In this series of articles we will look at the Technology of the F1 car. Peeling away the layers to see what makes these cars the pinnacle of Motorsport. F1 has been going since 1946, based around a set of rules (the Formula) that are constantly changed to manage; speed, safety, improve overtaking, cut costs or improve the cars environmental efficiency. Overriding all the detailed rules, is the demand that F1 cars must single seaters, with open cockpits and the wheels uncovered.
The statistics around an F1 car are incredible, they weight just 640kg (including the driver) and currently have upto 830hp (with KERS), this makes their power to weight ratio greater than nearly any other car. If you compare an F1 car to a Bugatti Veyron, which has nearly 1000hp but weighs nearer two tones, has a ratio more than half that of the F1 car. Only dragsters have a greater power to weight ratio, but then they don’t go around corners anywhere near as fast as an F1 car! All this performance comes from a tiny 2.4 litre V8 engine and a tiny gearbox with seven gears. To allow the car to be so light and still strong enough, most of its structure is made from Carbon fibre, with precious metals such as titanium being used for highly stressed parts. Although humble steel and aluminium are still used in some of the mechanical parts of the car.
Equally an F1 car can accelerate 0-100kph in 2.5 and go on to a top speed of over 300kph. One lightly modified F1 car went on to achieve a top speed of 400kph!
When it comes to corners F1 cars have no rivals, with loads of 5g under braking and over 3g in corners. This amazing cornering performance comes from the cars grippy tyres and immense downforce. Downforce is the aerodynamic load the wings and bodywork create to literally suck the car onto the ground. Approaching 200kph an F1 car is creating its own weight in downforce, it’s often suggested that its possible for an F1 car to drive upside down on the roof of a tunnel at high speed, such is the force exerted by the wings onto the car.
We can start to break down the F1 car by looking at its major components visible from the outside. Although most of the complexity lies beneath the streamlined carbon fibre bodywork.