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A. Legends and the modern age
B. Under pressure
C. Winds of change
D. Endurance test
E. In the driver's seat
F. Crazy kilometres
G. Pushing the right buttons
H. What a rush
I. Harmonious technology
J. The 'police' of Formula 1
K. Desirable body shapes
L.Fit to Drive
M. Black magic
N. Taking the heat
A. Legends and the modern age
In the midst of dramatic changes in technology and global expansion, Formula 1 (F1) occasionally takes time to look at its past. The historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit – site of the Belgian Grand Prix - is a fascinating contrast to many of the other ultra-modern tracks.
- On the right track
- Around the corner
- A global game
- Seriousabout safety
On the right track
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When selecting a track, F1 organizers opt for a blend of tradition and modernity. Bahrain and Shanghai, both new tracks hosting their first races in 2004, represent a new age in F1 racing. However, race organisers have no intention of abandoning tracks steeped in tradition such as Spa-Francorchamps or the city track in Monaco, which are highlights of any F1 season.
"If it was up to us," said Sam Michael, Technical Director at WilliamsF1, "we would prefer to still be driving on these tracks even 15 or 20 years from now."
Five of the seven grand prix races in the first official F1 season back in 1950 are still part of the every year’s schedule, and some of them are held on the original tracks: Monaco (Monte Carlo), Britian (Silverstone), Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps) and Italy (Monza).
Although there have been numerous track design changes over the years, Monaco and Spa-Francorchamps have retained a great deal of their original character. The labyrinth of corners in the streets of Monte Carlo present drivers and teams with very special challenges, as does the rollercoaster track in the Ardennes, which at 6.9km is currently the longest grand prix track. It's a real drivers' track, which separates the men from the boys, particularly when it rains.
Around the corner
Spa-Francorchamps is world famous because of Eau Rouge, the most spectacular corner in F1. After the hairpin bend at La Source, drivers speed down the hill at 300km/h and drive through the left-right-left combination of corners at the bottom. If the driver is brave and has set up his car perfectly, he can take the corner flat-out. At the corner drivers are up against centrifugal forces of 4g - four times the force of gravity. Then they dart back up the 15 per cent gradient and at one point all they can see ahead of them is the sky – like a jet pilot climbing.
When recalling his debut drive in the Ardennes, record-breaking world champion Michael Schumacher said: "The moment I discovered that I could drive full throttle through Eau Rouge, a deliciously warm feeling of contentment flowed through my veins."
A global game
With 17 races (18 races from 2008 onwards) on four continents, F1 is a genuine world championship and a sport without frontiers. It's no surprise then that everything is geared towards global expansion: in 1967 the first Canadian Grand Prix was held, and Brazil joined in 1973. With the Japanese Grand Prix in 1976, Asia finally took its place on the global F1 map. F1 celebrated a successful debut in Australia in 1985 and likewise in 1999 in Malaysia. A special milestone in the history of F1 came in 1986 with the Hungarian Grand Prix, with which F1 broke down the Iron Curtain long before the politicians managed to.
Serious about safety
Of all the traditional tracks from the fifties, the only ones that have survived are those that have been able to evolve to meet this sport's extremely high safety requirements. The Nürburgring, a state-of-the-art grand prix track, was built in the shadow of the legendary North Loop, which once threaded its way along a length of 22.7 kilometers and 180 corners through the green landscape of the Eifel region – a pioneer in a new generation of racetracks.
The stringent safety regulations, as imposed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA – F1's governing body), and the interests of the drivers and spectators have been met by the new tracks in Bahrain and Shanghai. One is located in the middle of a desert in the emerging oil sheikhdom, the other on 40,000 concrete pillars in a marshy area outside the Chinese economic metropolis. The state-of-the-art facilities were conceived by the Aachen-based architect, Hermann Tilke. His motto: a race has to be spectacular for both driver and spectator, but not to the detriment of safety. "The challenge was to design the tracks so that drivers would make mistakes and so make overtaking manoeuvres possible," explained the lord of the new rings.
B. Under pressure
Formula 1 (F1) is an extremely stressful sport. It applies stress to a driver's muscles and heart, but even more so on a driver's psyche. At the Hungarian Grand Prix only those who are mentally on top will be good enough to win.
- Racing pulses
- Full force
- Physical and mental training
- Road rage
Normally, F1 drivers are said to be 'men of steel' when it comes to nerves. However, as things begin to heat up just before the start of the race, some drivers find it difficult to keep a clear head.
Psychological stress and tension is evident in the drivers' pulses. In the pits, as they gear up for the start, their resting pulse rate is still at 60 beats per minute (bpm). Once they get into the cockpit, the pulse climbs to 90bpm, and during the warm-up lap it reaches 110bpm. Drivers attune themselves mentally ay the start by blanking out any other thoughts. Concentration and psychological training enables top drivers to hold a pulse rate of 130bpm as the lights turn green. Then the body takes over from the psyche. As they head down to the first corner, the pulse races up to 180bpm.
"During this phase", according to Austrian Josef Leberer, one of the most experienced fitness trainers in F1, "mental stress hits its peak."
No wonder – driving in a race requires total concentration, particularly just after the start. Drivers have to keep an eye on their rivals: those in front, those behind and those at the side. They also have to attempt to force their way into as good a position as possible before reaching that first corner; after all, for some this is quite often where the race is decided. This is all compounded by the extreme physical strain. 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.
However, drivers are not only under enormous stress during a race. Mental strength and concentration are essential in the lead-up to the race because restrictions on test drives mean that the right set-up has to be found quickly to cope with any track conditions. Qualifying is also a stressful situation, where the starting position on the grid is dependent on having one fast lap in which nothing goes wrong. Even the smallest error here could ruin the chance of victory.
Physical and mental training
To be able to deal with the stress involved in a Grand Prix season, with its 18 races on four continents, an F1 driver has to undergo regular fitness training with a professional trainer. The greater a driver's endurance, the lower his pulse rate and therefore the easier he can deal with the stress. There's no shortage of stress: adrenaline and noradrenaline send the body into a state of emergency, roughly twice as intense as that of an athlete stretched to his limit on a cycle ergometer. In the labyrinth of corners in Monaco, stress is at its greatest because the outer edges of the track do not have any gravel traps, just walls and crash barriers. This pushes a driver's pulse rate up to a peak of 210bpm.
For the Graz-based sports scientist, Michael Reinprecht, Formula 1 drivers are living proof "that psycho-emotional stress can induce a similarly high pulse frequency as that for heavy physical exertion". This makes it even more important for the drivers to use mental techniques to keep cool when estimating situations and to control their emotions better. In other words, to keep in check any feelings of resignation after making a mistake or annoyance at themselves or another driver.
"Top-level athletes who don't work on their mental performance can easily experience an all-or-nothing feeling," says Munich-based sports psychologist Professor Dieter Hackfort. "This increases stress, makes a driver frantic and disrupts concentration."
