The Bright Spark Reports from Santiago

One word sums up the preparation to manage the infamous Chilean heat in Santiago last weekend: simulation.

Dozens of hours of simulation work at Mahindra’s bespoke on-site ‘Driver in the loop’ simulator prepared the Mahindra team to the max as thermal management allied to extracting the best from the M6Electro powertrain in the demanding conditions.

We threw a paper cup of chilled water over our resident tech guru The Bright Spark, cooled him down and asked him all about how getting the car and systems chilly in Chile was the overriding theme last Saturday.

The Bright Spark says…

With the mercury nudging 35 degrees Celsius it was imperative that we ensured that the car, which is designed to cope with the temperatures so that most of the systems on the powertrain shouldn’t give us an actual big issue, was prepared right.

The battery (RESS) can sometimes be an issue, so it’s all about being prepared, mainly in terms of knowing what parts might cause a problem, and then knowing how to deal with them if it happens.

In terms of the powertrain, once you get to the race day itself, you can adjust your preparations based on the sims and the actual temperatures. We did all of our simulations for Santiago based on an expectation of around 35 degrees, maybe a degree higher.

As we’re preparing to go to the grid itself, we can check we’ve got everything in the region we want it. If things are too cold, you could have problems associated with that. Some systems you’re not allowed to cool; for example, you’re not allowed to cool the battery down too much and we saw one team (Mercedes-Benz EQ) got penalised for that.

Going from hot to cold can give you thermal shock. There are various things we’ve got to maintain limits within and the suppliers of the RESS (McLaren Applied Technologies) make all that very clear. We work with all our technical partners to make sure we’ve got a clear understanding of those limits. So we tend to go to the race and go to the grid knowing very much where we want everything to be.

Strategy wise you tend to go into the race knowing what your perfect race is going to be, but then with a set of alternative plans in case there is an accident or Full Course Yellows or safety car. But it could also be that you are stuck behind somebody or being pushed on by somebody. Those are all of the main scenarios that can mess up your ideal race and you have to be able to be reactive to those situations.

We have very little knowledge on the car what’s happening during the race, because telemetry is outlawed, and actually less knowledge this year than in previous years. We just have to equip the drivers with the options and be as prepared as we can possibly be.

The drivers will be in communication with the race engineers, so there will be a bit of two-way communication to support them. But fundamentally they need to go in knowing what might happen and how to deal with it, making sure they’ve got the feedback through the dash to tell them what’s happening with the car, and giving them an idea on where to take things.

It all makes for an exciting challenge when lights go out on race day!