Revealed: How F1 made DRS-open Zandvoort banking idea a reality
One of the big things that many Formula 1 fans are looking forward to seeing in 2020 is grand prix cars running with DRS open through the final banked corner at Zandvoort.
The revamp of the Dutch Grand Prix circuit to bring it up to modern standards and at least allow a chance for overtaking has included the re-profiling at 32 percent – the equivalent of 18 degrees – of what will be known as Arie Luyendyk corner.
The decision to go ahead with the plan, aimed at allowing cars to run through the corner with DRS fully open so there is enough of a run up to try to make an overtaking move in to Turn 1, is far from conventional.
However, what initially may have seemed like a crazy idea, was helped become reality by a group of engineers working directly for F1 who ran computer simulations to prove that Charlie Whiting's initial suggestion could actually work.
Craig Wilson, who is head of vehicle performance at F1 and heads a department there that helps create and test circuit designs, said that when the Zandvoort project first began there did not seem to be an obvious solution about how to make the track offer more overtaking opportunities.
"When we first had a look, we said, 'okay, well the existing layout is going to be a challenge to get overtaking," the former Mercedes and Williams engineer said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com talking about the work he is doing.
"The straights are too short but the actual circuit is very confined because it's surrounded by a national park. All the sand dunes around it are actually protected so we can't just extend the straight.
"We went through a lot of iterations thinking how can we change the last few corners to effectively extend the straight, or get more full throttle time and distance. And we probably went through about 14 or 15 different solutions. I couldn't get one to work satisfactorily."
While the F1 circuit team kept thinking about how best to do it, Whiting's initial suggestion of having the corner banked was mentioned to Wilson by Zandvoort chiefs.
"A comment came back and said: 'could we do banking?," added Wilson. "I thought about it, and it was: 'okay well leave it with me, let me work out what level of banking would be required on the concept of could we, rather than have DRS open after the last turn, could we open DRS through the last turn?
"We went through it, we used our simulation and then we came back and said 'okay well you'd need at least this level of banking to be able to do it. I had assessed it with two different methods, in terms of car stability and the aerodynamic loss, and it looks like it can work.
"Then it was a case of, 'okay well can we physically do it?'
"The guys at Zandvoort went off, spoke to a few people and came back and said: 'Yeah, we can do it, we think we can do it, and we'd be very interested in doing it.'
"So we had conversations with the FIA to say 'look, this is what we're thinking, are you okay with that?' They said let's go through the numbers, let's look at what else is involved.
"As a process, we were getting all the right people together and we were able to actually come up with a solution - and a fairly unique solution to that situation."
The Zandvoort banking solution is one example of all the work Wilson and the F1 group are now doing on helping design better tracks for the future – and he says without their simulation work the ambitious project would probably not have been able to become reality.
"It would be very difficult for us to think it would be possible to make Zandvoort work, if we hadn't done this work and helped direct some of the changes," explains Wilson.
"Despite work on lots of other concepts, we couldn't get anything else to work, but that [the banking] did and it was quite pleasing.
But while Wilson is delighted about how the project has been moved from an idea to reality, he fully understands that even with cars able to blast through the bend flat out with DRS open, overtaking is still not going to be easy.
"I still expect it to be a very difficult track to overtake on, but these changes I'm confident make it easier than what it would have been," he said.
The FIA has not yet confirmed where the DRS activation point will be before the banked corner, with there set to be a second DRS zone further around the lap too.
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