“We don’t aim to be in this situ­a­tion in Formula One !”

Chief Track Engi­neer Simon Cole of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team reports on a fast-track tech­nical discus­sion with Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Manager Mark Wilson from ebm-papst Auto­mo­tive & Drives (UK) Ltd

What was the chal­lenge before the Silver­stone race?

We had some diffi­culty in air-cooling certain parts of the hybrid drive train. Those prob­lems mani­fested them­selves in Montreal and again in Austria. Then it became clear to us that attempts to solve it hadn’t been suffi­ciently effec­tive. So we were going to Silver­stone with concerns as to whether or not we were going to be able to cope with the limits. The wider subject of how we were going to improve the amount of hybrid energy that we were trans­fer­ring carried on into the weekend and we were getting very concerned about the races that were coming up. So we were looking at our supplier of cooling solu­tions and became aware that we had ebm-papst at the race track as a guest – so we got hold of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Manager Mark Wilson.

What did you discuss about?

The discus­sion was about what type of fan would best suit the appli­ca­tion. Should we be looking at a centrifugal fan or an axial fan? Mark pointed out the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of ebm-papst motors and gave us great advice on what to concen­trate on and what the diffi­cul­ties were. He was very clear and helpful in explaining what type of fan was going to best suit the instal­la­tion and what sort of capacity we could reason­able expect to fit in the volume that was avail­able to us. And we applied those.

Did he under­stand imme­di­ately what the problem was?

Yes! We had some samples of parts relating to the instal­la­tion avail­able to look at so we were able to show Mark what the problem was, what the constraints were and how we were going to power the device. So it became a very easy discus­sion. Mark pointed out that it would be very diffi­cult to package a fan that’s good enough in the space avail­able. We were going to be very restricted by the cross-sectional area of the ducting to and from the fan. It was a very produc­tive conver­sa­tion.

It’s great for us to have some­body who deals exclu­sively with cooling fans.

Simon Cole

Are you always working on details of the car until the races begin?

We defi­nitely don’t aim to be in this situ­a­tion. Normally all the main deci­sions about the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the car and the compo­nents are made four or five days before we go to the track. In this instance we were still reacting to prob­lems that we had expe­ri­enced in the previous two races and we wanted to use the oppor­tu­nity to test parts after the Silver­stone race. There was a certain amount of urgency and we wouldn’t want to leave it until Monday or Tuesday after the race.

Are you satis­fied with the support of ebm-papst?

We have a lot of expe­ri­ence with aero­dy­namics, mechan­ical engi­neering, elec­trical engi­neering and combus­tion engines – but not with the design of small high-perfor­mance fan cooling solu­tions. It’s great for us to have some­body who deals exclu­sively with cooling fans and there­fore can take us straight to the impor­tant ques­tions and the prob­able solu­tions. We are not in a busi­ness where we want to spend six months learning how to manu­fac­ture our own cooling fans. ebm-papst knows the answers and can design them. And that works perfectly.

What’s ebm-papst’s contri­bu­tion to your success?

ebm-papst supports us with all the ancil­lary cooling infra­struc­ture that we need to run the car. The car is a device that gener­ates an enor­mous amount of power and it can only run in a very constrained range of temper­a­ture. So we need cooling solu­tions for the side-pod and for the roll-hoop. We need cooling of all the elec­trical boxes because the moment the car stops in the garage we have to cool it by other means than its own speed. We need to venti­late the garage to ensure the reli­a­bility of the IT systems, computer racking, radio systems. They are all high-power elec­trical devices that need careful manage­ment if they are to be reli­able through the race, espe­cially when we go to very chal­lenging coun­tries like Singa­pore, Abu Dhabi or Bahrain.

So it’s not a matter of frac­tions of seconds during the race.

No, it’s more a reli­a­bility aspect. We can only run the car if we have complete control of all the temper­a­tures in the whole envi­ron­ment of the car while it’s in the garage. On the track we manage that with the car’s speed. If we have good control of the temper­a­tures in the garage, we can push the limit a bit more when we’re on the track.

We were talking about the cooling car. What about the people in the team?

It is a very impor­tant aspect to achieving the best human perfor­mance for the drivers and for all the team members. Most of them have the luxury of not needing to wear fire­proof over­alls most of the time. But it’s still very stressful and extremely tiring if we are doing five days of work in an un-air-condi­tioned garage in Kuala Lumpur. And if people get tired they make mistakes.

We can only run the car if we have complete control of all the temper­a­tures in the whole envi­ron­ment of the car while it’s in the garage.

Simon Cole

On the race track speed is every­thing. What’s the impor­tance of speed in devel­oping the car?

It’s almost more impor­tant than the speed on the race track. The race in which we can develop the car is our number one focus. It’s all about getting the design changes designed, made, tested, imple­mented and onto the car as fast as possible. All areas of the company are obsessed with time – partic­u­larly over the winter when we develop a completely new car. The majority of the people that are working in Brackley and Bricksworth are working in some way on devel­oping the car rather than just assem­bling or manu­fac­turing.

How do details affect your work?

95 percent of the car parts are redesigned every year. A lot of work is done in manu­fac­turing the new car. So we spend half the year trying to make sure that next year’s car is a success. And the following six months we spend trying to improve what we’ve made. We prac­ti­cally never have the same car spec­i­fi­ca­tion from one week to the next because every week parts of it change. And by the end of the year nearly all of it will have changed.

How does ebm-papst contribute to the next season?

What we have coming for the upcoming season is a completely new garage infra­struc­ture to support the car and the crew. ebm-papst will play a large part in that. We are very keen that every­thing will be repack­aged, redesigned and re-housed. We need to look again at all the cooling solu­tions. This is a job we will completely redo with ebm-papst.

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