Deconstructing Formula One

EP - 046 published on June 03, 2018

Deconstructing Formula One

Explicit: no

Formula 1 is a crazy motorsport, not just driving around in circles.

The top notch

  • Formula one is the highest class of racing sanctioned by FIA.
  • The inaugural season was in 1950.
  • A season consists of races called Grand Prix (Grand Prize in French).
  • “Formula” is set of rules to be followed by the manufacturers and the drivers.
  • One of the fastest type of races owing to the aerodynamic design of cars.

History

  • Grand Prix Motor Racing: A precursor to the modern day Formula One racing.
  • Started in France in 1894. Involved racing from one town to the next.
  • Evolved into endurance races.
  • High rate of fatality owing to poor safety standards.
  • Post World War II, evolved into Formula One.
  • Was a medium for car manufacturers to promote their cars. French has special interest in motor cars.
  • First racing took place on July 22, 1894 organised by Le Petit Journal between Paris and Rouen distance of 126 km.
  • Count Jules-Albert de Dion won the race in 6 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph) and 3 mins the 30s ahead of the runner-up.
  • James Gordon Bennett Jr., who was the owner of New York Herald, started the Gordon Bennett cup which was an international event with countries participating against each other.
  • Each country entered up to three cars in the even and the cars were fully manufactured in those particular countries.
  • Each country had their racing colours (Green for UK, Red for Italy etc.).
  • After fatalities in the Paris-Madrid race, a closed circuit was used in Ireland at Athy in 1903 and was the first closed circuit race.

Grand Prix

  • Automobile Club de France organised regular races that were called Grad Prix races starting 1906.
  • A circuit which was roughly triangular in shape situated in Le Mans was used with a lap distance of 105 km.
  • A total of six laps were required to be covered per day with a lap taking around an hour of each car.
  • Use of the circuit was a direct result of the 1903 Paris-Madrid race which resulted in the death of drivers and pedestrians were killed.
  • Races were mostly nationalistic and had cars with 50hp, 10-15L engines. Each car carried a mechanic along with a driver and they were the only ones allowed to work on the car.
  • Renault won the Grand Prix by using detachable wheel rims developed by Michelin.

Pre World War II days

  • Monaco Grand Prix was the first time race grid was determined by using qualifying time rather than using a lucky draw.
  • By the late 1930s, mechanics had long gone and cars were single seaters. Also, they were 600hp 8 or 16 cylindered monsters by this time.
  • Mercedes and Auto Union dominated due to support from Nazis.

Post war

  • Post war, Formula One took shape in 1950.
  • Due to economic difficulties, 1952 and 53 races were held using Formula 2 cars.
  • First Word Championship race was held on May 13 in Silverstone, UK.
  • The first championship was won by Italian Giuseppe (Nino) Farina driving an Alfa Romeo in 1950 defeating Juan Manuel Fangio.
  • Fangio later went on to win five world championships which were a record for 45 years until Schumacher broke the record in 2003.

The routine

  • Usually 12 teams compete with two drivers each.
  • Race weekend consists of free practice, qualifying session and race.
  • To participate in a race, a driver should complete at least one lap in the free practice session.
  • Free practice usually happens on Fridays except for Monaco Grand Prix, where the practice happens on Thursday and Fridays are reserved for other activities.
  • Qualifying consists of three sessions namely Q1, Q2 and Q3. Cars are ranked according to their lap time.
  • During Q1 and Q2, 7 drivers are eliminated respectively leaving 10 drivers in Q3.
  • The driver with the fastest time gets the pole position - the first on the grid.
  • After qualification, cars are inclosed park, meaning that no significant changes can be done to the settings.
  • Top ten cars have to start using the same tires that they set the lap times on. In few cases they can be replaced by a set of similar tyres subject to approvals.
  • On the race day, the cars are aligned on the grid according to the grid locations decided as per qualifying on the previous day.
  • Race is usually held around 2 pm on the Sunday for most of the European races. Some races like Singapore and Abu Dhabi happen during the evenings.
  • Number of laps is selected so that the total distance is more than 305 km except for Monaco where the minimum race distance is set at 260km. Also the race time cannot exceed 2 hours and in case that happens the race positions at the 2 hour mark would be considered to be the final grid positions.

