Formula 1 Facts
  • The very first car race was between Paris and Rouen in 1894, and the winning car averaged 16.4 kilometers per hour. By 1971, the Italian F-1 Grand Prix was won at an average speed of 242 kph. The very first Formula 1 race was in 1948. Today the Formula 1 Championship consists of a series of some 17 races (increasing to 18 in 2008), run every two weeks between March and October.

  • In modern times now, an F1 car accelerates in 3.7 seconds from 0 to 160km/h and can cover one km from a standing start in 12 seconds – roughly five times faster than a normal passenger car. To brake down from 160 to 0, an F1 car takes fewer than two seconds. During this, up to four G’s are measured. In other words, the driver's body is forced into the seatbelt with four times his own weight.

  • The engines are amazing. They generate some 900 bhp at around 18,000 rpm (19,000 in the case of Williams BMW). Compare this to normal road car, which generates about 140 bhp at 4,000 rpm. Actually, by the 1990s, the engines were limited to only 12,000 rpm, because of friction in the valve train. But then Renault invented pneumatically driven valves, which let the maximum engine speed jump to 18,000 rpm.

  • Each car is made of about 9,000 different components. The body and chassis are made from carbon fiber, which when compared to steel, is four times stiffer and five times stronger. The carbon fiber steering wheel alone costs $150,000.

  • Each Formula 1 car has about one-and-a-half kilometers of wire, integrating the data from some 120 sensors that glean information such as the angle of the rear wing, the brake temperature, the oil pressure and the tire pressure. These vital statistics are constantly relayed back to the crew in the pits.

  • Formula 1 today means that the engine is three liters or less, has ten cylinders, and can't be supercharged. The car also has to always weigh at least 600 kilograms, and have four wheels, only two of which are steered or driven.

  • Each Formula 1 team generates around 36.8 gigabytes of data during all race meetings and 63.9 gigabytes of data at all tests. This equates to about 80 full CDs' worth of data.

  • A formula 1 team takes approximately seven seconds for a pit stop (varies), to refuel and to change four wheels and tires, and the cars can be refueled at a rate of 12 liters per second.

  • A Formula 1 car uses aerodynamics to generate, at full speed, a downforce of 2-and-a-half times its own weight, so that it'll stick to the road really well. At 160 km per hour, they're generating their own weight in downforce - so they could theoretically drive upside down on the roof of a tunnel.

  • The downforce means that the car can corner at 5Gs - but when you hit the bend, the driver's head suddenly weighs 25 kilograms, and their 70 kilogram body now weighs a third-of-a-tonne. 5 Gs is enough to stop you from breathing. The drivers need supreme concentration, to ignore the G-forces and maintain their focus for the hour-or-so that it takes to cover 305 kilometers.

  • Following in the slipstream of the F-1 car is the domestic car. Many of its features (disc brakes, turbo-charger, advanced tire technology, and sophisticated valve trains) were spin-offs from Formula 1 cars.

  • The drivers pilot these fascinating vehicles at speeds up to 360 km per hour, while semi-reclining in a tub made of expensive carbon fiber, with their backsides only a few centimeters off the road.

  • After each race, the engineers have to frantically tinker with the car's design for the next non-negotiable race deadline in two weeks. And in each race, the car is substantially different from what it was in the previous race.

  • The software to integrate the data from the sensors, and to manage the engine and gearbox, comprises some half-a-million lines of code, which took some 20 person-years to write.

  • The gearbox can have up to seven different speeds - and if the timing of the changing of the gears is off by even a few thousandths of a second, the gearbox will self-destruct.

  • It takes a lot of money and brainpower to roll one of these F-1 babes out onto the track. For example, McLaren has a budget of about $500 million per year, and employs 350 people.

  • Teams have even constructed 3D digital replicas of each racetrack, so they can test the engine before each race.

  • An engineer estimated that half of his 15-year career had been spent on developing traction control, which can be banned anytime by FIA this year.

  • During the races, if the air temperature is for example 35 degree celsius then the track temperature is usually 10 degree more, i.e. 46 degree Celsius. Hence the temperature that drivers have to face (inside the cockpit wearing their racing overalls which is made up of two to four layers of Nomex material - a synthetic fiber, to ensure protection against temperatures of 700° C for at least twelve seconds) is 10 degree more, i.e. 56 degree celsius. In races like in Malaysia, heat and humidity can cause drivers to lose up to 4-litres of fluid.

  • The Formula 1 teams compete with a car that typically handles 2,500 gear changes during a race. This figure varies from circuit to circuit.

  • In one year each Formula 1 team consumes around 200,000 liters of unleaded fuel for racetrack and testing.

  • Each Formula 1 team completes approximately 22,500 kilometers when racing in a year including Practice, Qualifying, and Races.

  • A Formula 1 team takes between 10-12 engines (from year 2005, they will be allowed just one engine for every two races) and three spare gearboxes to each race, two built with rear suspension and one loose unit.

  • The teams on the average transports approximately 28 tonnes of freight, including three complete race cars at approximately 600kgs each, to a Grand Prix.

  • The Formula 1 teams have a test team which comprises: test team manager, test team engineer, two driver engineers (same two as from the race team), 2 system engineers, chief mechanic, 12 mechanics, 2 gearbox technicians, data analyst, engine dress, two tire men, spares co-coordinator /chief truckie, three full-time truckies, fabricator/laminator/truckie, part-time truckie. The teams have a race team which comprises: technical director, race team manager, senior race engineer, chief mechanic, software engineer, race strategist, two driver engineers, two assistant engineers, two system engineers, two data analysts, 10 mechanics, 2 gearbox mechanics 2 fabricator/carbon repairmen, engine dress, chief truckie, two tire men, electrician, 2 support crew, security, senior fuel technician, fuel technician, spares co-coordinator, team co-coordinator. The teams send between 60 (fly-away races) and 135 (European races) personnel to each Grand Prix.

  • The job of the scientist is to discover phenomena that are already there, but currently unknown to humans. The job of the engineer is creative - to design and build something that has never been built before. You could say that today, in the design of the Formula 1 car, engineering comes closest to art.
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