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Formula 1 Overview
Formula 1 Racing General Information
Wheels and Tires
Safety Features of the Car
Safety Devices of the Drivers
Displays and lights:
Steering wheel and pedals:
Car Specifications and Performance Figures
Comparison with a passenger vehicle:
A Technical Specification -Williams Renault FW19 Formula 1 Racing Car
B Technical Specifications -Renault V10 RS9 Engine
Formula 1 racing has become the second most watched sporting event in the world. Many
of the spectators do not know realize how much research and testing goes into a Formula
1 racing car. Many people are unaware of how technical and computerized these cars are.
These cars are made of new space age materials and test new types of systems on the car.
A Formula 1 car is one of the safest cars in the world. The cars are constantly
being used to test out new safety features and improving the existing ones. The engines
are used to test new computer systems that control vital functions.
There are many aspects of Formula 1 that go not behind scenes. These might just
be more interesting that watching the Formula 1 cars race.
The Technology Behind Formula 1 Racing
The sport of Formula 1 racing is one of the most technical and advanced sports in
the world. Formula 1 racing cars utilize new technology to constantly improve in the areas
of performance and safety. This sport is responsible for the development of safety features
that you would find today on a commercial passenger vehicle. Formula 1 racing is an
international sport that is followed by millions throughout the world. Each year about 10
different race teams and 20 racing cars compete for the Formula 1 World Championship
and Constructors Championship.
The chassis of the current Formula 1 cars is made of aluminum tubing and
composite material of carbon-fiber and aluminum honeycomb. It supports four wheels, the
brakes, suspension and a rear mounted engine. The chassis contains many safety features.
Over the years the safety of Formula 1 cars has increased and as a result, todays cars are
superior to previous models in the 1980’s. Formula 1 cars contain safety features such as a
roll bar, puncture proof fuel cell and a five point safety belt. The drivers wear fire proof
clothing to protect them in case of a fire. A Formula 1 racing car has many onboard
computers to control everything from brakes to the engine. There are also many
restrictions on minimum lengths and weights. Formula 1 racing remains one of the most
technical and computerized sports in the world.
This is a report which provides information on Formula 1 racing in general as well
as the chassis, safety features, engines and electronics in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car.
General Information on Formula 1 Racing
Formula 1 racing is an international sport with races called Grand Prixs being held
throughout the world. These are held in Canada, Japan, Australia and many of the
European countries. The drivers are also from many different countries. Formula 1 races
are held on race tracks that are called “street courses” because there are both left and right
turns. These tracks have an average length of six kilometers and it takes a Formula 1 car
about two minutes to do a lap for an average speed of 300 km/h. Most of these tracks
have long straight sections and tight turns.
A Formula car must have an open-wheel design (Fig. 1-1). This means that the
wheels cannot be covered by sheet metal. The engine is mounted behind the driver, and it
powers only the rear wheels.
A Formula 1 racing team consists of two race cars with crews and drivers for each
car. These teams are responsible for designing the chassis of the car. A separate company
makes the engines. For example, Jacques Villeniuve’s team is Williams and his teammate
is Heinz-Harold Frentzen. The Renault company that supplies the engines for Team
Williams. Each year the teams compete for the Drivers World Championship and the
Constructors Championship. Usually there are about 17 races per year. In each race the
teams have an opportunity to receive points for each of the championships. The first six
positions of each race are awarded points; these points are given to each driver and team
with the winner of the race receiving the most points. The driver with the most points at
the end of the year is declared the world champion and the team with the most points wins
the constructors championship. (Wilkinson, 1996)
In order to win a race, each team and driver develops a race strategy. One factor in
a race strategy, would determine when the driver would come in for a pit stop. During a
race, the cars will require at least two pit stops for tires and fuel. The teams must
determine how much fuel they need for the race. More fuel means more weight and
therefore will slow the car. A Formula 1 car can be refueled and receive a complete tire
change in about 7 seconds. In order to produce the fastest lap times the driver must follow
a race line. A race line is the straightest way around the track; a driver makes a race line
by “apexing” turns. Apexing is when the driver comes into the turn on the outside of the
track. When the driver enters the turn he steers to the inside of the turn. When the driver
reaches the inside of the turn, he accelerates out of the turn and swing, wide to the outside
of the track. ” Sometimes two- to three-tenths of a second per lap can make all the
difference.” (Andretti, 1996)
In Formula 1, drivers try to pass each other. One way they do this is by out
braking the other driver. As they approach the turn they try to brake as late as possible.
