10 Facts About F1 Cars That You Didn't Know
70 years has thrown up some spectacular marvels of engineering; here are some incredible facts and stories
Formula 1 cars are works of art.
They have had some of the loudest, most powerful engines ever seen and grip levels unheard of anywhere else. The cars can turn, squeeze and literally just manipulate normal air to make the car go faster than anyone around the corners. Whoever does the best gets to spray the elusive champagne on the top of that podium... they are engineering genius at it's brilliant best.
So then, it should be no surprise that over the years they've produced some astounding stats, and here are a couple of my personal favourites:
1. Each car is made up of EIGHTY THOUSAND SEPARATE COMPONENTS
No wonder drivers say they always feel guilty upon crashing the car, those poor mechanics have to replace and reinstall countless different gizmos, wires and parts.
An F1 car is an extremely compressed cocktail of hydraulic systems, carbon, fuel, tyres, inertia and mechanical devices which all has to package into a minimum of 720KG. That's why you can see so many bits hanging out or exposed after (a usually very expensive) crash; one slight misjudgement of the braking zone and the house of cards can come crashing down around you.
2. The HALO safety device above the cockpits can sustain 5 TONNES of impact
Safety has come a long way in F1, and thanks to pioneers like Sir Jackie Stewart (as much as I disagree with his views) the potential of dying during a race is no longer at the front of driver's minds when they strap in.
A rather controversial measure in the HALO was brought in in 2018, and I think that it's integrated into car design so well we barely notice it. More importantly it's done its job very well, and it probably saved protégé Charles Leclerc at the Belgian GP in 2018 from a bad head injury.
Each one is rigorously checked by the FIA and as it's formed using titanium, a very strong and not too heavy material, it can survive an incredible 5 tonnes of weight
For reference, that's 2 double decker buses or 5 elephants. Oh and about 6 or so F1 cars.
3. An F1 car can go from 0-100mph and back down to 0 in as little as 4 seconds
I mean we all know they're fast.
But this is crazy.
It's simply a testament to how incredibly developed the gearbox, ERS battery system, engines and driveshafts all are to efficiently deploy the heaps of energy generated from the car into the wheels and make it go fast.
The brakes are too fantastic; so good in fact you could see Lewis Hamilton braking *after* the 50M board on the Kemmel Straight at Spa (when he was going at 200mph+) during his record breaking lap.
4. Brakes in an F1 car can reach 1000*C and still work fine
It's often said braking late in an F1 car is one of the most important skills to have; drivers like Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo all have it, but it's thanks to these incredible mechanisms that they're able to do so.
Essentially what they do is convert the car's kinetic (moving) energy into thermal (heat) energy, and therefore slowing the car down. Obviously the machine has huge amounts of kinetic energy and so the brakes get super hot, especially when used repetitively, but by having small holes in the calipers and brake ducts which guide airflow into the brakes they can be cooled down quickly, over and over and over again.
5. Drivers can lose up to 6KG during the Singapore GP
Who needs weight-loss plans?
Just drive an F1 car for 2 hours in Singapore!
Because it's so intensely hot in Singapore the cockpit can get up to 60*C and drivers only have a limited amount of water they can drink during the race, therefore purely through dehydration and sweating they can lose huge amounts of weight in no time. The race is long, very technical and set in a street circuit so it is a huge test of physical and mental capacity for the drivers to simply keep the car on the road.
6. The cars can run upside down in a tunnel at 120mph
So as I've mentioned before, aerodynamic devices on these cars create pressure differentials (basically different pressures) along the car and this results in something called downforce which pushes these cars onto the track.
The more downforce you have the further you squash the tyres into the track and the faster you can take a corner; you have more grip.
F1 cars produce so much of this that they can literally drive upside down because there's so much downforce they cannot fall off!
In addition, the fact they can do this from a relatively low 120mph shows that its peak the car can generate downforce several times its own weight...
7. One F1 Car would cost you $7M to make
It's the world's most expensive sport.
And simply building a car to start the grid with costs you a monstrous amount; a front wing (which is only really a sculpted piece of carbon fiber) starts at £150,000. 5 times the average yearly salary for the UK.
8. There was once a plan to build a 12-wheel F1 car
A while back I wrote a proper article about this (somewhere under my profile if you're interested), but there was once a crazy designer who decided they'd build a F1 car with 12 wheels, because well why not.
At the time Tyrell were running a car with 6 wheels, and it had moderate success; winning two races in 2 years (they eventually folded because it cost them too much), but much like Tyrell the crazy man didn't have enough sponsorship money to go through with the plan. He thought he'd dominate the sport with it, by the way.
It was also rumoured the same guy had helped make that iconic Brabham Fan Car... so maybe he wasn't so mad after all.
9. Everything on an F1 track has to be welded into the ground because:
Like you saw at Portimao with Sebastian Vettel, he ran over a drain cover and pulled it clean off the surface.
F1 cars produce aforementioned pressure differentials, and underneath the car there is such low pressure it can simply rip stuff off the ground. This means that before every race the FIA has to check the track and make sure kerbs, manhole covers and drains are all properly in place. Otherwise one could come loose, and apart from the destroying the beautiful underbody of the car, it could hurt a driver or spectator.
10. Mclaren's Logo
You all know Mclaren's logo right? It's that nice little swoosh next to the text 'MCLAREN', but where it actually originates from is an F1 car.
The wings on the car cause air to spin around in vortices which results in this:
And then this: