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Formula 1 technology in road cars: Part 1

While the Netflix series Drive to survive created attention for the drama, confrontations and stiff competition in Formula 1 that occurs between drivers, their teams and their owners (along with a bit of Will Buxton’s obvious performance. ), it is thought that there has been less focus on the actual technologies used by the automobiles.

Some of these improvements, including materials and components for aerodynamics and suspension, not only bring victory on the track, but are incorporated into everyday road cars.

Carbon fiber

Weight reduction goes hand in hand with aerodynamics in maximizing performance on the track.

Formula 1 cars like the Lotus 88 and McLaren MP4/1 have revolutionized the art of reducing weight without compromising rigidity or structural integrity through the use of carbon fiber.

Although carbon fiber was invented in the late 1950s, it has seen limited practical application in the automotive context.

Renowned for their ideal combination of incredible stiffness and low weight compared to steel, the Lotus 88 and McLaren MP4/1 were the first Formula 1 cars to make extensive use of the material, with the MP4/1 carbon fiber one-piece monocoque chassis.

In fact, many believe McLaren driver John Watson could have survived the crash at the Italian Grand Prix due to the stiffness of the carbon fiber monocoque that his car uses.

Today, carbon fiber components are popular in prestige and performance vehicles as they continue to offer weight and stiffness benefits over metal alternatives. Performance media such as BMW M3 and M4and even big travel agencies like Lexus LCavailable with a carbon fiber roof that reduces mass and also aids in improving the vehicle’s overall handling by lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity.

Other sports sedans like Alfa Romeo Giulia and more affordable sports cars, such as Nissan Z utilizes carbon fiber components such as carbon shafts (Giulia) and drive shafts (manual equipped Nissan Z versions).

One of the few relatively affordable non-performance cars to follow closely in the footsteps of the MP4/1 and the recently discontinued Lotus 88 BMW i3. The chassis, known as the ‘Life’ module in BMW’s LifeDrive architecture, is a capsule made entirely from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), with a special adhesive and manufacturing process. as transfer plastic molding (RTM) is used to join CFRP parts.

Of course, McLaren’s current road car line-up also makes extensive use of this material, and continues to more directly follow in the footsteps of their F1 ancestors.

The brand’s newest model, Arturafeatures a new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA) monocoque chassis that is also optimized for hybrid powertrains and weighs just 82kg, despite including crash structures and load-bearing paths.


Aerodynamics also play an important role in Formula 1 cars, with large rear spoilers, front wings and many other components all playing their part in reducing lift and minimizing power. maximizes downforce, to ensure that the F1 tires are always firmly pushed into the runway, helping to maximize cornering speeds and reduce braking distances.

The use of large functional diffusers also helps to develop a ground effect, shaping the air to create a low-pressure field that draws the vehicle to the road.

Brabham’s BT46B creatively used another technology to maximize this ground effect, the fan. Built by Gordon Murray and debuted at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, the BT46B features a fan mounted inside its tail that will be powered by the car’s flatbed Alfa Romeo 12 engine.

F1 regulations at the time stipulated that cars could not have any moving parts to enhance aerodynamics, and so the main purpose of the fan was to cool the engine’s radiator. . However, as a visible side effect, the fan also draws air in to create a significant ground effect, helping rider Niki Lauda win the Swedish GP.

While the F1-inspired large rear spoiler and diffuser are used by many supercars today, the road by Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) Super car T50 also uses a similar tail-mounted fan, now powered by a 48-volt motor. GMA claims that the fan actively manages underbody and body airflow, helping to strike the right balance between drag and downforce at all speeds.

Notably, the famous McLaren F1 supercar also uses fan-assisted aerodynamics, although it has two smaller fans hidden in the body.

The suspension is working

With an all-star squad, at various points including technical genius Adrian Newey, and drivers like Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, Williams was one of the teams that dominated F1 throughout the 1990s.

However, its success not only thanks to skilled drivers, but also with technological innovations is also an important factor. One of these innovations was the computer-controlled active hydraulic suspension pioneered by the Williams FW14B during the 1992 F1 season.

When entering a corner on the track, the outside wheel of the car is more forceful than the inside wheel, causing the car to lose balance, causing rolling and thus forcing the driver to slow down to avoid a turn. exceed.

The active suspension system on the FW14B uses high-pressure hydraulic components that can stiffen the suspension for the outer wheels when cornering, allowing the vehicle to rise to a flat height, reduce roll and help the driver self- more confident when cornering at higher speeds.

In addition, the active suspension can also reduce the vehicle’s height in a straight line to reduce drag and thus increase top speed.

The results were clear, with the FW14B driven by Nigel Mansell and Ricardo Patrese, winning 10 of the 16 Grand Prix during the 1992 F1 season. In fact, the technology was so successful that the FIA ​​(the governing body) motorsports globally) banned it in Formula 1 competition for the 1994 season onwards.

However, more sophisticated active suspension systems, also known as adaptive suspensions, continue to be commonly used in road cars today.

This includes systems that electronically control the damping of the suspension, either through the use of the engine to adjust the damper opening or through the use of a dynamic solenoid fluid. This is a liquid with suspended metal particles that can change its viscosity (thickness) in response to an electric current, allowing the liquid to harden.

Examples of active/adaptive suspension systems in use today include the DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) in VW products, Alfa Romeo’s Alfa Active suspension, as well as the Magnetic Control System. (General Motors), MagneRide (Ford), Adaptive Dynamics (Jaguar), Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Adaptive Variable Suspension (Lexus) and Four-C Chassis Control (Volvo).

THAN: Adaptive suspension explained


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