Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Formula One's billion dollar men

LONDON, England (CNN) -- They are an eclectic bunch with two things in common: their wealth and love for Formula One.

While the drivers take centre stage these men sit back and pull the strings, building the sport's reach and helping maintain its reputation for consuming and generating large sums of cash.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is the leader of the pack, turning the sport into a global brand through his control of television rights and watching his fortune surge to $4.8 billion as a result.

The self-made Ecclestone left school aged 16 and initially went to work at a gasworks. However he began trading motorcycle parts, building the business into one of Britain's biggest motorcycle dealers.

He first dipped his toe into Formula One in the late 1950s, buying the Connaught team. However, after leaving the sport twice, his real immersion began with the purchase of Brabham in 1972.

In 1974 he helped form the Formula One Contructors' Association (FOCA) and a year later led the group in a battle with the FIA, the sport's governing body, to win a new entry and appearance fee system.

The groups wrestled for commercial control of the sport until 1981, when FOCA won the rights to negotiate television contracts.

Fortunately, for Ecclestone, the teams allowed him to form his own company (Formula One Promotions and Administration) to manage their sale. TV revenues were split, with 47 percent going to the teams, 30 percent to the FIA and 23 percent to Ecclestone's company, which contributed the prize money for races.

Control of the rights shuffled between the trio until 1997, when Ecclestone's company, Formula One Management, won out in return for an annual payment.

Ecclestone, who has homes across Europe, netted $3.8 billion in 1999 from a bond issue and the sale of 75% of the business a year later, according to the UK's Sunday Times newspaper.

That sum was put into to Jersey-based trusts controlled by his wife Slavica, 49. Ecclestone gives about £50m a year to charity, the newspaper said.

Like Ecclestone, Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso teams, has combined a canny business sense with a strong eye for marketing to generate his $4 billion fortune.

The Austrian's first job was for global manufacturing giant Unilever. However, while working for Blendax, a German cosmetics company, he met Thai Chaleo Yoovidhya and discovered the drink that would later become Red Bull.

The pair launched the drink in 1987, with global sales now more than $4 billion.

Mateschitz, who rarely drinks, does not smoke and holds a pilot's licence, now focuses on other interests including a magazine and Hangar-7, the event center, at Salzburg airport which houses his historic aircraft collection.

Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya has also made his money with drink -- Kingfisher beer.

Mallya, the diamond earring-wearing owner of F1 debutants Force India, has been dubbed the 'King of Good Times' after a series of high-profile launches and lavish parties.

He inherited the family company aged 27, streamlining the operation and founding the Kingfisher brand, a cornerstone of holding company United Breweries' $5 billion worth.

Mallya pushed his father to give him seed money to launch Kingfisher after a chance find.

"When I was straight out of high school, and I went to my graduation, I was actually working as well. That's when, while going through the archive of United Breweries ... I stumbled across this label of Kingfisher beer that had been launched in the 1850s but was no longer in production.

"And something excited me about Kingfisher, you know, the bird. I saw color, I saw vibrancy, I saw movement, I saw a lot of cheekiness," Mallya said.

Cheeky and charming are two qualities Renault boss Flavio Briatore » has in spades.

Briatore, who is worth $150 million, has made an art form out of living the high life.

While not a billionaire, the Italian entrepreneur and serial supermodel dater has turned his knowledge of the super rich into a profitable brand.

Briatore's marquee project is the Billionaire Club, an exclusive night spot perched on the Italian island of Sardinia. The 2,250-sqaure meter discotheque is a magnet for celebrities and the uber wealthy.

He got involved in Formula One after Benetton, the Italian clothing empire he had been working for in the U.S., bought a struggling F1 team in 1985 and made him the marketing director.

Briatore, who knew nothing about the sport, quickly realized it was an excellent match for the clothing brand, and attracted a host of beautiful people to the paddock.

The move helped increase coverage of the sport outside motoring circles, leading to sponsorship deals with corporates that covered most of the team's costs.

One of his brightest moves, after advice from Ecclestone, was signing future seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

The German would go on to be one of the world's wealthiest sportsmen, with an estimated worth of more than a $1 billion.

Schumacher was the first driver to win personal sponsors after Ferrari, his last team, allowed him to sign a $10m annual deal with a German bank to place its logo on his cap.

He also actively pursued the development of his own retail range, which included caps -- he sold hundreds of thousands at $30 a pop -- and even a branded vacuum cleaner. This was in addition to his estimated $40 million annual salary.

Despite retiring Schumacher continues to test drive for Ferrari, and recent reports have suggested a movie about his life is in the offing.

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis has been a dominant force behind the scenes in F1 for nearly three decades.

He joined Cooper Racing in 1966 and in 1968 was appointed Sir Jack Brabham's chief mechanic. Three years later he launched his own company, Rondel Racing, and then in 1980 his Project Four business was merged with Team McLaren to form McLaren Racing.

