Tag Archives: featured

Speed Read F1

Every year, with the start of the Formula 1 season, a lot of people ask about the rules, concepts, technology and history of the sport. For that reason, Stuart Codling recently wrote a new book called “Speed Read F1”, which tries to cover the keys to understand the basics of Formula 1. If you want to find out more about this book, keep reading this review!


Believe it or not, I first heard about this book on Twitter, where a considerable amount of motorsport journalists shared their excitement about the release of this book. I was curious so I decided to check who the author of this book was and I was shocked when I found out that it was written by Stuart Codling, who is a well known automotive and motorsport expert (you can find his articles in prestigious magazines such as “F1 Racing”). After that, there was no doubt I needed to get my hands on this book!

Let me start the review with the structure of the publication. The book is divided in seven sections based on different aspects of the sport: Technology; Drivers; Rivalries; Racing Circuits; Flag to Finish; Staying Alive; Taking Care of the Business. From my point of view, this division is very clever and helpful for new fans and people who just want to learn the basics of something in particular. Although the book is 159 pages long, it is written in a way that encourages the reader to finish it as quick as a Lewis Hamilton’s fast lap. In addition, another thing that I particularly enjoyed is that every subsection counts with three brief paragraphs on the left margin where the reader can find interesting information about something funny, history and a person of interest (always related to the main topic of the subsection).

Now, with regards to the content itself, I must admit that I got hooked from the beginning, which covers all the main technical aspects of the sport… but that may be because of my engineering background and my previous knowledge of F1. Besides, the chapter about rivalries provides amazing facts about old drivers that I never got the chance to see on the track, so I am sure almost everyone will learn at least one new thing while reading this section. Furthermore, another detail that I would like to highlight is that after each chapter, the author includes a glossary. This glossary is a very useful F1 dictionary that new fans will definitely take advantage of, mainly because it explains specific topics in a very simple way. Now you will be able to understand every word you hear during a Grand Prix on TV!

That being said, I must warn you that sometimes there is a bit too much of information in a very reduced amount of words. If you are not used to scientific papers or technical books you may struggle and will probably need to read certain paragraphs a few times. Also, as a non-native English speaker, I found it curious that in the book some words are written in British English whereas others are written in American English, such as “carbon fiber” (American) instead of “carbon fibre” (British). This is nothing bad, don’t get me wrong, but it made me pay more attention whenever I read something like that, especially about materials… And I found something that is not an accurate fact about composite materials. The author, in order to provide some background, gives a definition of carbon fibre that only applies to certain types of composites… I know this is a silly comment, but I am very picky when it comes to materials science!

Overall, I think it is a nice book to read if you are new to the sport or just a casual fan. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who have followed Formula 1 for a long time. From my point of view, this book should target an audience which is willing to get involved in this motorsport world. So, if you are one of these new fans, I definitely encourage you to get a copy of the book. After reading it (and it is very easy to read!), “rookies” will be able to speak about most things F1 related with people who have been enjoying the sport for ages. You won’t need to be asking all sort of basic questions anymore!

Coding subroutines in Abaqus

If you are an advanced Abaqus user, I am sure you have heard a word which some people try to avoid at all costs: subroutines. Today, I write about them as well as about my recent experience coding one for my research.


First of all, lets start with the main question: what is a subroutine? It is a script that, when run in parallel with the Finite Element (FE) model, allows users to request features which are not defined by default in the commercial software Abaqus. This FE package recognises a lot of different types of subroutines for both implicit and explicit simulations, depending on the information that we want to include, recalculate, modify, request… In other words, subroutines are useful when we want something that is not already available within the software and we need it in order to produce acceptable results.

