Q and A: Kannapolis-based Haas F1 Team Technical Director Simone Resta on hopes for new car in 2022

"Joining Haas represented a new fresh challenge and I decided to accept it when it was offered....
"Joining Haas represented a new fresh challenge and I decided to accept it when it was offered. It’s a very interesting professional opportunity to be part of a young and ambitious growing team.” -Simon Resta(Haas F1 Team)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:22 AM EDT
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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - Following last week’s launch of #FWD2022 – a series of content and updates on the creation of the VF-22 and the group behind a new era of racing for the Kannapolis-based F1 team – Simone Resta, Technical Director at Uralkali Haas F1 Team talks about the new car and team’s new hope.

Ciao, Simone! You joined the Uralkali Haas F1 Team in January, 2021. What drew you to join Formula 1′s American team?

“Joining Haas represented a new fresh challenge and I decided to accept it when it was offered. It’s a very interesting professional opportunity to be part of a young and ambitious growing team.”

When there is a big regulation change that will affect numerous areas of the car, when does work stop on the current car and the team start looking forward? How does the VF-22 come to life, as the genesis of a Formula 1 car is rarely shared…

“Originally this big regulation change was planned for 2021, then when the COVID pandemic hit our sport, it was decided to postpone the introduction of the new regulations to 2022 including several changes. At the same time the aerodynamic development on this platform was frozen for the remaining part of 2020.

“When this decision was taken, Haas was at a point of having done just some small development work, so in 2021, it has been basically a fresh restart on those regulations.

“As previously mentioned, I joined the team in January this year and I started working with the team on the new technical organization almost from scratch, being quite involved in the recruitment process to form the technical organization, reviewing roles and decision-making process, and in parallel doing minimal work needed to legalize the VF-21.

There are a lot of people involved in the creation of a new car – can you share some details on the groups and key figures?

“I feel very lucky having the opportunity of working with a group of very talented engineers, with a few of them having even joined the team together with me. If you look at my first line of reports, there is Andrea Da Zordo (Chief Designer), Matteo Piraccini (Head of Chassis Engineering), Arron Melvin (Head of Aerodynamics), Maurizio Bocchi (Performance Development Manager), then we have Ayao Komatsu, (Director of Engineering) and Ben Agathangelou (Head of Engineering Operations).

“That’s the set-up of the group, I’m physically located in Italy together with most of the technical group, whilst Ayao, travelling to all races, is located in Banbury together with his department.

“In addition to our core Haas team, we’ve got an important component from Dallara, based in Italy. The extent of the collaboration has been slightly reduced if compared to 2019, but this collaboration remains strategical for us, thanks to the support on design, aero and wind tunnel engineering related activities.

“The technical group is distributed in four main offices, two in Maranello (Ferrari area), one in Varano (Dallara) and another one in Banbury.”

How do you prioritize? If something comes up that you think needs more time spent on, does something else need to give?

“It’s always a compromise as we operate with finite resources, and with the introduction of the budget cap in our sport, it will bring more and more of those compromises in to play. The chassis project choices are being made mainly between Andrea and Matteo, with the support of Ben regarding legality and planning. The responsibility to drive forward the aerodynamic development program is part of Arron Melvin’s mission. In his daily business, he’s supported by two principal aerodynamicists, Juan Molina and Rhodri Moseley, who are managing several aero team leaders in charge of all the areas of the car.

“The vehicle performance is a daily business for the whole technical organization, but it’s worth mentioning Maurizio and Ayao as two key players.

“To make an example, if we think about aerodynamic development, at every point in time we can imagine to have two separate groups developing in parallel the new car and the current year car. In 2021, this is an exception as Haas team has made the strategic choice to focus the efforts on the new 2022 car development almost completely.

“Finally, at Haas we strongly believe in empowerment. Each engineer is responsible for his own area or component, and the structure duty is to make sure the colleagues working in each area are executing and staying on plan. That’s our business.”

It sounds as much of a people management business as it is a technical business?

“It’s like technical management. There’s a lot of management, process, organization, HR related work – together with a mix of complex technical choices, tools development, planning and, last but not least, pure racing.”

You’ve been involved in a lot of car builds and regulation changes over your career. What ignites the fire inside you and what is addictive about the business of Formula 1?

“I believe that the introduction of a new set of regulations represents a unique chance for the team to develop ideas from scratch, as there are no references with existing cars. You can see in each engineer’s eyes the fire and ambition to prove they can come up with the best design or concept. In a way there are many common elements and situations between new car projects, but it’s also true that they are all different as the conditions are not the same. With a new set of regulations you are trying to develop something that does not exist yet - this is very exciting - and having learned from previous experiences is a key element when affording new challenges aiming to maximize the team result.

You’ve introduced the names behind Uralkali Haas F1 Team’s future challenger, can you now provide an insight into how to build a Formula 1 car from scratch and how the team is looking forward to 2022…

“Building a Formula 1 car from scratch has been a very big challenge for the new technical group as the project started in parallel with the group’s creation, as well as to all the new processes and reviews we’ve put in place.

