“Driver in the loop”, Race Planner and Monte Carlo Method: the video explaining how the simulator works which, from the Brackley factory, helps the Mercedes engineers to the F1 GP wall
How to develop and improve a Formula 1 car in an era where the regulation prohibits the ignition of the engines outside the race weekends and reduces the duration of the free practice sessions? You don’t need wizards or brilliant intuitions, because the skilful use of simulation tools is enough. An aspect that all the teams involved in the championship consider fundamental, in an F1 that has upset the paradigm of the past whereby, when you wanted to try a new wing, you just had to mount it in the car and drive hundreds of kilometers on the circuit closest to the factory. The basic concept, in reality, has remained almost identical, while the whole outline has changed: the asphalt, the curbs, the hollows of the ground, have been replaced by monitors, computers and an avalanche of gigabytes. But the hundreds of kilometers continue to be covered as before and more than before, at least virtually. And to those who think that a Playstation and a little extra space in the living room are enough to have a simulator at the bottom, the Mercedes F1 responded by opening the doors of the sim section of the Brackley factory.
how the mercedes sim works
The main objective is obviously to make the gap between real and virtual as small as possible. For this reason, in addition to the huge monitors that allow the driver to have a wide view of the surrounding environment, there are also “tricks” to allow him to be more easily at ease: the cockpit, the pedals, the steering wheel are a perfect replica of their traditional “office” on weekends. “We build models in the computer environment – explains the head of the team that takes care of the Mercedes simulator, Ivo Marlais – in which we try to represent every different aspect of the car. And it’s when we put it all together that we have a simulation. By doing so, we are able to drive a single-seater in a virtual environment without ever having physically gone out on the track ”. This has significant benefits, especially in a season in which the duration of the first two practice sessions has been reduced from 90 to 60 minutes: it is possible, in fact, to test different set-up configurations, allowing the pilots to familiarize themselves with trajectories and points. braking (a fundamental aspect when, as in the case of the Turkish GP, you race on a little-known track) and arrive on Friday with clear ideas about the aerodynamics, suspension and engine configurations to be validated on the track.
mercedes and the 2022 revolution
A role, that of the simulator (which in Mercedes they call Dil, “Driver in the loop” to mean the necessary presence of a driver for its effective functioning), even more decisive in the economy of a Formula 1 team if we think of the imminent technical revolution. “Usually – adds Matt Wilkin, leader of the group of engineers of the Mercedes F1 simulation department – when we try something for a weekend, we limit ourselves to introducing the data of the components already present in the garage into the computer. If, on the other hand, we work on the next year’s car, we can be more … adventurous. By changing the parameters, we can for example test the behavior of a machine with totally different weight, size or even motor power. In this way, it is possible to try very different cars, evaluate if the direction taken is the right one or if it is not worth continuing to explore a certain path. This is how we designed the system Das (the “mobile” steering wheel used in 2020 to change the convergence of the front wheels during the race and better manage the tires, ed) “.
a brain for mercedes tactics
That’s all? No way. In addition to the actual simulator, the one used by the driver to test the different configurations on the track, the Mercedes team has two other essential tools to better read the weekend: on the one hand there is the Race Planner, a tool to choose the correct strategy to be adopted according to the most disparate situations that may occur during a GP; on the other hand, the “Monte Carlo Method”, an extremely complex probabilistic calculation system, which simulates the possible evolutions of the race according to the change of each variable, such as the possibility that a rival overtakes a slower driver or not in front of him. “We don’t look – says Joseph McMillan, strategy engineer – just what happens to our car, but we analyze globally how the race develops and how we can influence it to our advantage. The computer simulates how a GP can evolve, and every small change on each of the aspects considered can produce very different results. Among millions of possible simulations, we try to understand what could really happen, trying to affect our strategic choices. Without these tools we would be unable to visualize the variables and to make the best choice whether to stop or not at a given moment or which mix of tires to fit in the pit for Hamilton or Bottas ”.
the numbers of the mercedes sim
“I like the simulator – adds Valtteri Bottas – because it helps me to better prepare for the weekend. I get used to the track, I study the trajectories and braking points, but I also do various tests on the possible set-ups to use. For me and the team, a simulator session is a bit like a day of private testing. Today it is fundamental and technology has also made great strides compared to 11 years ago, when I started as a reserve driver in Formula 1 ”. In short, they will also be “only” computers but inside them there is a world of data that needs a dedicated team able to decipher, translate and transmit them to the wall in real time to try to maximize the results on the track. Just to give an example, the simulator runs four days a week, for about 130 laps per session, in order to cover the distance of over two races in each day of activity. And the parameters to be evaluated? From 4000 channels, each corresponding to a single component of the car, the amount of data collected and analyzed each week is about 100 gigabytes. No, it’s not exactly like the Playstation in the living room …
October 13, 2021 (change October 13, 2021 | 09:40)
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