Consider, for instance, that we were trying to simulate the response of a certain material, but the material model which was available in Abaqus did not quite reproduce the correct behaviour. What could we do then? The first option would be to contact Dassault Systemes to ask if they had any kind of expansion (with its corresponding extra cost, not too many things are given for free these days I’m afraid); sometimes, since a lot of users request the same thing, it is the company itself the one that creates the official subroutine. This option would save time and effort, but it would also affect our wallet. The second option would be to create a new material model from scratch. How could we do that? Well, we would need to code a UMAT (implicit) or a VUMAT (explicit) subroutine. In order to do so, we would need to learn how to code in Fortran, which is the only language supported by Abaqus (I know, this is a bit of a pain since Fortran is basically obsolete, but hey! It’s always good to learn something new!). We would also need to install two compilers and link them to the FE package, which once again is not straight forward (don’t worry, I’ll try to write another post to explain this). Some people might say that giving up would be the third option, but to me that attitude would be unacceptable, so don’t you dare! Read more

What is the aim of the front wing in a F1 car?

Have you ever wondered why Formula 1 cars have those extremely complex front wings? Some people may think that these structures are only there for producing downforce, but in reality their function goes beyond that. Do you want to find out more? Well, here’s your chance!


A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Craig Scarborough during one of his pesentations about Formula 1 at Cranfield University (United Kingdom). For those who are not familiar with that name, Mr Scarborough is a well known expert in motorsport and, just so you know, he’s quite a celebrity on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn…), where he usually shares top quality information about racing and the engineering behind it.

Yesterday, I contacted him after watching his latest video for motorsport.com in which he discusses the function of a front wing with Willem Toet, one of the best aerdynamicist in the world. They use a 3D airflow animation in order to illustrate how the wing of the McLaren MCL-32 works. After asking for his approval, Mr Scarborough was kind enough to give me permission to share the video with the audience of Engineering Breakdown, so here it is! I hope you enjoy it!

(Please note that in order to watch the videos, you need to reproduce them on Youtube, following the instructions).

Formula 1 interview: Dr Nicholas Brown

Let me introduce you to Dr Nicholas Brown, one of the Composite Design Engineers at McLaren Racing and former EngD at the University of Surrey. It was a real pleasure having a conversation with him at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking, UK. We covered different topics about what is like to work at the top level of automotive engineering, including some tips for getting where he is now! Enjoy it!


First of all, I’d like to say how grateful I am to have you here, since I know you are extremely busy at the moment. Thank you for your time and your kindness. And now, let’s get started. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

So I did my masters first in engineering at Loughborough University; that was Aeronautical Engineering. I spent five years up there and did a placement year as well. So my placement year was with an aerospace electronic sort of warfare defense company, but I was doing more of the support work reliability team and things like that, writing general reports… Didn’t really do anything fancy, so I came out of there not wanting to do that and not really wanting to go on a graduate scheme. Then I had a year just between jobs and then the EngD came up, so I chose to do the EngD that as you know is a great opportunity. And then towards the end of it I was looking for more job roles and one came up at McLaren Racing as a Design Engineer, which implied using my composites knowledge for a more applied role. There are research aspects as well, but it’s mainly applying my knowledge. That was about a year and a half ago and now I’m still here! It’s quite fun! It’s good to apply all the things you know. As I said we do research up there but it is completely different to the research I did as an EngD.

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Things to take into account when making your own convertible car

Last February I participated in the Young Persons’ Lecture Competition, organised by IOM3. In particular, the local heat took place at the University of Surrey. I want to share with you the transcript of my presentation. I have to say that I tried to present a quite complex topic in a very simple way so that anybody without  an engineering background could follow it. Hope you enjoy it!


Abstract: What would happen if you removed the roof of your car? First of all, you would have a convertble vehicle to enjoy that one sunny day we have in England. Second and most importantly, you would probably be the bravest person on earth. Driving on a bad road or even going over a speed bump could have dramatic results. Using simple engineering concepts, logic and a shoe box you will be able to understand why that could happen ad how automotive companies overcome this issue.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is Strength of Materials? It is the science that studies the behaviour of solid objects when they are subjected to stresses and strains. So, first question: what kind of objects? Basically we can have 1D, 2D and… Exactly! 3D elements! Some examples could be a bar (1D), a shell or a plate (2D) and a hexaedron (3D). For this particular topic, I’m going to focus on 2D elements, since the body panels of a car can be considered as very thin shells assembled together.

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