The driver who brakes last will usually pass his competitor. However, he is risking
entering the turn at too high a speed and crashing. Another method that Formula 1 drivers
use to pass is called drafting or slip screening. This occurs when a driver follows another
driver closely and is able to build speed to pass him. This occurs because the driver in
front clears all the air out of the way for the driver behind him. This, in turn, allows the car
following to build speed because there is reduced drag. (Newman, 1994)
Figure 1-1: Jaques Villenuve in his Williams Renault FW19 Formula 1 Racing Car
The Chassis Components of a Formula 1 Racing Car
The aerodynamics of a Formula 1 car is very important to its performance and
handling. Due to it extreme high speeds, the car must be very streamlined. All the corners
are rounded to get the least amount of drag. These cars are wind tunnel tested to
determine the best shape. In Formula 1 racing, the cars have to make many turns at high
speeds. In order to make a Formula 1 car corner well, it must have downforce.
Downforce helps to keep the car glued to the track and it will help prevent the car from
skidding off. A Formula 1 car produces downforce by its front and rear wings. These are
similar to airplane wings that are turned upside down so they will produce lift in the
negative direction. This keeps the car pressed on the ground. The race teams can adjust
the angles of the wings to increase or decrease downforce. The more downforce the car
has, the better the corning ability, but acceleration will decrease.
In order to do well in a Grand Prix, a race team must adjust the wings to fit the
characteristics of the track. In wet weather, the teams will run with greater downforce.
The greater downforce is necessary because the cars need more traction. (Newman, 1994)
Figure 2-1: Model of Aerodynamics
The chassis of a Formula 1 car is made of many new materials. The frame is made of
aluminum tubing while the side panels are made of a composite of aluminum honeycomb
and carbon-fiber. Aluminum honeycomb is aluminum with holes in it. Carbon-fiber is twice
as light and strong as aluminum. The front nose of the car is made of Nomex honeycomb.
It is twice as light as aluminum but not as strong. These materials are now being used in
cars and mountain bicycles to save weight. (Ferrari Racing, 1997)
Figure: 2-2: Carbon-Fiber Strip
Formula 1 racing requires a great deal of braking power. Typically, a Formula 1
car will have to use its brakes 12 times per lap or 900 times a race. On average, Formula 1
cars have to slow down from 280 Km/h to make a turn at 160 km/h, which puts
tremendous stress on the braking system. If Formula 1 cars had brakes like a commercial
passenger vehicle, they would wear out in a lap. A Formula 1 racing car use a four wheel
disc brake system which means that each wheel has a disc brake to help it stop. A disc
brake consists of a rotor (Fig. 2-4), caliper and brake pads. When the driver hits the brake
pedal, the caliper which contains the brake pads squeezes the rotor from either side and
slows the car. The car is slowed down because there is friction between the pads and the
rotor. This friction causes the brakes to become very hot. When disc brakes get hot, they
do not function very well. To help reduce this problem, Formula 1 teams now use carbon
brake pads. The new carbon pads wear less and work better at higher temperatures.
These carbon brakes work most effectively at temperatures of 350-500 degrees Celsius.
