Supercomputer is F1 team's secret weapon

Formula 1 team BMW-Sauber is using the supercomputer to develop complex aerodynamic components
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Formula One team BMW-Sauber has revealed the secret weapon in its attempt to move up the grid in 2007 — the fastest supercomputer in industrial use in Europe.

The Swiss-based team has been using the computer — called Albert 2 — at its HQ in Hinwil, Switzerland since early December to develop the complex aerodynamic components for its 2007 car.

Using a process called computational fluid dynamics (CFD) the team can simulate airflow around parts to aid downforce and aerodynamics and to improve the efficiency of engine and brake cooling.

Albert 2 uses 1,024 Intel processor cores, has a total memory of 2,048GB and a maximum power of 12,288 GigaFlops. On average, it's around three times faster than its predecessor (Albert 1) and can perform calculations with greater accuracy than before.

The demands that CFD creates mean the team makes full use of the Albert 2's power. CFD uses numerical grid models to calculate the performance of aero parts, some of which consist of more than 100 million cells.

Willem Toet, head of aerodynamics for BMW-Sauber, said in a statement: "Thanks to Albert 2 we can calculate more variants and more complex models which, in the end, results in an advantage on the stopwatch."

Once the components have been designed, they are tested on a 60 percent model in the team's wind tunnel.

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director, said aerodynamics have a crucial influence on the performance of modern Formula 1 cars and CFD and wind-tunnel work complement each other.

He added in a statement: "Unlike other teams, we are not planning to build a second wind tunnel but will continue to bank on the consistently expanding potential in this [CFD] area."

The supercomputer's architecture has been developed by Switzerland-based Dalco while the software that supports the CFD analysis is supplied by a German subsidiary of US-based Fluent, a longstanding collaborator.

The team is heading into the 2007 season with the aim of scoring even more podiums than in 2006 (when they managed two) and is looking to Albert 2 to help them achieve this.

Editorial standards