Formula 1! The hot persuit of unlimited speed. It¡¯s where the cars of dreams are made into reality. It¡¯s not so easy to say what F1 is all about in a few words. But no one could disagree with the idea that it¡¯s a mixture of enthusiasm, high-tech, and wildness. How can F1 cars reach speeds of up to 400km/h and make their 180 degree turns at speeds of 200km/h? This edition of Science will tell you all about it.
The heart of all F1 machines. But the engine¡¯s outward appearance may seem less impressive than expected, since the F1A(Federation International Automobile) stipulates that all F1 cars have to have 10 pistons in their engine (whereas normal cars have v-6) and engines with a maximum displacement of 3000cc and with no turbo or super-charger system. This sounds quite ordinary compared with commercial cars, but miracles can be achieved from little. The v-10 with 3000cc engine displacement creates more than 900 horsepower, reaching its maximum speed at somewhere close to 400km/h or more. Still not impressed?
Then imagine a car smaller than a Tico with an engine about 4 times stronger than a Lamborghini¡¯s. And that¡¯s what F1 is all about. The F1 engine¡¯s success mainly comes from it¡¯s RPM which is about 4 times faster than in normal sports cars. This is possible due to the use of special types of alloys like MMC(Metal Matrix Comosite) and PMC(Polymer Matrix Composite) that make up the engine, along with little bits of gear making all the difference.
Aerodynamics Judging from its appearance, F1 cars are shaped more like a plane than a car. F1 cars are expressly made for optimum aerodynamics. From the nose to the tail of the car, aerodynamics is the top priority. The key point in aerodynamics is to reduce air resistance and to push the car downward, allowing the car to speed up easily and keeping the speed even during turns.
In the early days, the main concern in aerodynamics was how to reduce air resistance but today aerodynamics is mainly concerned with a car¡¯s ¡®ground effect¡¯. The ground effect refers to the forces pushing the car downward. The lowered chassis creates much bigger down-force which eventually increases the speed of the car. Thanks to this technology, the F1 cars of today can even theoretically run on the ceiling of a tunnel.
Rear Wings The rear wing, just like the ones you see on normal cars, are there for aerodynamic reasons. The rear wings also create down-force as the air hits the rear wing and goes upward while the car is in turn pushed downward.
Airbox This is the tunnel-like part just behind the driver¡¯s head. Its main function is to cool the engine. Therefore the engine¡¯s efficiency can depend on the amount of air transmitted through the airbox.
Tires Just as planes have wings to fly and ships have masts to sail, cars have tires to run on. And therefore without doubt, the same applies to F1 cars. The F1 tire is much more than round-shaped rubber, since it has to able to hold up 600kg of car¡¯s weight plus its down-force of about 5G, which makes up about 3.5 ton in total, as well as acceleration that pulls the car to the speed of 100km/h in 2 seconds. And sure enough, this is the kind of pressure that most tires can¡¯t withstand.
The tires in F1 racing count more than anything else since they have to be there with the car till the end of the race to win. Plus they are crucial to stability as the car goes around curves, which is where most drivers get the chance to pass the other cars. The major concern with tires lies in the temperature and pressure that goes into the tires.
The tire needs to be at the range of 70~95 ¡£F to perform to their best ability. If the tire gets too cold, the driver cannot have as much ¡®grip¡¯ on the ground as he or she wants. And if it¡¯s too hot, then the tire will eventually melt down.
The size of the tire is different depending on its position. The rear tires are relatively bigger than the ones in front. This is to transmit the output of the engine to the ground more effectively. However, due to other aerodynamic parts of the car, such as side-wings, there isn¡¯t any loss in aerodynamics due to the bigger tire size.
Steering wheel Unlike ordinary steering wheels, the F1 steering wheel can be pulled out from the car and put back in anytime. The digitalized steering wheel is also more than just a wheel. It provides a lot of useful information such as speed, lap time, and remaining fuel. In addition, the clutch and gears are on the wheel for the drivers` convenience.