The ideal racing line through a turn will vary depending on a car’s traction limit, braking capability, and acceleration capability. The driver of a car with crappy acceleration may find that the fastest way around a track is to maximize the radius of his racing line through each corner; OTOH, when driving a car with excellent acceleration, it may be better to slow the vehicle much more to enable a high degrees-per-second turn rate, and then get on the gas afterwards to restore warp speed.

Given the amount of money involved in Formula One racing, I wondered about this. Do they use numerical simulations to determine the fastest way around any given track for any given car? I’m imagining a system where you could input:

-track geometry (turn radii, lane width, etc.)

-car characteristics (braking performance, lateral traction, power curve, etc.)

and the computer would produce an ideal racing line, including braking points, turn-in points, and so on, which could then be put into a real first-person driving simulator where the driver could practice following that line.

This seems like it might work well for finding the best solution without requiring hours and hours of expensive real-world track time, or wasting a driver’s time in a simulator by having him randomly try different things. OTOH, conditions in the real world vary considerably from moment to moment, so maybe a numerical model based on assumed/fixed values is too rigid, and a driver just has to see how the track and car are actually behaving on any given day, and adjust accordingly.

So anyway…do they, or don’t they, use numerical simulations to find the fastest path around a race course before ever putting a driver behind the wheel of a real car or a driving similator?