F1 competition gives Leicester students inside track

Few sectors manage to combine cutting edge technology and glamour as well as motorsports but joining the approximately 41,000 strong workforce in Britain requires a lot more than just the right grades.

To help give students a foothold in the industry, UniFi Motorsport was formed in 2014 to provide support services to engineering students looking for their first role in Motorsport Aerodynamic Design.

UniFi Motorsport runs an international Formula 1 aerodynamics competition and a team from Leicester University has won the inaugural race of this year’s series.

Leicester’s Team Mansell consists of Amar Patel (team leader), Harnish Rathod, Mmoloki A Machacha, Sahil Patel, and Haroon Habib, all of whom are fourth year MEng students at the university.

Their redesigned F1 car body consists of a bespoke front wing (new cascade, turning vanes), a new barge board and sidepod vane, and rear wing and diffuser packages. The team used SolidWorks to design the new surfaces and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) from TotalSim Ltd to evaluate and refine their aerodynamic performance.

The aerodynamic designs from all teams were tested on a simulated medium downforce circuit and Team Mansell won this sprint race with the lap time of 1’32.68’’.

The Student Engineer got in touch with Amar to talk about the competition and the ways in which it can help land that all important first job in motorsports.


Tell me, Amar, what courses are you all on?

Me & Abel are reading for a MEng in Mechanical Engineering, and Sahil, Harnish & Haroon are on the MEng Aerospace Engineering course.

Did you know one another prior to forming Team Mansell?

Me, Sahil & Harnish knew each other from 1st/2nd year due to overlapping modules and similar social activities. The team got to know each other shortly after the induction meeting of the project.

In what ways have you fostered team spirit amongst yourselves?

A key requirement was enough proficiency of the members in the software, SolidWorks. This proficiency was varied and hence we re-educated each other. This in turn, engendered higher team spirit and respect for each other and was also a good motivating factor.

Have you all taken on different roles in order to create the best F1 design, or do you keep things flexible?

As a team we all took different individual tasks to begin with, depending on what was required. But all the members had sufficient work to fulfil and so there were no ‘passengers’ as such. But as the team leader, I was keen to instil sufficient flexibility so that we could together tackle the tougher tasks as well.

In what ways has UniFi Motorsport made you a better team player?

Firstly, as the team leader, I was able to practise and apply my leadership skills and having been reasonably successful, I feel more confident and hopefully a better team player as well. To motivate a group of fellow student colleagues, with no implied hierarchy to start with, and gel them into a successful team was exciting and educational.

Similarly, in what ways has UniFi Motorsport made you a better engineer?

I have been taught that engineering is about coming up with solutions to problems. Collectively we’re able to find effective solutions in this project, I feel that each of the members will feel more confident in tackling these sort of future challenges. The knock-on effect of this, hopefully, is that each one of us will have the basis for becoming better engineers.


What experience had you with CAD and CFD prior to the competition? Do you think the competition has made you a better designer? If so, how?

For me personally, I had used SolidWorks extensively in the 3rd year along with using it as part of my role in Formula Student.

Harnish had a little experience with SolidWorks in 1st year of university.

Sahil had extensive use with SolidWorks throughout the first 3 years and also a 3rd year CFD project.

Haroon used Solidworks during year 11 and during 1st year of university

Abel had experience with SolidWorks in 1st year of university, but not much after that. However his role in this project revolved around his 3rd year project in terms of MATLAB and optimising specific parts of the car.

This project has made us better designers due to picking up new techniques which we were unfamiliar with previously. We have mainly done this through trial and error methods, as well as using various online sources.

Is UniFi Motorsport part of your course?

It is a 4th year project option that is funded by the university and supervised by Dr Aldo Rona (Senior lecturer within the engineering department) & Ivor Annetts (from TotalSim Ltd).

On average, how many hours a week do you devote to UniFi Motorsport?

We roughly spent 16 hours during the week at university. However this varied depending on other deadlines/priorities.

How many weeks did it take you to come up with a design you were happy to race with? How many design iterations do you think you went through and what were the major technical challenges you faced?

It took us 11 weeks (the entire first semester) to design the first race car with a range of improvements made throughout the semester. As a team, we had roughly 100-150 individual and compilation iterations before the final result. The major challenges we faced initially was analysing post-processing results and implementing changes on the design, as well as designing complicated geometry.


Team Mansell won the inaugural race of the UniFi Motorsport series. How far ahead of the second placed car were you?

We were 0.007 seconds ahead of the 2nd place team; it was really close and very satisfying!

How many more races are there in the series, and what will you do differently to remain in the lead?

There are 2 more races remaining in this series.

The approach we have taken to remain ahead is to continue having a positive attitude, think outside the box in terms of designs and focus our efforts towards the major parts that will significantly improve lap time. We have to do more of what we did for the first race.

In what ways will UniFi Motorsport help you get a job in motorsport?

All the transferable skills we have picked up in this project will help us through various application processes in that industry and, as it will enable us to stand out. It has completely changed our perspective in the way we watch F1 now, compared to before, due to this unique opportunity from UniFi Motorsport.

Thanks Amar!

Further details about UniFi Motorsport can be found at this address: http://www.unifimotorsport.com/