(Fig. 2-3) To keep these brakes cool, Formula 1 cars have brake cooling ducts that
channel air over the pads and rotors. These cooling ducts are made of carbon fiber to save
weight. Formula 1 cars employ dual circuit brakes. Dual circuit brakes allow the front and
rear brakes to work independently of each other. This system allows the driver to adjust
how much braking force goes to the front and back. The driver can adjust the brake
balance in the cockpit of the car while moving. Formula 1 racing is responsible for
improving the effectiveness and durability of the brakes that you would find on the
commercial passenger vehicle. (Williams Racing, 1997)
Figure 2-3: Glowing Hot Rotor Figure 2-4: Brake Rotor and Caliper
(Ferrari Racing, 1997)
Wheels and Tires
One of the most important parts of a Formula 1 car are the tires. The tires are the
only contact with the track. They are responsible for the handling of the car. Formula 1
cars use two types of tires depending on the weather. In dry weather, the cars use a dry
weather slick (Fig. 2-6). The slick has no treads on it and it has a smooth surface. When
this tire gets hot due to the friction of the track, it becomes sticky and that helps to grip
the track. This gives Formula 1 cars superior corning ability. The rubber of these slick
tires are rated from “A” (hard) to “D” (very soft). The harder the tires, the less it wears
but it is not as sticky. A very soft tire would be used for qualifying because the tire only
has to last for one or two laps. A dry weather slick can be damaged by braking too hard. If
the tire locks when braking, the rubber will instantly overheat and stick to the track,
causing a “flat spot” on the tire. Such a tire will not be round, causing it to slow the car
down. For optimum performance, the tire temperature should be around 100 degree
In wet weather the cars will use a wet weather tire. This tire has grooves that
force water out from beneath the tire so it can grip the track better. This wet weather tire
can clear up to 26 liters of water a second. These tires do not have the performance of a
dry weather slick. The lap times of the cars will be slower and they will not be able to
corner or accelerate as fast in wet conditions. The tire sizes on a Formula 1 car are
provided in the following figures:
Figure 2-5: Tire Sizes Figure 2-6: Dry Weather Slick
(Renault Racing, 1997)
Safety In Formula 1 Racing
Safety Features Found in a Formula 1 Racing Car
In the past few years, the cars of Formula 1 have been going faster and crashing
harder than ever before. The safety features on a Formula 1 car are very complex and are
constantly being improved. Many safety features on a commercial passenger vehicle have
been tested and first used in Formula 1.The new Formula 1 cars are now safer than they
have ever been.
Like most race cars, a Formula 1 car has a roll bar. This will prevent the driver
from being crushed in an event of a roll over. The roll bar on a Formula 1 car is located
behind the driver, where the air intake for the engine is placed.
Another safety feature of Formula 1 is the puncture-proof fuel cell. This fuel cell
is designed to withstand a crash by deforming; this will reduce the chance of fire in a
crash. The fuel cell is covered in Kevlar which is the same material used in bullet proof
vests. This makes the fuel cell very strong.
To absorb energy in a crash, the chassis is made of impact-absorbing body panels.
These panels will crumple in a crash and absorb most of the energy. This same technology
is now used on commercial passenger vehicles and is called a “crumple zone.”
In the event of a crash, the wheels of the car are designed to break off. This will
make the car slide along the ground, making it slow down more quickly. This also helps to
prevent the car from tumbling or rolling.
One of the most important safety features of a Formula 1 car is the five point seat
belt. It is called a five point belt because it connects to five points on the car. This belts
restrains a driver’s shoulders and lap in the seat. The first application of seat belts was in
Formula 1 racing; now they are a standard safety item in commercial vehicles.
If there should be a fire in the car, the onboard fire extinguishers will
automatically activate to extinguish any fire. The driver can also manually turn on the fire
extinguishers with a switch in the cockpit of the car.
When racing in wet weather, the cars throw up a large spray of water from the
tires. Each Formula 1 car has a bright red light mounted on the rear which makes it visible
to drivers following behind.
Another safety feature on Formula 1 cars are the rear view mirrors. These mirrors
allow drivers to see cars behind them that might try to pass. This will help prevent drivers
from cutting off other drivers and causing a crash. Young, J. (1995).
Figure 3-1: Formula 1 Car Crashes. Driver is able to Walk Away.
(Ferrari Racing, 1997)
Safety Equipment Drivers Use
The most important safety device for the driver is his driving suit. A driver suit
consists of a one piece outer layer, shirt, pants, socks, racing boots and gloves all made of
Nomex. Nomex is a flame-resistant cloth that will protect the driver for up to 12 seconds
in a 700 degree Celsius fire.
The driver wears a full face helmet. The helmet protects the driver’s head in the
event of a crash. The visor of the helmet is very strong and is capable of absorbing a rock
traveling at 500 km/h. This is important because these cars travel at very high speeds, and
the open wheel design will throw debris at other cars.