Under normal road conditions, stress is also a risk factor that cannot be underestimated. Indeed, overtaking at any price, with the dubious 'gain' of a few metres and seconds, vigorously drives up the blood pressure of the person overtaking and the one being overtaken.
Even World Champions sometimes have difficulty dealing with stress. For example, three years after winning his title in 1996 with Williams, and after a series of failures with other teams, Damon Hill retired somewhat embittered. His parting words were: "The only people who remember you if you are runner-up are your wife and your dog."
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C. Winds of change
In Formula 1, improving a race car's aerodynamic performance is of utmost importance – every tenth of a second lost is crucial. Only teams that have their own wind tunnel can keep up with the fast pace of technological developments.
Engine and transmission performance will be important as well, but will come second to the racecar's aerodynamic design.
"The wind tunnel is where races are won," says, Chief Designer at WilliamsF1. "The race track is where they are lost."
- Tunnel time
- Tough competition
- Speedy improvements
According to estimates by experts, the costs of improving aerodynamics now accounts for approximately 15% of a team's annual budget. Construction of a modern wind tunnel costs about 66 Million euros. Despite the high cost, most teams have built their own wind tunnels in the last few years. At WilliamsF1's headquarters in Grove, England, a centre for aerodynamics (unique to F1) has been developed around the existing wind tunnel.
"Despite all the changes to the regulations," says Patrick Head, Director of Engineering at WilliamsF1, "aerodynamics will always be one of the most important elements in F1."
The heart of any modern wind tunnel is the test section. The vehicle model is placed on a steel conveyor belt that simulates the road. Using fully synchronised multi-axle model management, the technicians are able to examine virtually all the factors that might affect a racecar on the track. WilliamsF1's Chief Aerodynamics Technician, believes that this results in "an increase in precision by 30 percent".
Another impressive feature is a giant fan with its carbon rotor blades, which achieve speeds of approximately 600 revolutions per minute. Powered by a 60-ton, 3-megawatt (4,000HP) engine, it generates tornado-like wind speeds that can deliver nine tons of air into the test section at up to 300km per hour in the space of only 30 seconds. The conveyor belt simulates driving the car because the asphalt also creates eddies that influence the aerodynamics.
During the tests in the wind tunnel, the aerodynamics technicians are interested in three values: down force, drag and pitch sensitivity. Greater down force increases the vehicle's cornering speed but should ideally be achieved without increasing drag. Pitch sensitivity indicates how strongly the car is affected by aerodynamic changes such as those created by uneven surfaces that continuously alter the distance of the wings and under-body to the surface of the track.
Newer wind tunnels, like WilliamsF1's, have the advantage of facilitating tests on one-to-one scale vehicles. Many wind tunnels allow testing only with 50% or 60%-sized models that are unsuitable for the exact simulation of the airflow through certain vehicle components such as wheel carriers or rims. Another method of testing is to use two smaller models, one behind the other, thus measuring the airflow created in the slipstream. The height and position of the models can be altered at any time via remote control – with a precision of 0.01mm. The wheels, accounting for roughly one-third of the entire vehicle's air resistance, are tightly fitted into the test installation on struts.
To stay ahead in the tough competition on the global market, all the major car manufacturers use their own wind tunnels. "Although it is becoming possible, with the increasing realism of numeric flow mechanics, to calculate more and more characteristics by computer, the experimental examination and refinement in the wind tunnel will remain indispensable in the foreseeable future," says Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser of the Allianz Center for Technology. "The main issue with passenger cars is the optimisation of air resistance and thus fuel consumption, but beyond that many other questions, such as the minimisation of wind noise, for instance, are also researched."
How quickly aerodynamic improvements can be implemented were seen in the new development stage of the Williams FW26. The Monday after the Monaco Grand Prix, WilliamsF1 Technical Director Sam Michael gave his engineers the task of carrying out extensive modifications on several parts, including: the sidepods, ventilation inlets, radiators, engine cover, exhaust pipe guideway, winglets, flip-ups, underbody, rear wings, tie rods and front-axle spare wings. Only four races later, at the French Grand Prix, the enhanced racecar was ready. Without the wind tunnel, these improvements could only have been achieved by the beginning of the next season.
For these modifications alone WilliamsF1's wind tunnel team worked for approximately 500 hours. All in all, according to estimates by experts, the aerodynamics technicians of the F1 teams spend up to 8,000 hours a year in the wind tunnels. To make optimal use of the systems it is not uncommon for work to proceed in two or three shifts.
"Our wind tunnel provides great possibilities for the optimisation of our car's performance," says Gavin Fisher. "It would be a grave mistake not to use these possibilities to the full."
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D. Endurance test
In Formula 1, the durability and reliability of materials can mean the difference between winning and losing. The motor vehicle materials are under extreme strain as drivers push their vehicles to the limit, while at the same time the materials are significant in ensuring driver safety. Finally, for the teams, the service life of important parts is imperative for financial reasons.
A numbers game
- A numbers game
- Regular replacement
- Longer life
- Sensitive electronics
F1 is an impressive numbers game. When a racecar speeds towards the famous Copse corner after the start-finish straight at 300 km/h on the Silverstone circuit in the British Grand Prix, it resembles a volcano that is about to erupt. At 19,000 revolutions per minute, the pistons travel 25m in a second, 550 litres of air are aspirated and approximately 150,000 items of engine and vehicle data are collected and processed. When a driver brakes, the brakes connect – and within one second the brake discs heat up to 1,000°C. Despite strong vibrations, the transmission has to shift reliably and in total there are approximately 2,600 gearshifts per race. On winding tracks, such as Monaco, the number of gearshifts can reach 3,100.
Every part of the vehicle is subject to extreme strain. And the driver needs to be sure that all parts will cope under the pressure.
Expensive hi-tech materials like carbon, magnesium or titanium are the reason why F1 vehicles and the various parts can continue to perform under extreme pressure and heat. Approximately 60% of an F1 car is made of the composite material carbon fibre. All three materials have the advantage that they are lightweight and also extremely durable. Despite being durable there is a constant need for service after each Grand Prix. All components are inspected after every race – and many parts will already need replacing. For example, the clutch needs to be replaced after every race. This is mainly because, to stop the wheels spinning wildly when the car starts, the clutch does not close completely. Within only a few tenths of a second, temperatures of up to 1,000°C are reached and the carbon-fibre clutch discs begin to glow. In contrast, the titanium transmission housing may be strong enough to last an entire season. However, the gear wheels and bearings inside the transmission are replaced after every race.
