If once upon a time the teams with a greater financial gift could spend large sums to invest in developments, today the reality is quite different.
With the introduction of the budget cap all, all teams were subjected to a spending ceiling of 140 million dollars, and this significantly limited the activities of the leading teams. In addition to this financial limit, however, a limit to wind tunnel tests and CFD has also been introduced to ensure a balance between the various competitors.
In addition, a sliding scale handicap system has been introduced where the most successful teams suffer greater limitations as regards the hours in the tunnel and in computer simulations.
The impact of all these innovations should offer more opportunities to smaller teams, but it has also pushed the top teams to take a different approach than in the past, especially as regards the updates brought to the track.
Today each team works strategically by planning updates rather than churning out news at each appointment.
Digging deeper, however, it is fascinating to note how the teams have also changed their approach regarding the computing power of the processors of their respective computers. A report released today showed that a change of AMD processors carried out by Mercedes in early 2020 resulted in a 20% improvement in CFD performance for the German team.
This step forward represented a significant step compared to the past and came thanks to the introduction of the second generation of EPYC processors from AMD. These provided a better price / performance ratio than systems used in the previous three and a half years.
AMD EPYC 7003 Series processor
Photo by: AMD
The move to the new processors was necessary in response to both the introduction of the budget cap and the limits for aerodynamic testing.
Simon Williams, head of aerodynamic development software at Mercedes, said that the inclusion of CFD within the budget cap forced the team to make important decisions and for this reason it was chosen to switch to second-hand EPYC processors. generation.
“We had new regulations on the way and were updating our systems. Performance was the key factor in the decision-making process ”.
“We looked at both AMD and competing companies and needed to carefully evaluate CFD computing capabilities as this software would be adopted for three years. We also needed small hardware. EPYC offered both the performance and space savings we needed ”.
Williams then explained how this decision was partly motivated by the restrictions imposed by the FIA.
“Previously the hours in the wind tunnel and at the CFD were regulated by a common number, so you could choose whether to opt for the former or for the computerized calculation. For 2021, however, the FIA has decoupled this number, so we have been asked to increase the computing power available ”.
“In addition, limitations have been introduced to the hours available in the wind tunnel depending on the final position in the standings. We are trying to get the most out of this as well as the calculations. The regulation then indicates how many geometries we can try in a given period of time, usually equal to eight weeks. We are trying to maximize everything we can do in this time frame to get the most out of our CFD ”.
George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
With around 1,800 new geometric simulations allowed over an eight-week period in 2021, Mercedes needed to know that its processors were running at full speed in processing.
Williams admitted that the 20% increase in performance was impressive, as was the lack of downtime.
“The new system allows us to focus our efforts on aerodynamic performance, but reliability is also fantastic because if we lose even a few hours we can be in trouble. EPYC proved to be a solution to this problem as well ”.
“To go from the initial idea to CFD, to tunnel tests and then to the car, the times are really short. Let’s talk about weeks “.