Formula One teams have agreed to provide confidential aerodynamic data to Ross Brawn's technical department in order to help shape the future of the sport's regulations.
Since joining F1's management structure as managing director of motorsports, Brawn has built a research team to better understand the impact of car aerodynamics on racing. The department is headed up by former Williams head of aerodynamics Jason Somerville and has been working behind the scenes with CFD models of Manor's 2017 car, which was developed to the current regulations but never raced due to the team's collapse over the winter.
Now that the 2017 season has finished, F1's current teams have also agreed to provide their CFD data from 2017 so that the project can continue to develop a better understanding of why F1 cars struggle to follow each other.
"We've bought the geometry of the old Manor 2017 car because we wanted to have a generic model that we could use in CFD modelling to at least give us a basis," Brawn explained. "We know the Manor car is not a front-line F1 car but the geometry is there for the 2017 regulations and that's all working there.
"We have a model of two cars running together and we've carried out all the initial work. Now the season has finished, the teams are going to start giving us their 2017 cars to have more representative models to look at. We've been putting in place the confidentiality agreements with the teams and they are going to start providing us with representative models to run in our CFD program.
"I'd say the team of people we are putting together is about 75% complete, there's a couple more to join in the new year, and that's all going very well. I'm quite excited about it and there's things that we'll be able to show you early next year that will demonstrate what we are trying to do."
A major change in aerodynamic regulations ahead of the 2017 season saw the cars become significantly faster this year, but data from tyre supplier Pirelli revealed that the amount of overtaking halved compared to 2016.
As a general rule, the more dependent cars are on aerodynamics, the more performance they lose while running in the turbulent air of a car in front and the more difficult it becomes to overtake. While the issue is nothing new in Formula One, the current research project has allowed Brawn's technical team to dig deeper than ever before with CFD tools that are more advanced that the teams'.
"One of the interesting things for us is that we don't have the limitations on the CFD technology and capacity that the teams do with the regulations," Brawn said. "They have quite strict rules about how much CFD they can do and what type of processes they can use.
"We don't have that and it's slightly opened our eyes in a way as to where F1 is and where the world is -- and the world has overtaken F1 by a long way in terms of CFD. So the capacity we have and ability to do what we need to do is far in excess of any F1 team."