Even the engine, with approximately 5,000 individual components, is subjected to an extensive overhaul after a race weekend. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), for financial reasons, changed the regulations at the beginning of the 2004 season, stipulating that a team may now use only a single engine for the entire duration of a Grand Prix weekend. The engine must now not only function during the race but also during free practice and qualifying. Compared to previous years, each vehicle must cover approximately twice the distance. There used to be special qualifying engines, constructed for the sole purpose of achieving the best possible position on the starting grid. These engines were nowhere near as durable and could never survive a full race distance.
The trend towards longevity has resulted in longer service intervals for standard production vehicles as well – to the delight of drivers everywhere. Modern electronic systems are another feature that help identify signs of wear earlier and with more accuracy. Even if it is unnecessary, as is the case in F1, for passenger car drivers to completely dismantle their cars after every lengthy drive, Dr. Harthmut Wolff of the Allianz Center for Technology would still advise the following: "Regular inspections and workshop visits not only maintain reliability but are especially important for safety. After all, those parts in a car that are subject to the most wear are the tyres and the brakes."
In F1, shock absorbers, brake discs and pads, and the exhaust system, which is particularly susceptible to wear with exhaust temperatures of approximately 950°C, are routinely removed and replaced after a race. The underbody has to be newly produced and the chassis repainted for every race. Even the drivers' clothing must be regularly replaced due to safety standards and approximately 12 pairs of overalls are required for each driver per season.
The electronics are extremely sensitive. Most of the sensors that measure data throughout the race do not survive the heat and vibration for longer than a single race. The electronic components inside the steering wheel are slightly better protected so that the multi-functional control centre in the cockpit does its job for at least two races. By then, however, it too is worn beyond repair and needs to be replaced. The engine radiator is usually also replaced after the second run. After the fifth Grand Prix, the lightweight magnesium wheels are no longer suitable for use in F1. During their service life, wheels cover approximately 3,000km whereas, the suspension springs can manage an entire season. The driver and his style play an important part in deciding when the rear or front wing of the racecar needs to be replaced. These parts are replaced immediately if they get damaged.
There really is only one part that can usually be relied upon - the carbon-fibre monocoque, or driver's safety cell, which is virtually indestructible.
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E. In the driver's seat
Alongside developing faster cars and exhilarating races, safety is one of Formula 1 motorsport's top priorities. The driver's seat is vital in ensuring each driver's safety, and will make a crucial contribution to safety at the French Grand Prix.
- Safety cell
- Creature comforts
- Passenger safety
- Take a seat
Like the ongoing technical developments to improve performance on the track, safety measures are always undergoing constant evaluation and improvement.
"We set ourselves two goals when developing a car," explained Brian O´Rourke, Chief Composites Engineer at WilliamsF1. "We want to build a fast racing car and provide the driver with as much protection as possible."
The most important part of this safety puzzle is the monocoque - a safety cell in a F1 car made of carbon-fibre composite material. Next to this protective hull, the seat shell should not only provide the driver with a certain degree of comfort, it should also ensure that he enjoys maximum safety in his workplace. The seat cannot be permanently fixed to the monocoque, according to the technical rules posted by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), it may only be installed using two vertical bolts. These bolts must be clearly identified for the rescue team, easily accessible and capable of being removed from all the cars using the same tool.
This innovation, introduced in 1999, enables a driver involved in an accident to be removed from the car by the rescue team while still strapped into his seat shell. The seat must also be equipped with a device, to which the Kendrick Extrication Device (KED) can be mounted for enhanced protection of the back and neck areas. The KED ensures that injuries to the vertebral column are avoided, a risk that drivers were previously exposed to. The driver seat fastening in the monocoque has been standardised, so that the rescue teams all around the world can undergo training on how to remove it. It is a practical measure that provides additional protection for the drivers.
Drivers are subjected to extreme stress in the tight confines of an F1 car cockpit. To support their performance with maximum comfort, seat design is a focus for all teams. Engineers use a body cast of the driver to design a seat, which takes driver comfort as far as possible into account, and also can also be ideally integrated into the cockpit. The body-contoured seats are made of a carbon-fibre epoxy composite material with added polyester foam padding to provide the driver with the best possible seat position. At WilliamsF1, the seats are also upholstered in an extra-soft and extremely comfortable Alcantara suede leather. Important factors for all the materials used are that they do not burn, they do not heat up the seat and that the static electricity resulting from the friction generated by driver movement in the seat is kept to a minimum.
The seat in a passenger car is not only for comfort and appearance.
"Car seats are a major safety element in modern cars," according to Dr. Hartmuth Wolff from the Allianz Center for Technology. "They support the protective effect of belts and airbags in the event of frontal and side impacts, and they are the crucial restraint system for rear-end collisions."
F1 cars differ from passenger car seats in that they must be capable of accommodating different occupants. Adjustment options are something the driver should make use of, as protection, comfort and ergonomics will only be assured when a seat has been adjusted correctly.
In contrast to passenger car seats, the seat shells in an F1 car significantly restrict a driver's freedom of motion. An F1 driver is strapped into his seat shell similar to that of a fighter aircraft pilot with a five or six-point harness. The individual belts can be released with a single hand movement. The rules specify that a driver must be capable of getting out of a normal strapped-in position in the car within five seconds.
Take a seat
One of the most important criteria for performance of an F1 race car is positioning of its centre of gravity. This will also influence the driver's seat position. The driver contributes to optimum weight distribution by lying rather than sitting in the seat shell, which is mounted as low as possible to the floor of the car. With the introduction of cars with a raised nose, aerodynamic requirements have resulted in a driver's feet being positioned higher up than his posterior when driving. This makes it even more important that the seat is individually matched to a driver.
Every driver seat in F1 is a unique item. If necessary, team colleagues can exchange cars, but never the seat. If a driver has to use the spare car he always has to take his seat with him.
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F. Crazy kilometres
Despite intricate planning, a Formula 1 team's logistics experts are guaranteed excitement and adventure when F1 is on tour. All the race equipment needs to be in the right place at the right time and nothing left behind. The logistics teams rely on aircrafts to transport equipment overseas for races such as the United States Grand Prix; otherwise F1 events around the world would not be possible.
Before the race begins
- Before the race begins
- Mobile workshops
- Communication is crucial
- Home and away
For WilliamsF1 to deliver a top performance at a Grand Prix, team manager Dickie Stanford and his colleagues are involved in a race before the race on track even begins. Their target is the destination of the next F1 race and setting up on time, instead of the finishing line. Approximately 80 boxes are packed for each race at the WilliamsF1 Headquarters at Grove in the UK - the smallest is beer-crate size, the largest a bulky container.
When it comes to packing, it is all a matter of attention to detail. However, Dickie Stanford knows he can rely on his team. "For us, each individual department is responsible for ensuring everything is packed that will ultimately be required on the race track,"he says. "All I have to do is make sure the crates are actually sent on their way".
