Formula 1


Formula 1 Essay, Research Paper




Formula 1 Overview

Formula 1 Racing General Information

Racing Strategies





Wheels and Tires


Safety Features of the Car

Safety Devices of the Drivers







Cockpit Instruments


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

Chassis Construction

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

Engine Technology

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)

Cockpit Instruments


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)

Comparison Specifications

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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Ford Racing. (1997, November 2). Ford Motorsport [Online]. Available: [1997, November 15].

Graham, I. (1989). Racing cars. New York: Gloucester Press.

Grant, H. D. (1997, November 25). [Personal interview]. Winnipeg.

Lerner, P. (1995, September). The state of racing. Automobile, pp. 66-70.

Mansell, N. (1993). Nigel Mansell’s Indy car racing. London: Weidenfeld and


Renault Racing. (1997, November). Renault/Williams/Bennton [Online]. Available: [1997, November 15].

Schtegelmilch, R. (1993). Grand Prix fascination formula 1. Germany:


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Wilkinson, S. (1996). Automobile racing. In World book encyclopedia (Vol. 1,

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Young, J. (1995). Indy Cars. Minneapolis: Capstone Press.


Technical Specifications:

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

Lubricants: Castrol

Fuel: Elf

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

Weight: 605kg

Overall car length: 4150 millimetres

Figure A-1: Rothmans Williams Renault FW19 Formula 1 Car

(Williams Racing, 1997)


Technical specifications

Renault V10 RS9 Engine

Engine Type: piston driven, normally-aspirated

Horsepower: 700

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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