At the start of this 2014 F1 season, I will take this opportunity to explain to new F1 viewers some facts and figures about this sport. This is for the people who don’t have much experience in the sport. I hope after reading this article, you will be more attracted to F1.
- F1 is the second most advanced technology after fighter war planes. For example, Adrian Newey (Red Bull car designer) was formerly a fighter planes’ aerodynamics engineer
- F1 races go back to the 1920’s and 1930’s of last century; however, the official start of F1 races is dated back to 1950 by the foundation of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) the body that governs F1 since 1950. Statistics are calculated since that date.
- Ferrari is the only F1 team to participate in all seasons since 1950. They never missed one single season. Also, Ferrari is the only team that has its own racing track and all the car components are in-house made. That’s why other teams have combined names (McLaren Mercedes, Red Bull Renault and so on), which means that the chassis is from McLaren and the engine is from Mercedes.
- There are huge benefits for countries that host the races. Both economical and touristic. That’s why governments allocate huge budgets in order to host an F1 race. In the early 90’s, Lebanon was so close to host a Monte Carlo-like city F1 race and Max Mosley, FIA president at the time , came to Beirut and the track was designed from Ain il Mraysseh all the way to Ramlet il baydah Corniche and back to downtown. Unfortunately, political and security instability stopped the project.
- F1 is the laboratory from which road cars gets their technology. I will mention some examples: sequential gearboxes, ABS and ceramic brakes, traction control systems. they all started in the F1 cars and made their way to normal road cars today.
- F1 drivers and mechanics wear clothes (overalls) made of Nomex which is a brand fiber that can survive for 11 seconds in temperatures of 840 degrees Celsius. In comparison, the maximum temperature in a sauna is 100 degrees, in an apartment fire it would be up to 800 degrees and the lava in a volcanic eruption reaches between 750 and 1,000 degrees. The first fire-resistant racing overalls were worn in 1979 by Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann. They consisted of five layers of a fire-resistant material, as also used by NASA for space suits. Nowadays, the overalls, that are tailor-made to fit the drivers perfectly, are made of two to four layers of Nomex material. It’s also good to mention that even drivers’ underwear is made of Nomex.
- Formula One tire is filled with nitrogen instead of air. As a result, the pressure is kept constant even under extreme loads, which improves various factors including safety because even the slightest changes in the tire pressure of just 0.05 bar can lead to a reduction in the steering precision
- The first Safety Car in Formula One racing was used in 1973 at the Canadian Grand Prix. Since 2000, the driver is Bernd Maylander.
Now some performance figures about an F1 car below:
In the 1950’s, F1 cars were managing specific power outputs of around 100 horsepower/liter (about what a modern ‘performance’ road car can manage today). That figure rose steadily until the arrival of the ‘turbo age’ turbo engines. Some of which were producing anything up to 750 horsepower/liter. Then, once the sport returned to normal aspiration in 1989, that figure fell back, before steadily rising again. The ‘power battle’ of the last few years saw outputs creep back towards the 1000 horsepower barrier, some teams producing more than 300 horsepower/liter in 2005 which was the final year of 3 liter V10 engines. Since 2006, the regulations have required the use of 2.4 liter V8 engines, with power outputs falling around 20%. 2014 is again the 1.6 liter Turbo V6 engines.
- 0 to 100 km/h: 1.7 seconds
- 0 to 200 km/h: 3.8 seconds
- 0 to 300 km/h: 8.6 seconds
The acceleration figure is usually 1.45G which means the driver is pushed back in his seat at acceleration 1.45 times gravity or 1.45 times his weight. Just imagine the feeling.
It takes an F1 car considerably less distance to stop from 160 km/h than a road car uses to stop from 100 km/h. Braking power in F1 is extremely high. The F1 car will be able to brake from a speed of around 100km/h to stop in about 17 meters. Road cars would take about 3-4 times more that distance.
The carbon/ceramic brakes in combination with tire technology and the car’s aerodynamics produce truly remarkable braking forces. The deceleration force under braking is usually 4G, and can be as high as 5–6G when braking from extreme speeds for instance, at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit or at Indianapolis.
In 2007, Martin Brundle, a former Grand Prix driver, tested the Williams Toyota FW29 F1 car, and stated that under heavy braking he felt like his lungs were hitting the inside of his ribcage, forcing him to exhale involuntarily. Here the aerodynamic drag actually helps, and can contribute as much as 1.0G of braking force, which is the equivalent of the brakes on most road sports cars. In other words, if the throttle is let go, the F1 car will slow down under drag at the same rate as most sports cars do with braking, at least at speeds above 150 km/h.
One last thing, F1 drivers do not utilize engine or compression braking as we do in our normal cars, although it may seem this way. The only reason they downshift gears prior to entering the corner is to be in the correct gear for maximum acceleration on exiting the corner.