With 18 appearances on four continents in the 2007 season, F1 covered roughly 100,000km - and it does not travel light. WilliamsF1 alone ships 24 tonnes of material to an overseas race, and an extra six tonnes comes from engine partner Toyota. There are plenty of machines on board the removal trucks other than the F1 vehicles. The removal trucks are converted into extremely well equipped workshops at the racetrack. This allows complex repairs and enhancements to be performed on the cars during a Grand Prix weekend.
There is a simple golden rule for the F1 caravan: take as little as possible - but take everything you need. An 80-page checklist systematically records what should be in the freight boxes. Always packed are two cars and one spare car, mounted on pallets for the flight, so that they can be placed on top of each other into the cargo area of a Boeing 747. Then there is one chassis, spare parts, tools, wheels and pit lane equipment. In addition, Toyota supplies five to six engines for each race with tools and spare parts.
Communication is crucial
The basic equipment for the WilliamsF1 team at the racetrack includes 16 computers and 26 notebooks. Fast communication is a vital prerequisite for top performance, so 100 radio units plus headphones are also in service. There are also useful items that make life bearable trackside and that are necessary to cater for VIP guests - ranging from an espresso machine to a vacuum cleaner, 1,500 paper napkins with the team logo and 3,000 bottles of mineral water for the team. "All in all," calculated Dickie Stanford, "we are easily looking at almost 10,000 single items."
Home and away
In contrast to overseas trips, races in Europe are a logistics routine for the teams. WilliamsF1 uses two articulated trucks, two trucks - deployed as workshops and offices, and a mobile home. The Toyota Headquarters sends out one lorry, a truck for the technicians and an additional mobile home. For overseas races, it is all about improvisation for workshops and offices as the trucks are left at home. F1 still travels with lots of luggage: one complete workshop is equivalent to the storage volume of eight jumbo jets. Regardless of the continent visited by F1, everything is where it should be, at the latest on the Wednesday before the race.
Trucks with the workshop equipment start out roughly 10 days before the first practice session. This advance party sets up the team pit lane, paints the floor, mounts monitors to the wall and uses 500m of data cable and 300m of power cable to install an extensive computer network. Trucks with the cars on board leave later. Similarly, jumbos chartered by F1 take off roughly nine days before an overseas race. The WilliamsF1 team sends its equipment out from London. For Ferrari, a 747 takes off from Milan.
Teams can take up to one and a half days to pack the equipment, but when returning from an overseas race the time available to pack the equipment is slashed to between four and five hours. The 'F1 Airline' is run on a tight schedule. Each manoeuvre has to be perfect. It is all down to teamwork; everyone has to be able to rely on their team members. To ensure that everything is where it should be when arriving at the next event on the F1 calendar, each part is packed at precisely the place designated for it. And time is money - teams that arrive too late are penalised by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone - with a stipulated penalty.
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G. Pushing the right buttons
In the past, steering wheels in Formula 1 were round and were designed with the sole purpose of keeping the cars on the track. Today, at the Canadian Grand Prix, the steering wheel is the control centre in the cockpit, equipped with buttons and switches intended to make the driver's job easier and the car faster.
- History lesson
- Dexterous drivers
- Passenger vehicles
- The future
You do not have to go back far in F1 history to see how rapidly the steering wheel has changed. As recently as 1992 steering wheels were still round, with a piece of metal in the middle supporting, usually, just three buttons - one for engaging idle speed, one for activating the water bottle and one for the radio.
However, the development of electronics in F1 started revolutionary developments by technicians. John Barnard - a technical guru, was one of the forerunners, in the late 1980s, he installed a system in Nigel Mansell's car that allowed the driver to flick a switch without taking his hands off the wheel. Not only was that easier but, with about 3,000 gearshifts per Grand Prix, also saved a great deal of time.
However, that was only to be the beginning. Over the years, more and more buttons and switches have been added – for example to activate the launch control or the speed limiter for the pit lane. Beyond that, the driver can now optimise the set-up during the race; examples of set-up alterations include, adjusting the brake force distribution between the front and rear wheels or modifying the traction control, or the differential and fuel-air mixture in the engine.
The sheer number of buttons demands a degree of dexterity of the driver to ensure the optimal performance of the car. So that they will not get confused whilst under extreme pressure, a large display informs the driver about the current settings. It also shows the driver essential parameters, such as lap times, engine speed and the speed of the vehicle.
However, the benefits of technology come at a price, each steering wheel costs approximately $A44,128* (25,000 euros). Their 'hand tool' is also dear to the drivers. Many of them would prefer to take it back to the pit with them if they are forced to abandon their car beside the track. But regulations state that it has to be reattached to the steering column to keep the racing car manoeuvrable. The regulations also state that the driver must be able to both detach the steering wheel and leave the cockpit in the space of five seconds.
One thing is certain - that the steering wheel of a modern F1 car is versatile. On average, it fulfils another 12 functions besides steering. Roughly 20 different buttons and switches are commonplace. "I would not go so far as to say that all those buttons are too much for drivers to cope with," Formula 1 expert Christian Danner says. "But as practical experience continues to show, the potential for error is still relatively high."
A wrong button pressed in the heat of the moment can occasionally lead to misunderstandings. For example, during radio communication with the pits, sometimes a driver will incur a drive-through penalty because, when entering the pit lane, he presses a different button instead of the speed limiter, thus coming into the pit at too great a speed. Nevertheless, experts unanimously agree that the buttons and switches are much better located within reach on the steering wheel than if they were spread somewhere else in the cockpit.
The steering wheel is not only a hi-tech product because of its multi-functionality. Just as is used for the race car, special lightweight materials, such as carbon, aluminium and titanium, as well as steel, rubber and plastic, are used for the production of a steering wheel. Each F1 season, five steering wheels are usually produced per driver, taking about 100-man hours, each, to manufacture. Each steering wheel comprises approximately 120 individual parts - while still weighing only 1.3kg. In principle, the steering wheels for the two drivers of any given team are the same, although the respective functions are not always located in identical positions - one driver may prefer to have the radio button under his right thumb, another next to his left index finger.
The number of functions and adjustments has also greatly increased in standard passenger vehicles over the years. "The trend in standard production - analogous to F1 - to shift functionalities to the steering wheel means increased comfort and more safety because the driver will not be distracted from the traffic as much, and is also able to keep his hands on the wheel at all times - at least, if he is familiar with the vehicle," Dr Hartmuth Wolff of the Allianz Center for Technology tells us. "There are significant differences between the models of the various manufacturers concerning the type and location of the controls."
In F1, the number of buttons and switches may be reduced in the near future. Max Mosley, president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), hopes to succeed in implementing his plans to reform F1, mainly intending to reduce the constant, expensive development of new electronic aids. Less electronics, for example, through unified software for all the teams or the prohibition of traction control, would automatically result in a reduction of steering-wheel buttons.
To Christian Danner the equation works out. "That would automatically increase focus on the drivers' performances," he predicts, "although of course safety must not be compromised by the changes."
