The former have a wind tunnel in place but no development work can be carried onto it until June as they are still in the calibration mode with the models they have.

Stella here expands on what they are up to at the moment and how they are getting their wind tunnel ready for the future. With the bad start they have had, the Italian doesn’t want to continue using it as an excuse for their on track performances.

Mercedes wind tunnel, not wanting to use wind tunnel as an excuse –

Stella: You know what, I don’t want to keep talking about the wind tunnel, because it’s clearly a deficit for many reasons, because we spend the millions to rent it. Because it’s a good wind tunnel but Formula 1 has a some specificity in terms of the methodologies you need, which are very F1 specific and we didn’t want to invest in having these methodologies in a wind tunnel that we were not going to use for the future. So somehow, we are behind in terms of methodologies as well. And when we have a design, we produce the parts for the model, then there’s a van that drives to Cologne and we lose a couple of days. If that makes sense. Formula 1 is such a fast business, you can’t have this way of operating.

“So I don’t want to mention the wind tunnel too much because it sounds like an excuse, but it’s definitely a deficit in the quality of the development and in the speed of the development because of all these slow operations that you have to do to just get the parts tested in the wind tunnel. But the wind tunnel alone is not enough to justify the fact that the car is where it is. We could have done a better job independently of the wind tunnel. Now, this is something we are reviewing. Very honestly, I think this is acknowledged. And this has actually given us good learning throughout the group for future developments. That’s why you see me a little committed in terms of I think we see the car very alive in terms of development.

Timeline for McLaren wind tunnel to come online and correlation situation –

Stella: “We are hopeful to have the car in the wind tunnel, which should be at that stage the new car in June. On a new wind tunnel you do have to use a reference model in one tunnel and in another to kind of see the correlation and repeatability. Because certainly the maps, the absolute numbers are going to be slightly different. So you need to reposition yourself in the new wind tunnel. We don’t plan to do it with the new car model, we want to do it with the old car model, understand more about the new wind tunnel and then deploy the new car model.”

Car development starts as wind tunnel goes online –

Stella: “The wind tunnel is already going on our calibration. It’s already commissioned, but there’s a process of calibration of the wind tunnel, installation of the methodologies like the ones you use to measure the pressure, to measure the velocity field, to measure the forces. So all this takes some weeks. And that’s where we are in terms of the commissioning phase of the wind tunnel. Hardware wise it exists, the fan goes on. It’s really nice for my office because I can hear it. And it’s so reassuring like, wow, we’re making progress, but we can’t yet put the model in there for development.”

Timeline to do it –

Stella: “Well once the tunnel is going through this calibration process and we have done this correlation exercise with the same model in the two wind tunnel, I would hope that the space of a couple of weeks, we are ready to go for development. Like I say, the plan is to have development starting in June.”

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