If the car does start on fire, the driver can breathe using an oxygen bottle. This
bottle is attached to the helmet by an air hose. The oxygen bottle is located behind the
Under the helmet the driver wears earplugs and a balaclava. Earplugs are used to
protect the driver’s hearing because Formula 1 engines are very loud and can damage
hearing. The earplugs are also used as a speaker so that the driver can hear his pit crew
talking to him. The balaclava is made of Nomex which will protect the driver’s face in a
fire. (Young, 1995)
Figure 3-2 Five Point Seat belt; Figure 3-3:Driving Gloves; 3-4: Helmet and Driving
(Ferrari Racing, 1997)
Powertrain of a Formula 1 Racing Car
One of the most important parts in a Formula 1 racing car is the engine and
transmission. Formula 1 teams must try to find the right mix between power and reliability
from their engines.
A Formula 1 engine can have between 8 and 12 cylinders. The maximum
displacement of a Formula 1 engine is 3 liters. Displacement is calculated by measuring the
total volume in each cylinder and then multiplying it by the number of cylinders. A
commercial passenger vehicle can have a displacement between 1.0 and 5.7 liters. A
Formula 1 engine produces about 700 horsepower. A normal passenger vehicle with a
displacement of 3 liters produces about 140 horsepower. A Formula 1 car is able to
produce so much more power because it uses many new technologies.
These engines have four valves per cylinder, two valves are for the intake and two
valves for the exhaust. The four valves allow more efficient flow of fuel and exhaust gases.
The camshafts are gear driven instead of belt driven to eliminate slippage.
The computerized fuel injection system allows the fuel to enter the combustion
chamber efficiently to produce the most power. The fuel injection system is controlled by
the Engine Control Unit or ECU. This computer controls all the vital functions of the
engine. The ECU will adjust the engine to ever changing conditions in atmospheric
pressure and humidity.
The camshaft opens and closes valves using a new system called air timing. Air
timing uses compressed air to open and close the valves; this eliminates the need for valve
springs which can break. In order to keep the engine running cool, a Formula 1 engine
uses dry-sump lubrication. This system pumps the oil under pressure all over the engine
and transmission. Formula 1 teams also wind-tunnel test their combustion chambers to
identify the best design for maximum efficiency. (Renault Racing, 1997)
Materials Used In the Construction of the Engine
(Renault Racing, 1997)
Aluminum- Cylinder heads, sump pump, pistons
Magnesium-Oil pump housing
Carbon Fiber- Air box, coil shield
Steel- Camshafts, crankshaft, timing gears
Titanium- Connecting rods, fasteners
(Renault Racing, 1997)
Transmission Specifications and Technology
The transmission on a Formula 1 car is very complex. The transmission or gear
box is semi-automatic, which means the driver does not have to push in the clutch for
shifting gears. The only time the driver has to use a clutch is to start the car from a stop.
The clutch is located on the left side of the steering wheel and is operated by fingers on
the left hand. On the right side, there is the paddle which is used to switch gears using the
fingers of the right hand. The driver will pull the paddle towards him to switch up a gear
and move it away to downshift. The engine will automatically disengage the clutch when
the gears are being changed. This type of shifting is called sequential and is similar to a
motorcycle. This means that you have to switch through all the gears when downshifting.
All Formula 1 cars must also have one reverse gear.
The race teams try to find the right gearing to suit each track. The racing teams
must find the right match between top speed and acceleration. They do this by changing
gear ratios. An example for these ratios is 3:14:1. This means that the wheels will turn
once when the driver shaft rotates 3.14 times. A 4:10:1 ratio would mean it would have
better acceleration than 3:14:1, but a lower top speed at the same engine speed.
(Renault Racing, 1997)
The cockpit of a Formula 1 car is very complex with many switches and buttons.
There are four buttons on the steering wheel of a Formula 1 car. The first button is the
engine kill switch which turns off the engine; the second is the neutral button that puts the
car in neutral from any gear; the third button is the pit lane speed limiter. The fourth
button is used for the radio. The driver pushes this button when he wants to talk to his
crew. (Young, J 1995)
Switches and Adjustments
On the dash of a Formula 1 car there are many switches. The switch marked “Fire”
is used to activate the onboard fire extinguishers in case of a fire. Another switch is the oil
pump switch. The driver would use this switch if there was an oil pump failure and this
would activate the backup system. On the right side of the dash there is the brake balance
adjustment. The driver would adjust this to give more braking power to the rear or front
wheels. The switch marked “Light” on the dash is used to turn on the rear safety light on
the car. This would be used when the visibility is bad or it is raining. On the floor of the
cockpit are three dials. The throttle sensitivity adjuster allows the driver to control the
sensitivity of the throttle pedal. The second dial, the transmission strategy adjuster, allows
the driver to adjust the revolutions per minute for the engine and the shift points. The third
dial, the air/fuel mixture, adjusts the mixture of fuel and air entering the engine. (Young, J.