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H. What a rush
Pit stops provide some of the most spectacular moments of Formula 1 (F1) - with every fraction of a second providing a thrill. One small mistake could decide between the winner and the losers.
Off the track
- Off the track
- A scheduled pit stop
- Changing the lanes
- Elite forces
The key moments of a Grand Prix often take place off the track – in the pit lane. A good performance in the pit lane can win races, but saving vital seconds can be extremely stressful. The pit crews have to fulfil difficult demands, so it's no surprise that teams take utmost care when putting together their pit crew. "For this job," says Sam Michael, WilliamsF1's Technical Director, "the best are only just good enough."
These quick stops for a F1 racecar are extremely important, because once a car is standing still; everything else needs to be fast and flawless. The pit crew, dressed like astronauts during a space-walk even in the hottest conditions, pounce upon command. What at first glance looks like complete chaos is really a perfectly studied choreography: 23 people - completing one job.
A scheduled pit stop
0.0 seconds: the car stops. Time starts running.
0.2 seconds: high-powered airguns are applied to the central wheel nuts to loosen them.
1.0 seconds: the car is lifted at the front by a hydraulic jack and at the rear by a manual one.
1.5 seconds: the fuelling hose is attached to the tank nozzle. A red light in the helmet visor tells the refueller that the fuel is flowing – at 12 litres per second.
2.5 seconds: the wheels have been taken off and removed.
3.5 seconds: new wheels are fitted and the wheel nuts tightened. The airguns are disconnected. A safety pin preventing the wheels from coming loose is inserted.
3.8 seconds: the car is lowered to the ground again.
4.3 seconds: The driver is signalled to engage first gear. His helmet visor is cleaned and, if necessary, any debris is removed from the sidepods so that the engine won't overheat.
7.0 seconds: The refueller's helmet visor display switches to green and the hose is disconnected.
7.3 seconds: The lollipop man raises his sign, signalling that all's clear.
The stop-and-go traffic in the pit lane is a fascinating spectacle and always provides exciting moments. But how long a car is stationary does not only depend on the performance of the pit crew. It's determined by how much fuel is added or whether refuelling takes place at all. Refuelling, in the future, will become even faster and research is underway to find out how the flow rate can be increased without compromising safety.
Changing the lanes
In response to the pit lanes of most F1 circuits becoming wider and safer in the past decade or so, the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) raised the speed limit to 100 km/h. Due to a reduction in time arriving for and leaving each pit stop, this means that teams can consider running with tactics that might include making additional pit stops. Only in narrow pit lanes, such as Monaco, the limit remains at 80km/h.
For the teams' strategists, the changes to the rules make race planning more varied and for the pit crews the working day has become even more hectic. However, both the team strategists and pit crew members are professionals and can cope with the strain, as this is what they have trained for during the lead up to the race season. "Before the season begins, our crew has gone through about 150 pit stops," Sam Michael explains. Normally, every move is perfect by then. If not, a special pit-stop car is kept for practice at the company Headquarters, at Grove, England.
The pit crews are F1's elite forces. They have to be excellent mechanics that will not make any mistakes even under immense pressure, they must be experienced as well as have nerves of steel to succeed. Sam Michael: "Many unexpected things can happen during a stop. It's important that everyone keeps a cool head in these situations because otherwise they'll make mistakes." And that's the only way that the crew can secure vital fractions of a second for their driver, who is counting on his pit crew, to be able to return to the track ahead of the competition. Every race strategy stands and falls with the pit stops.
So, it's not at all surprising that, when asked for the most critical moment during a pit stop, Sam Michael just smiles: "The whole stop is one big critical moment."
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I. Harmonious technology
In the 2008 season, Formula 1 will visit 18 racetracks around the world. Because each track is different, the teams need to adjust their cars for every race. An optimal set-up for the car, where the components, aerodynamics, chassis and tyres harmonise is just as important for success at the Monaco Grand Prix as elsewhere around the world.
- Adjustable aerodynamics
- Soft or hard
- Plenty of preparation
The laws of driving physics and their influence on the performance of the racing cars sometimes baffle F1 veterans such as Frank Williams. "It is difficult to grasp," says the WilliamsF1 Team principal, "that a car which is perfectly tuned for Melbourne will under steer greatly as soon as it is at Suzuka."
An optimal set-up is always a compromise. The car should perform on the straights as well as in fast and slow corners - a difficult task that cannot be achieved without certain trade-offs. It is the job of the racing engineers to establish a harmonious package of aerodynamics, chassis adjustments and tyre characteristics. But even if this balancing act succeeds, the weather on race day may still thwart their efforts.
The greatest influence on the racing car's grip is exerted by the aerodynamics. With the help of the adjustable front and rear wings, the wings can be set to suit every circuit. The principle is simple, the steeper the angle of a wing, the higher the air resistance will be and the stronger the downward pressure on the car at high speeds. A steep angle on the wings is helpful in corners but more of an impediment on fast straights. On the other hand, a flatter wing setting creates less air resistance and allows a higher top speed.
The angle of the car's wings is only one aspect of aerodynamics. "Before every race, drivers and technicians have to come up with another perfect solution," says F1 expert Christian Danner. On the one hand, they need to tune the car so that its centre of gravity is as low as possible; on the other hand, the car should not hit the ground each time it goes over an uneven surface. At the same time, they must use the mechanics to stabilise the aerodynamics. If the car's suspension is too soft, the aerodynamics are impaired because the distance between the car and the ground is constantly changing – and with that also the volume of air under the car which in turn affects the down force. The third component responsible for good performance that comes into play is the tyres. A car that has a lot of grip due to its aerodynamic properties can drive with harder tyres because it slips less. Cars that slip more due to less aerodynamic grip require softer rubber. Whatever the circumstances, the old rule of thumb still applies - harder tyres supply less grip but last longer than softer tyres that more or less stick to the track surface, but therefore survive less laps. Teams will tend to choose a tyre mixture that fits the handling of their car.
Soft or hard
Choosing between soft or hard tuning also applies to every standard production vehicle. Hard shock absorbers provide good handling - the car is like a 'plank' on the road. Softer settings for the shock absorbers promise comfort but the vehicle sways more. Lately, electronic control systems help to find the correct set-up. "Electronic shock absorber systems can adjust the damping force to the respective road, load and driving conditions," says Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser of the Allianz Center for Technology. "These control systems thus offer advantages concerning the stability of the vehicle and the transfer of forces between the tyres and the road surface, facilitating optimal performance."
Plenty of preparation
In F1, the teams do not set up their cars from scratch. They are provided with lots of data from tests and computer simulations, which is taken into account during set-up and they also have the experience from the previous year to fall back on. Furthermore, work for the set-up does not begin at the racetrack. "The more you can get done beforehand, the better," states Frank Dernie, Special Projects Engineer at WilliamsF1. "Due to the new engine regulations, we do not drive in the free practice as much as we used to. That makes it important to carry out many tests and calculations beforehand and to solve as much of the puzzle as possible."
