Several years ago I was touring the facilities of a major aerospace company and was disappointed to hear the visit to the wind tunnel was cancelled as it was temporarily ‘off-limits’. Why’s that? I asked – are you testing a classified combat aircraft, a stealthy UAV or perhaps an innovative design that will revolutionize commercial aviation?
“No, nothing quite like that,” they said. It was something “way, way more interesting, and just as classified.” What could that possibly be? Reverse engineering of alien technology perhaps? No, nothing like that either. Turns out it was a band new racing car design for Formula 1 - the most popular form of world motor racing.
Wind tunnel testing is emblematic of the close relationship between F1 and aerospace which every year seems to grow stronger. Beyond high-speed aerodynamics and drag reduction, the two industries share secrets in advanced, lightweight materials, systems and sensors.
A new link between aerospace and F1 was established today when Rockwell Collins announced an agreement with Caterham F1. The deal will see the two “collaborate to define aviation technology that will be adapted in the team’s quest to win the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula 1 World Championship.”
Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen practises for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix
Typically for such an agreement that’s about as detailed as it gets. It is also hard to guess more given the breadth of Rockwell Collins’ expertise in avionics and systems, though it could range from advanced displays to improved sensing. There’s no telling yet when we might see the first evidence of the collaboration with Caterham which was only granted entry in 2009 for the F1 World Championship in 2010. Based in the UK, Caterham raced as Team Lotus in 2011, winning 10th place in the Championship and already showing signs of moving quickly up this highly contested field. Let’s see how they get on now.