“To explain clearly, after receiving the new set of regulations, the group identified the objectives for the new car, then defined the project plan and the required resources. At the concept stage we then investigated development directions aimed to find answers to the above-mentioned points.

“From the concept phase, the project gradually transitions to the engineering phase, involving the project of readying components – their procurement, assembly, indoor testing and FIA homologation before running trackside. Within the legal boundaries defined by the FIA, Uralkali Haas F1 Team has a collaboration with Ferrari, purchasing not only the powertrain but also a series of parts of the TRQ transferable components family.”

You mention indoor testing. What can you tell us about the facilities and our wind tunnel model?

“Since the beginning of our collaboration with Ferrari, we have been using their wind tunnel. The 2022 wind tunnel model has been prepared at the start of the year in order to start as early as possible on the 2022 car development, following final legalization work on the current car.

“The new wind tunnel model, 60% scale as its predecessors, looks quite different if compared to the previous ones due to the combination of several factors.”

Was that the model from the previous car or a brand-new model?

“It is a brand-new model, we started from scratch. The model features new front and rear tire and rim dimensions and a complete review of the bodywork regulations and dimensions.

“This will include a completely new design for front and rear wings, bodywork, floor and diffuser, brakes ducts, wheel fairing and suspension too. The amount of freedom to develop aerodynamic surfaces has been reduced, but still allows teams to develop different geometries and extract performance, and as always, the devil is in the details.

“A very important tool to develop the performance of the car is the CFD, Computational Fluid Dynamics, that allows the team of aerodynamicists to perform virtual simulations before testing the model scale parts into the wind tunnel. The maximum number of CFD runs is specified by the regulations as well as the maximum number of wind tunnel tests.”

What exactly is being worked on in the wind tunnel? It’s obviously aerodynamics, but is it one day the front wing, the next day the rear bodywork? How does the program come together?

“Almost every week we develop the new model in the wind tunnel according to our testing calendar. The team of aerodynamicists, following the agreed development directions and testing plans, prepares the set of components to be tested looking to extract performance.

“Depending on the testing plan, in a normal day we can test a family of front wings, then switch on new chassis geometries, then develop new bodywork shapes, then restart the next day with floors, rear wings, brake ducts etc. – basically everything is in development.

“In simple terms, the development team prepare the new components, follow the test in the wind tunnel and gathers the results, study the data, and make sure the findings will be considered for the next component iteration in the tunnel, and the next iteration can happen the next day, the next week or in a longer time depending on the complexity of the changes.

“A close collaboration between the aero group and the design office is key to maximizing the development efficiency.”

Where is the team right now in the design process?

“The team is in the advanced concept phase. There’s still full freedom to develop each component but we are getting close to the first components geometry freeze.

“I shouldn’t be sharing this, but in the spirit of bringing our fans on the journey with us, one of the first definitions is the fuel cell one. The first information released to the supplier is the fuel cell shape. Once you define that, it means that this part of the chassis is defined. That becomes a constraint, and you keep working on the remaining parts of the car. So that is the first component freeze.

“But of course, it’s not a fully sequential job, it’s concurrent engineering. We created specific working groups to manage the project on certain parts of the car. We involve every member of the team, trying to empower them so there are not just two or three superstars in the team. Instead, it’s the person doing the aerodynamic work on the front wing working with the designer of the front wing and the structural engineer and they’re all around the table and discussing. Of course, it’s a combination of bottom-up processes together with top-down processes, but overall, we firmly believe in individual engineering empowerment to contribute to the team performance. That’s a key aspect.”

How do you then incorporate into that the physical components?

“Everything runs in parallel, 100 percent, with a concurrent engineering process. The group of aerodynamicists, the designers, the performance engineers, the program managers and all the engineers across the team work simultaneously developing the vehicle components according to the defined plan. The plan features release dates by which certain geometry will have to be frozen, from this point onwards the scope of development is partially reduced transitioning from the concept phase on to the engineering phase.”

When does race engineering come into this process because there’s a group of people designing the product and then there’s the people who are running it…

“The race engineering group is a key asset for each team. It’s the group of engineers that has the duty to run the track program supporting the drivers to extract the full potential from the car and give feedback to the development group at the factory to improve the car performance. The race engineering members are kept updated about the 2022 project evolution whilst running the 2021 car trackside. At the end of this year, once the 2021 car is pensioned, it will be the time for the race engineers to adopt our new baby, the 2022 car. This will involve studying all the data needed to prepare the new car assembly, indoor preparation and testing activities and finally the trackside launch.”

By not developing the current car and looking forward to 2022, what can fans expect from the VF-22 and what are the realistic aims for the team next year?

“You have kept the most difficult question at the end! As a team, we have decided to stop the development of the 2021 car at the beginning of the year, trying to focus most of our energies on to the 2022 car.

“We started a bit on the back-foot as we needed to complete the structure while developing processes and tools as well, but we believe that this investment will pay off and we’ll have a competitive car, and we’ll have lots of fun again in 2022.”

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