Nonetheless, where the optimal set-up is concerned in the hi-tech F1 industry, a lot is still done by hand, through teamwork and sometimes intuition. "The computer simulations may be getting better and better and they certainly provide us with a lot of important information, but we still do not want to rely on them to the exclusion of all else," says Sam Michael, Technical Director responsible for the racing strategy."It is definitely a good feeling arriving at the race track with the greatest possible amount of data and information. The better we are prepared, the more time we have for improving details. We usually know pretty much what we still need to work on."
The rest is delicate tinkering and, like so much else in F1, is top secret.
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J. The 'police' of Formula 1
Wherever Formula 1 is held around the globe, it always brings along its own 'police' force and sport commissioners will be watching to ensure drivers and teams follow the rules. As soon as anyone commits a foul, the 'police' force reacts rapidly, which can result in heavy penalties for those who don't race by the rules.
- Exclusive team
- Difficult decisions
- The AZT
As an independent authority, sport commissioners are in hot pursuit of safety in F1. Because of this, they have the support of the drivers, even though the drivers may not always agree with their decisions. When Juan Pablo Montoya appeared to have forced Rubens Barrichello into the gravel trap during an overtaking manoeuvre in 2003 United States Grand Prix - his actions had major consequences. Montoya, a BMW WilliamsF1 driver, was given a drive-through penalty. By having to drive through the pit lane his chance of becoming world champion was lost despite his solid performance throughout the season.
They're tough, and when it comes to adhering to the regulations, the sport commissioners know no mercy. "Here and there a decision will of course at first glance seem hard on those involved," says Detlev Kramp, who was the race director of the German Grand Prix and who has been a sport commissioner for the past 32 years, "but safety is an absolute priority. And for everyone to follow the regulations is good for all participants and the best thing for Formula 1."
Three sport commissioners are appointed by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and are employed for every Grand Prix in the interests of fair play. One of them is from the country hosting the Grand Prix, and is nominated by the national motor racing association. The other two commissioners are from other countries and are selected by the FIA from a global pool of approximately 20 people. The trio work in parallel to the respective national race director of each Grand Prix and Charlie Whiting, the FIA's permanent F1 race director.
Qualifying for these positions is not easy. The commissioners must hold the FIA's international sport commissioner licence. But this certificate alone is no guarantee that someone will be elevated to the ranks of F1's exclusive circle of sport commissioners. Commissioners must also have relevant experience, know-how, diplomacy skills and a sensitive instinct. Sport commissioners' workplace has little of F1's glamour. All they have is a room beside the race track equipped with TV monitors so they can follow the live transmission of the race, a time monitor providing a general overview and a video cassette recorder to review controversial scenes in greater detail – a rather sobering environment.
Usually, the sport commissioners only deal with the more difficult cases. If there is an obvious violation, the F1 race director and his national counterpart step in. Such standard violations include: things such as drivers going too fast in the pit lane, crossing the white line when exiting the pit lane; or creating an illegal advantage for themselves by cutting across a chicane. These violations result in drivers being given drive-through penalties in the pit lane. The sport commissioners, being the highest judicial authority at the racetrack, are responsible for the more controversial situations, such as, deciding whether a driver will be penalised for unfair driving or causing a collision.
Sport commissioners have a nearly limitless amount of freedom within the boundaries of the regulations and can exert a great deal of influence even on the technical commissioners. For example if they were to notice a technical detail on a specific car that they felt was prohibited by the regulations, they could cause that car to be minutely examined. The sport commissioners, being an independent authority, are answerable to no one other than the FIA itself. If they impose a penalty during a race or reject a team's protest against the decision of the national or FIA race directors, the team in question can lodge an appeal. The case is then heard before the FIA's International Court Of Appeal in Paris.
At the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT), engineers and scientists have been researching accident prevention and damage causes for more than 70 years. This holistic approach in itself again creates points of contact with F1. "Allianz has gathered a wealth of experience in risk research from which we can also benefit," says Brian O'Rourke, head engineer for composite materials at WilliamsF1, confirming the immense trust that the experts have in the AZT.
This is the reason for an increase in focus on safety and fair play in F1. This focus owes thanks to the work and efforts of the sport commissioners, who determine pardons and penalties.
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K. Desirable body shapes
Sometimes Formula 1 is like real life. There's a constant struggle to achieve the ideal figure. Weight of an F1 car must be evenly distributed to improve the overall balance and as the car's weight drops below the minimum 600kg more additional ballast can be applied in the form of tungsten plates to improve the car's balance. However, it's an expensive business with each set of heavy-metal tungsten plates costing approximately USD 60,000
- Steer clear
- Keeping slim
- Heavyweight to lightweight
- Safety first
F1 cars are designed to find the ideal line around the racetrack. Neutral handling is not always wanted, some drivers prefer a car that over steers. This is where the tail-end of the car is pushed out of a corner by the rear wheels and requires less steering than the radius of the corner actually needs. To achieve this result the car would need to be heavier at the rear.
Other F1 drivers get their engineers to place extra weight in the front of the car, because they prefer the car to under steer. The car will tend to drive straight ahead into a corner and forced around it by hefty steering movements. It's all a matter of driving style – and weight distribution.
To be as versatile as possible in distributing the extra weight the engineers have to systematically slim down the car. If the 'slimming down' is applied to the correct places, then the minimum 600kg ruling (including oil, brake and coolant, the driver with his helmet and race overalls) can be undercut by roughly 100kg. This reduction can then be compensated to precisely match the driver's style, and usually tungsten plates are used as ballast. Each season a team will use about 10 of these sets of tungsten plates. The number of plates and how they are arranged is top secret. The car's centre of gravity generally lies just behind the driver - approximately 20cm above the asphalt.
Heavyweight to lightweight
Engineers can gain space for weight distribution by using lighter and lighter materials. Titanium, carbon and magnesium are the most important components of modern lightweight design. Within 10 years, the weight of the clutch was reduced by almost two thirds to only 900g.
To achieve a lightweight design, weight control is reduced to the basics – with the individual components of the F1 car added together. The heaviest parts of a F1 car are the engine (roughly 90kg), monocoque (roughly 50kg), gearbox (roughly 40kg) and the four wheels (10kg each). Larger figures are also attained in the list of approximately 5000 individual parts - for example, the rear wing with roughly 11kg, the front end with roughly 7.5kg and the engine compartment covering with roughly 5.5kg. Of course, there is also the driver, weighing in at around 70kg.