The cockpit of a Formula 1 car has many displays; the largest is the liquid-crystal
display. This display shows the current gear the car is in, last complete lap time and the
current lap time. On the left side of the dash is the RPM indicator for the engine’s speed.
The right side of the dash contains warning lights for the high temperature, low oil
pressure and fuel pump. (Young, J 1995)
As in a commercial passenger vehicle, a Formula 1 car has a steering wheel and
foot pedals. The stressing wheel is flat on the top so the driver can see over it. As
described earlier, the clutch is located behind the wheel on the left side. The driver would
only use the clutch to start the car from a stop. The two pedals are the accelerator and
brake pedals which are located on the floor and operated by the drivers feet. The
accelerator is used to make the car go faster and the brake pedal is used to slow the car.
(Young, J 1995)
Between a Formula 1 car and a 1995 Dodge Caravan
(Ferrari Racing, 1997; Dodge, 1995)
Formula 1 racing is one of the most technical and computerized sports in the
world. Formula 1 racing is constantly changing and improving in the areas of chassis
construction, brakes, tires, aerodynamics, safety, engine reliability and power. Formula 1
racing is in the forefront of development of safety features and technology found on a
commercial passenger vehicle.
Formula 1 racing cars are the safest cars in the world. They can crash at 300 km/h
and the driver can still walk away. Over time, these cars have become faster and safer.
This is due to extensive research done by each race team. All the parts of the car go
through many tests and modification to find the best possible design. Formula 1 also uses
many computers to control many functions on the car. In the past few years, normal
passenger vehicles are using the computer to operate the engine and electronics in the
vehicle. This allows the engines to run more efficiently, and this in turn is better for the
environment. Formula 1 racing will continue to be the most technical and entertaining
sport in the world.
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Rothmans Williams Renault FW19 Formula 1 Racing Car
Engine: Renault V10, RS9, 3 liter normally-aspirated??????????
Management System: Magneti Marelli
Transmission: Six-speed Williams transverse semi-automatic
Chassis: Carbon Aramid epoxy composite, manufactured by Williams
Suspension: Williams. Torsion bar front, Helical coil rear with Williams-Penske dampers
Cooling System: Two Secan water radiators, two IMI oil radiators
Brakes: Carbone Industrie discs and pads operated by AP calipers
Wheels: Oz; 13 x 11.5 front, 13 x 13.7 rear
Tires: Goodyear Eagle radials
Spark Plugs: Champion
Cockpit Instrumentation: Williams digital data display
Seat Belts: Five point Williams
Steering Wheel: Personal
Driver’s seat: Anatomically formed in carbon/epoxy composite material
Extinguisher Systems: Williams, with Metron actuators and FW 100 extingishants
Paint System: DuPont
Front Track: 1670 millimetres
Rear Track: 1600 millimetres
Wheelbase: 2890 millimetres
Overall car length: 4150 millimetres
Figure A-1: Rothmans Williams Renault FW19 Formula 1 Car
(Williams Racing, 1997)
Renault V10 RS9 Engine
Engine Type: piston driven, normally-aspirated
Number of cylinders: 10 cylinders V-shape (71 degree angle)
Displacement: 3 liters 2998.1 cc
Cam Shafts: 4 gear driven
Fuel Injection: Magneti Marelli digital injection
Timing: Air Timing
Number of Valves: 40
Electronic ignition: Magneti Marelli solid state
Engine Length: 623mm
Engine Height: 542 mm
Engine Weight: 121 Kg
Engine Height to Cylinders Heads : 395 mm
RPM Redline: 18,000 rpm
Transmission/Gearbox: Six-speed Williams transverse semi-automatic Limited slip
Figure B-1: Renault V10 RS9 Engine Figure B-2: Wire Outline
(Renault F1, 1997)
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