The car

Engine

  • The chassis is made using carbon fibre and other ultralight materials to save weight and for safety.
  • Minimum permissible weight is 728kg including the driver without fuel.
  • Sometimes ballast was used to add weight and lower the center of gravity.
  • Prior to 2006, cars had V10 engines with 3 litre engines producing close to 1000 hp with top speeds reaching 375kph.
  • In 2006, FIA came up with a rule that stated all cars must have a naturally aspirated (no turbocharger or supercharger) 2.4 litre V8 engines. Turbochargers were banned in 1989.
  • Since 2014, engines are 1.6l turbocharged for an improved fuel efficiency of 29%.
  • In 2009 engines were limited to 18,000 rpm for engine reliability.
  • Engines consume close to 450lof air per second.
  • Engine is located between driver and the rear axle and forms a structural support of the car.
  • In 2004, engines were required to last a race weekend and subsequently the number of engines that could be used for a season were reduced to 8 and now to 3. That means an engine has to last for more than one race which would reduce the cost and make the units more reliable. -Fuel used is similar to normal petrol with a controlled mix and FIA requires fuel suppliers to submit samples for testing and can ask for a sample at any time during the course of a season.

Transmission

  • All cars have a semi-automatic gearbox with 8 forward and 1 backward gears.
  • Carbon-titanium is used to make gearbox and is connected right behind the engine.
  • Paddles behind the steering wheels are used to upshift and downshift.
  • Clutch is controlled by electro-hydraulics except when starting from a standstill when the driver operates a lever in the steering wheel.
  • Limitations exist on the number of gearboxes over a season as well. Gearboxes must complete six consecutive races before being replaced.

Steering wheel

  • Steering wheel houses many controls including gear shift, rev. limiter, fuel mix controller etc.
  • Data related to various parameters are also displayed in LCD displays on the wheel.
  • They weight around 1.3kg and can cost up to $50,000.

Tyres

Tyres used are:

  • Hypersoft
  • Ultrasoft
  • Supersoft
  • Soft
  • Medium
  • Hard
  • Superhard
  • Intermediate(for partially wet conditions)
  • Wet (rain tyres) During rain, wet tyres can remove almost 250l of water a second from the track.

Other systems

  • Aerodynamics are controlled by using spoilers in the front and rear.
  • If the throttle is let go, the aerodynamic drag will slow down the car at the same rate at which a sports car decelerates under breaking.
  • KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) is used to give the car additional boost and stores the energy dissipated while braking.

Some facts

  • Car costs anywhere between 6 to 8 millions.
  • Around 800 parts.
  • Engine normally lasts for few races. Earlier it was an engine per week. Revs up to 16,000 - 18,000 RPM.
  • Tyres last for around 90-120 km.
  • Can accelerate from 0 to 160 kph back to 0 in 4 sec.
  • Drivers lose close to 3-4 kg every race.
  • At 130 kph, car has a downforce equal to its weight and can go upside down in a tunnel. Flight principles reversed.
  • Roughly 2600-3000 gear shifts, Monaco has the most number of shifts.
  • 1200 litres of fuel is used per race weekend. Efficiency of 70l/100km.
  • Brake discs reach temperatures of 1000°C, exhaust pipe reaches 900°C and tyres reach 130°C during a race.
  • Champagne tradition started in 1950, locals fans presented a three litre bottle of champagne to the race winner Fangio.
  • In 1966, Jo Siffert in 24 hours of Le Mans opened a bottle of champagne which wasn’t sufficiently cooled. The cork flew up and resulted in the drink splashing on everyone. This tradition continues to this day with the exception of Bahrain Grand Prix where it champagne is replaced with sparkling fruit juice.
  • In 2005, a BAR Honda car set an unofficial speed record of 413kph at Bonneville Speedway.

Image: Pixabay