In the early days of F1, when state-of-the-art lightweight design was still as far removed from reality as the moon is from the earth, racing cars were genuine heavyweights. The Mercedes W196, with which Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1954 World Championship, weighed in - with no fuel on board - at 758kg. Over the years, designers have successfully followed a strict diet, which has led to successful F1 cars. The Williams F1 team, with which Nigel Mansell took the 1992 World Championship, had slimmed down to only 510kg kerb weight. This had a positive effect on performance, whereas the Mercedes of 1954 had no more than 0.34hp per kilogram weight at its disposal, the Williams could chalk up 1.33hp.
While F1 can be said to have slimmed down, passenger cars have put on a lot of weight. At least, that is the way it looks at first glance. A BMW 315 in 1981 weighed 1003kg, whereas the basic version of the 316i today weighs 1385kg, but this comparison is not quite fair. Progress in lightweight design means that passenger cars have also undergone a systematic slimming down process throughout the years; a design diet for enhanced safety and comfort. Designers were thus able to create some space for the installation of safety-related special equipment, such as ABS, ASR and power steering. On top of this, heavy parts, as in F1, are also built into passenger cars without impairing the centre of gravity. The compact V engine, for example, is installed behind the front axle and the battery at the rear.
A normal car driver benefits from the weight distribution of their passenger car. However, one thing is frequently forgotten. "A payload changes the position of the centre of gravity," cautions Dr Christoph Lauterwasser from the Allianz Centre for Technology. "In particular, a heavy load on the roof will significantly alter the road handling of a car when cornering. Therefore, heavy luggage should not be in the roof box, but rather in the boot."
Distributing the kilograms correctly is also vital in F1. Performance in motorsport's top sport proves that increasingly, lighter hi-tech materials open up more options for the developers when it comes to achieving both uncompromising speed and safety aspects at the same time.
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L. Fit to drive
In the old days, Formula 1 (F1) drivers were daredevils who enjoyed life to the full. Fitness training was something they would rarely consider. Today, it is the key to success.
- Stressful sport
- Tough conditions
- Train for gain
- Drink up
On average, a Grand Prix lasts 60 laps. For almost two hours drivers are exposed to extreme stress, comparable to flying a fighter plane or space shuttle. The stress depletes their physical resources, particularly when a Grand Prix is held in hot conditions, such as in Bahrain. "In this sport, if you don't have the necessary fitness," said Daniel Dobringer, fitness trainer for Ralf Schumacher, "then you might as well not show up."
Only if they have a balanced exercise plan, in which strength and endurance are increased along with coordination and speed, will they attain the right level of fitness. The gravitational forces that act on a driver during the course of a Grand Prix are enormous. On demanding tracks, sports scientists have calculated that the muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms and legs have to cope with a total load of 40,000 kilograms for brief seconds all through the race. Ligaments, tendons and joints are made to work twice as hard.
No other type of sport places as much stress on the body of an athlete as F1. When braking down from high speeds and going into fast corners, forces of up to 5 g have been measured (equivalent to five times the body's own weight.) This means that a head weighing six kilograms and a helmet weighing 1.5 kilograms together weigh five times as much, during a race.
The torment does not stop there, the legs are impacted too. For example, at the race in Monza, full braking occurs 212 times and each has a force of 80 kilograms. Steering is not child's play either. Without power steering, on high-speed tracks such as Spa and Suzuka where the front and rear wings produce maximum downforce, it takes 40 kilograms just to turn the wheels. And finally, there's the gear shifting. On average there are 2,600 gear-shifts per Grand Prix. In Monaco, with its many corners, this figure increases to 3,100 times.
Drivers have to achieve top performance under the most extreme conditions. Buckled securely into the seat with a six-point harness, it is difficult to breathe when your heart rate reaches it peaks at around 190 beats per minute. Especially when in hot-weather races, maximum temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius are measured under the overalls. In other words, every Grand Prix is tough work and this is what differentiates it from all other types of extreme sport. "Even the fittest of long-distance runners," according to Erwin Göllner, ex-fitness trainer for Jacques Villeneuve, "would not be able to last the 60 laps at Monza."
The fitness required for a top performance is something the drivers will work on. In the gym they undergo running exercises on the treadmill, or training on specific equipment to which they can simulate the forces in the driver's seat. Outside, jogging and cycling are the preferred activities. Drivers realise that alongside factors such as tyres, engine and aerodynamics, it is their own fitness that is crucial for their performance out on the track.
Train for gain
Fitness is a priority and training is a year-round process. The majority of drivers always commence their preparations for an upcoming season at the start of November, only two to three weeks after the last race in the previous season. Ralf Schumacher, trains four to five times per week, in four to five hour stints. During a F1 season, three to four training sessions, each lasting from two to three hours, are normal. Training regularly serves to keep the drivers' fitness at the right level, even between the seasons, and ensure they do not have to start back at the beginning when it is time to prepare for the new season.
Fitness also helps the drivers with their self-confidence. Those who are very fit generally reap the benefits during the last third of the race when concentration and response start to wane. In view of the physical loads and the increasingly complicated electronics in a F1 cockpit, physical and mental fitness are inseparable. And they are trained together. One fitness trainer makes his driver solve maths problems while on the ergometer (exercise machine) in the gym, a form of qualifying race for those little grey brain cells.
In a hot-weather race such as the Bahrain Grand Prix, drivers may lose between three to four litres of fluid, approximately four percent of their bodyweight. Therefore they have to drink plenty to compensate. Each driver's fitness trainer develops special energy drinks using water, various minerals, salts and vitamins. Each one swears that his is the best recipe and naturally it is top secret. However, they all agree - the water bottle in the car is really a contingency reserve only. It is much more important to drink lots before the race starts. "If you don't drink enough and then drive off with only 80 percent," says Daniel Dobringer, "you cannot make up for it during the race. And that's when your performance will start to drop off."
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M. Black magic
Formula 1's 'black gold' is more important than ever before. Tyres can be the difference between winning and losing. Manufacturers invest heavily in tyre design and development. Michelin, partner of the erstwhile BMW WilliamsF1 Team, clocks up about 100,000 test kilometres each year.
- Tyre time
- Wet and dry
- Keep on track
- Variable conditions
As a decisive criterion for racing car performance, the tyres in Formula 1 are increasingly taking centre stage. For Frank Williams, head of the WilliamsF1 team, one thing is certain as the Malaysian Grand Prix approaches, "As far as success goes, the tyres are an elementary factor. The race outcome is dependent up to 25 percent on the tyres."
As for the black magic, it all comes down to having the right compound. More than 220 materials and substances form a race tyre, of which up to 80 are different rubber compounds. In simple terms, a tyre consists of 79% rubber, 18% steel and 3% textile.
To guarantee top performance on the race track, tyres are subjected to unforgiving quality inspections in the factory with 130 inspection points tested. If a tyre displays even the most minor deviation, then the whole batch is sent to the incinerator, along with any compounds that failed to pass the tests. For example, Michelin (which no longer is associated with the Formula 1 sport), which produced 50,000 tyres each year for F1, tested 60 different tyre types in the run-up to a new season.
