INSIGHTS

  • THE POWER OF FAENZA

Report

2 September 2018

A modern day Formula 1 team is a serious operation. Even the smallest of teams have hundreds of people working to design, build and race their cars, and those numbers can reach four figures when you take into account power unit manufacturers.

Between a team and its power unit supplier - be it a works deal or customer - the PU supplier and the team do not share the same facilities (with the exception of Ferrari). While at Honda we already have factories in Sakura in Japan and Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom, in partnering with Toro Rosso from 2018 we joined forces with a similarly split set-up.

The main Toro Rosso factory and headquarters are situated in Faenza, about 40 miles south east of Bologna in Italy. Formerly home of Minardi, the Faenza facility has grown rapidly over recent years as the team has expanded, and with it has come a second base in Bicester, close to Silverstone in the UK.

One Toro Rosso Honda team with four main factories sounds complex, but team principal Franz Tost says the distance between each part of the operation is irrelevant.

“It’s never a problem, it depends always if the people want the communication or not,” Tost explains. “I must say that we have always had very good communication between Bicester and Faenza, and sometimes it’s more complicated to build up a good relationship and communication between engineers who are sitting here in Faenza side-by-side.

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“We have really good communication with Bicester as well as with Sakura and Milton Keynes, and I am sure it will continue this way.

“The distance is not a problem, because it comes down to the people and their communication. If they want to communicate then it can be thousands of kilometres, absolutely no problem, and at Toro Rosso and Honda we have great people who want to communicate.”

Ahead of our return to Formula 1, Honda set up a new factory in Milton Keynes in order to have a base that the power units could return to between races given the sport is heavily centered around Europe, and England specifically. While the Bicester location is right in the heart of ‘motorsport valley’ in the UK, the reason Toro Rosso has two such bases stems from a fairly recent rule change.

“At the end of 2009, they changed the regulations so that each team had to produce its own ‘listed parts’ so we had to do everything by ourself,” Tost says. “The wind tunnel in Bicester was in those days owned by Red Bull Racing and we decided to buy this wind tunnel and restructure it and this was the most convenient solution as we did not have a wind tunnel in Italy.

“The Bicester facility consists of the wind tunnel and our CFD department. We have some CFD here in Faenza but not many people. There are around five engineers for CFD, they do some general investigations, and what we have here is all the computers and everything for CFD.”

While Bicester clearly has a significant role to play, the majority of the team’s operations are housed on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Faenza, where two new buildings were recently built. The final work was completed in 2015, resulting in the majority of Toro Rosso’s departments now being housed under one roof.

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“To begin with, all the studies are done on the CFD side,” Tost says, outlining the process to create an F1 car. “We calculate the airflow around the car and when the aerodynamicists find something which gives an advantage over the parts they made beforehand they send all the data to the wind tunnel.

“The wind tunnel is based in Bicester, and there are around 100 people working over there. The parts are designed and then put into the wind tunnel, where we have a 50% model. When we observe that there’s a performance improvement in the wind tunnel and there’s a good correlation with CFD, we decide to design the parts 1:1 scale (actual size) which is done here in Faenza.

“Then when the design is finished, the parts come to production. We have around 25% of the mechanical production in-house and 90% of the carbon production.

“Then once we get the parts either from our suppliers or our own production, then they come to quality control and then assembly, and then we fit it onto the car.”

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While the CFD department has staff in both Toro Rosso factories, once work is complete on the wind tunnel model then the design office - based in Italy - will turn it into a full size design to be manufactured.

“We have an office where the designers are sitting in different groups. We have the weekly performance group, race engineers, the designers who are responsible for the bodywork, the designers responsible for suspension, gearbox and hydraulics, and the designers responsible for the systems. It’s a lot of people but the big teams have even more people.

“We are connected also to Bicester by direct video. People can see what’s going on there and the other way round, they can also see what we are doing here. They can keep an eye on us and we keep an eye on them!”

But that’s not the only cross-factory communication that is required, with Honda and Toro Rosso speaking on a regular basis in order to get the most out of the partnership both right now and moving forward.

“We have a number of meeting rooms where we also are connected to Sakura and to Milton Keynes,” Tost says. “Nearly every week we have one or two video conferences with our Japanese friends.

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“Most of the interaction we have takes place through meetings at the race track. We meet as a group every race weekend at least once, but most of the time two or three times. We sit together with Yamamoto-san, Tanabe-san, Osaki-san and we discuss everything. Of course they are in connection with Japan, too.

“In addition to this we have our video conference calls nearly every week, once or twice, with Milton Keynes but also with Sakura. This means we have very, very good communication. I must say from the beginning onwards we had a really good relationship with Honda. Very good cooperation with them and I think we have also made very good progress from both sides.

“I am very confident and optimistic for the future together with Honda.”

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