SportF1What are sensor grids in F1 and what are...

What are sensor grids in F1 and what are they for?

In each of the Formula 1 test sessions, both in pre-season tests and in free practice sessions, the teams study the performance of the parts designed in the factory, and correlate the data obtained in the wind tunnel with the behavior on asphalt.

To collect this information, for a few years, a very striking instrument has become fashionable and difficult not to see on television broadcasts, so it is normal to wonder what it is and what it is for.

We are talking about the Aero Rakes , or known in Spanish simply as the sensor grills. This element was introduced at the Grand Circus to study in greater detail the aerodynamic flow around the single-seater design, usually being placed at the rear of the cars, although it is not uncommon to see it just in front of the sidepods.

It is made of special alloys, such as titanium, and these types of aerodynamic rakes are used to record hundreds of readings in real time to transmit to the engineers how the car performs on the track. This metal fence has several Kiel sensors , capable of capturing air pressure from almost any angle, so it is resistant to changes in wind direction, ideal for checking the aerodynamic shapes of the car.

These pieces can range from 50mm to 600mm in length, and a virtual map of the airflow traveling through the car’s bodywork is created, accurate to within 0.01mm.

The teams use these instruments in the free practice of the grand prix to continue studying the development of their vehicles, but the pre-season tests are key to knowing if the initial philosophy is the right one.

One of the participants in this Formula 1 World Championship, Williams, explained through his Head of Aerodynamic Performance, Yannick Ducret , how these elements worked: “The Aero Rakes are very important to us, and they started several years ago, because before only we used them in the wind tunnel, and they were rakes with a line of probes that slid in all directions to control the quality of airflow over the car.”

“Then they began to be used in single-seaters, and now there are many probes that help us measure the flow in various places in the vehicle. They come in all shapes and sizes, some are not even visible, such as those that are under the floor,” Ducret pointed out.

“We also have a lot of much larger sensors that you see in testing as they allow us to do that. The larger ones let us measure the flow in the front tyres, but because they move when turning they have to cover a large area to capture all possible data,” he continued.

“They can have over 500 probes so they are huge. We want to have the best tools when we compete against the other teams, we try to get inspired by their ideas and designs, so we will see what they work on to get the best Aero Rakes and have them be less intrusive”, settled the Williams engineer.

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