Wet and dry
According to the rules, during the event no driver may use more than fourteen sets of dry-
weather tyres, four sets of wet-weather tyres and three sets of extreme-weather tyres.
A dry-weather tyre, depending on the rubber compound, can withstand distances of between 80 and 200 kilometres, while a wet-weather tyre can be used to drive the entire race distance under wet conditions.
The optimum temperature for a dry-weather tyre is between 70 and 95 degrees Celsius. A wet-weather tyre reaches its best performance at temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees. The different types of tyre mean that variable factors in F1 are practically infinite. Thus tyre selection is dependent on the surface and layout of each particular race track.
Keep on track
At the Malaysian Grand Prix's Sepang International Circuit, tyre wear is medium range, because there are hardly any tight corners. When corners are tight, tyres gradually wear, as the cars have to brake hard to drop from high speeds before entering each tight corner. Also, to keep pressure constant under the most exacting of loads, the tyres are filled with nitrogen instead of air. Because of track conditions, the majority of teams will plan for two pit stops, and then hope that the notorious monsoon rains don't spoil everything.
Because tyres are a decisive factor in race car performance, tyre development results from a close co-operation between the teams and tyre manufacturers. The value the WilliamsF1 Team places on tyre development is explained by Frank Williams, "Generally, during pre-season testing, we will use three cars concurrently – one permanently and solely dealing with the development of new tyres."
Whereas race tyres provide maximum performance through absolutely precise adaptation to each particular race track and weather conditions, normal road tyres must perform at their best under variable conditions. The list of requirements is long and covers everything from abrasion resistance, aquaplaning protection and low rolling resistance to damage insensitivity.
Therefore, tyre developers must overcome many conflicts. For example, optimisation of the rubber compound for grip on wet surfaces brings with it a higher rolling resistance. Significant progress in tyre technology has been achieved through the use of new compounds.
"It's just a pity," according to Dr. Hartmuth Wolff from the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT), "that a lot of drivers fail to take advantage of this valuable gain in performance. Investigations have shown that the majority of drivers travel with the wrong inflation pressure – in other words, a deviation of more than 0.2 bar from the specified value. This exerts an extremely negative influence on driving properties and wear."
The importance of the correct tyre pressure for performance can be seen in F1. For top drivers even a deviation of only 0.05 bar is noticeable, resulting in reduced steering precision and poor tyre grip.
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N. Taking the heat
Every year the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announces its new Formula 1 (F1) rules. For the 2004 season the rules were revolutionary, a team may only use one engine per car throughout the entire Grand Prix weekend!
Last the distance
- Last the distance
- Cutting costs
- A puzzle of parameters
- Longer lasting
When the F1 cars roared at the 2004 season opening Australian Grand Prix, they opened up a new chapter in top class motor racing. For the first time in the history of F1, the engines - with more than 900bhp - will had to last for a complete race weekend and perform for double the distance. A tremendous challenge for both manufacturers and teams. By comparison the other rule changes were less significant. Here's a quick look at the most important ones:
- The private test drives on Friday, first introduced in 2003, had been eliminated. The first qualifying round was also phased out.
- With the exception of the four best teams from the previous year, all teams may use a third car during the first and second free practice sessions.
- Qualifying was divided into two halves, with a two-minute break in between.(which has again changed to 3 sessions from the 2006 season onwards)
- The speed limit in the pit lane was increased from 80 to 100km/h for qualifying and the race. This was done to help provide greater flexibility in pit strategies and ultimately ensure that races are even more exciting.
The engine ruling has been introduced by the FIA to cut back costs. Currently it costs around USD 450,000 to build a F1 engine. Approximately 200 engines, each of which takes about 80 working hours to assemble, have been provided by the manufacturers for each season. The new ruling will help teams budget, but for the developers it means a complete change.
"This 'one-engine' ruling," said BMW Racing Director, Dr. Mario Theissen, "boosts the significance of reliability."
Reliability was not always so significant. Previously in F1, highly-tuned 'quick burners' designed to last for one fast qualifying lap were used. In 2003, engines had to hold out for both qualifying and the race. Now, the ten-cylinder engines have to contend with double the former distance of more than 400 kilometres and at the same time, engine performance must drop as little as possible. It's a formula with several unknown factors.
A puzzle of parameters
Other parameters aside from engine performance had to be taken into consideration when building the new engines:
- High reliability over an average of 2,600 gear shifts per Grand Prix,
- Roughly eight million ignitions per race distance,
- A piston speed of up to 40 metres per second,
- Exhaust temperatures of up to 950 degrees Celsius,
- Loads of more than three tons acting on each connecting rod.
- Large torsional stiffness, as the engine is a structural part of the car.
- Small size for ideal aerodynamics. Rule of thumb: the more room for the rear-end diffuser which generates downforce, the better.
- Low weight to ensure that plenty of options are available for the car's balance.
- Excellent driveability; in other words, the lowest possible, uniform engine-performance characteristic across the speed range.
- Low fuel consumption, vital for having refuelling stops as late as possible, and so theoretically fewer of them.
The list above hints at just how complicated the puzzle was for the engine manufacturers. In principle, if an engine is to last longer, each individual part must be a more robust design. However, this also means a larger and heavier engine, which compromises speed and also power. The engine developers were confronted with a daunting task, to minimise these losses while also guaranteeing reliability.
Initial trial runs on the engine test stands were undertaken in 2003. Modifications to the new unit on the computer were based on each current engine. It was an ongoing process, with the WilliamsF1 Team's engine underwent 1,388 enhancement measures during the course of the season. The new F1 engines provide only five to ten percent less output than the yesteryears models, despite the fundamentally new task at hand.
In contrast to a F1 engine, a passenger car engine must be a genuine long-distance runner. After all, it has to run for not 800, but 250,000 kilometres under normal driving conditions, which is two-thirds of the distance to the moon. "However, we always have to keep an eye on weight here, too," explained Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser from the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT). "One development goal, for example, is to achieve a higher engine-output density: in other words, a low engine weight with given output. Especially on vehicles with front-wheel drive, lighter and smaller engines help to achieve a more favourable weight distribution."
Performance in F1 and passenger-car production is defined by the variables of output, consumption and reliability. A F1 engine is a unique element with a precisely calculated service life. However, even if the engine breaks down, there is still hope for the team. Under the new rules an engine may be replaced if it is damaged during practice. However, a driver is moved ten places further back on the starting grid for every engine change. If the engine is replaced after qualifying, the driver must start from the back of the field.
By the time the new ruling finally came into effect for the 2004 Australian Grand Prix these engines were completely redesigned down to the last detail. This is because, according to FIA plans from 2005 onwards, the engine can only be changed after two Grand Prix weekends; from 2006, it will even have to last for six races. The research and development laboratories are already hard at work, searching for even better performance and pushing for new limits.
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