Formula One is the ultimate in speed, the premier class of racing since the first world championship was held in 1950. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 350km per hour, it is a sport of thrill and danger. With a nine-month season covering five continents, the sport has spread well beyond its home in Europe—the focus for the last 12-13 years being on Asia. Later this month, India joins the world of Formula One racing with the subcontinent’s first grand prix to be staged at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida. Indulge takes a look at a Red Bull Racing car to see what makes the Formula One machines special.
With strict regulations governing design, Formula One cars are typically around 4,635mm long, 1,800mm wide and 950mm high. The cars must weigh at least 640kg, and ballast may be used to bring cars up to weight.
The cockpit is designed to allow the driver to get in and out of the car without removing anything other than the steering wheel.
Once strapped into the car with all safety gear on, he must be able to remove the steering wheel and get out within five seconds, and then replace the steering within a further five seconds. The car’s survival cell structure, designed to protect the driver in the event of an accident, must extend at least 300mm beyond the driver’s feet, which must not be forward of the front-wheel centre line.
The carbon-composite brakes used in Formula One cars are built to work at temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. And under heavy braking, the drivers are subjected to up to 5.4G at tracks such as Monza in Italy and the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, Canada. The cars have one brake system operated through a single brake pedal. The system has two hydraulic circuits, one each for the front and rear wheels. If one circuit fails, the other remains operational.
The Formula One cars have naturally aspirated V8 engines with the capacity limited at 2.4 litres, and are rev-limited to 18,000 rpm. Teams are allowed to run a Kinetic Energy Recovery System that converts waste energy generated during braking into additional power, available to the drivers in fixed amounts per lap. The cars do not have onboard starting systems, and starting devices are used in the pits and on the grid.
For the 2011 season, all teams are required to use tyres from a single manufacturer—Pirelli. Over a race weekend, each driver has access to 11 sets of dryweather tyres (six of the harder ‘‘prime” specification and five of the softer ‘‘option”), four sets of intermediate tyres, and three sets of wet tyres. And during the race itself, a driver has to use both dry-weather specs—unless racing in wet conditions—or else face exclusion from the results.
Formula One cars have a conventional sprung suspension. Any system—such as an active suspension—that can alter the suspension or its geometry while the car is moving is forbidden. Each wheel is tied to the body by two tethers, each contained within a separate suspension member and with its own attachments at either end. The tethers are designed to stop the wheels coming loose from the car in case of an accident or a suspension failure.
Front, rear wings
Movable bodywork is not allowed in Formula One cars, with the exception of the rear wing, and then, only under strict conditions. The angle of incidence of the rear wing can be adjusted from the cockpit, but this is electronically governed and is only available when the driver is less than a second behind another car at predetermined parts of the track. The aim of this ‘‘drag reduction system’’ is to boost overtaking by reducing air turbulence. It is deactivated once the driver brakes.
Photographs: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Note: This is a show car used by the Red Bull Racing team.