He has barely looked back since, growing McLaren into a series of diversified businesses with a combined turnover worth hundreds of millions. He has a $150 million stake in McLaren and is worth an estimated $220 million.

Like Dennis, Sir Frank Williams is practically a piece of F1's furniture. Worth an estimated $158 million, the Briton formed his first racing team in 1966, competing in Formula Two and Three.

In 1977 he formed the team known today as Williams, beating early funding issues and a 1986 car crash that left him wheelchair bound to create an enterprise with a turnover around $150 million.

Getting into gear: The transmission

The engine’s power is fed to the rear wheels via a gearbox. This gearbox must have a minimum of four forward gears and a maximum of seven gears (although everyone opts for either six- or seven-speeds). A reverse gear must be fitted. The gearbox is connected to a differential – a mechanical device that determines how the power is split between the inner and outer wheels. Driveshafts take the power from the differential to the wheels. These principles are exactly as in almost every car in the world. But the detail is very different.

Although the system of cogs and shafts are like a conventional manual gearbox, the gears are selected not by a conventional mechanical linkage but by hydraulic pressure actuated by electronic control. Although the driver can change the gears, usually the gears are selected automatically, controlled by the electronic brain of the engine. This system saves time (electronically controlled shifts take less time than manual shifts), increases safety (the driver can have both hands on the wheel at all times), and helps the car aerodynamically (the cockpit can be narrower because it doesn’t have to include a gear lever). A very fast manual upchange using the old mechanical system used to take around 0.1 seconds, during which time the car would lose about 2 mph because of the high aerodynamic drag and engine compression of the car. The electronically controlled shifts take only around 0.02 seconds.

The differentials can be tuned to alter the handling characteristics of the car. These too are electro-hydraulically controlled and have sensors measuring the torque being fed to each driveshaft. The traction control system, which cuts the power when wheelspin is detected

How thirsty is a Formula One engine?

We can take it as read that the drivers use their engines to the max (if not, then they’ll soon be out of Formula One employment). But, within this accepted premise that drivers push their engines to the limit, the fuel mileage of a Formula One car can still vary considerably. What kind of mileage a Formula One car gets depends upon a couple of things:
  • The nature of the track: A track that requires a lot of braking from high speed down to slow – and lots of accelerations back up again – makes the cars consume more fuel than does a track with a more flowing nature, where speeds are more constant. Also tracks with lots of corners make the cars run more downforce through altering the settings of their wings. This costs aerodynamic drag on the straight, and that hurts fuel consumption.
  • The engine settings: The team can alter the fuel/ignition settings from the pits via telemetry. Sometimes they do this to help a driver eke out an extra lap or so before a pit stop; sometimes they make changes just to play it safe when a driver’s race position is under no threat.
Given these qualifications, we can say that the fuel consumption of a Formula One car typically varies from around 3.5 mpg (miles per gallon) up to around 4.3 mpg.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The race for the Formula One title

Race 1: Australia
Lewis Hamilton wins in Australia from pole after dominating the weekend for McLaren. Ferrari afflicted by fuel-feed problems in Melbourne, masking their real pace. Neither car completed a race distance.

Race 2: Malaysia
Reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen bounces back with a dominant win for Ferrari from pole.
Both McLarens handed five-place grid penalty qualifying infringements.
Hamilton's race is ruined at the first pit stop by a faulty wheel nut, and he is forced to settle for four points for fifth place.
Red tide

Race 3: Bahrain
Ferraris post a one-two, with Felipe Massa taking maximum points. Hamilton hits the start-sequence button on his steering wheel too late on the grid, sending his car into anti-stall and losing seven places, then he collides with Fernando Alonso as he tries to make up ground. No points.

Race 4: Barcelona
Ferrari took the honours with pace to spare in the last two races. McLaren need to show their car can keep up through Barcelona's lightning-quick corners, where the Italian team had an aerodynamic edge last year. Another Ferrari success here and it could be a long season for Hamilton.

Building a Formula One “tub”

Once the engine and chassis designers have agreed upon a general specification and outline of the chassis, 3-D computer-aided drawings (CAD) are made. The same raw data that produced the drawings is then used for computeraided manufacture (CAM). Before the carbon fibre tub is constructed, mirror-image moulds are made, and before that can be done, patterns need to be built to form the moulds. Blank slabs of a man-made material called Ureol are typically used for this. These slabs are machined into the required forms, directed by the CADCAM information.
The various patterns bolted together form a dummy Formula One tub, complete with nose cone. A scanner goes over this, taking measurements, which are compared to the original CAD drawing for accuracy. The dry sheets of carbon fibre are laid out over the pattern. A resin is impregnated within them. This resin releases and bonds under the pressure and temperature of an autoclave, thereby holding the whole thing together in the required shape. Holes and recesses are introduced into the moulds by tooling blocks that replicate suspension and engine mounting points.
With the moulds completed, the carbon fibre is laid up over them, but in a much more complex formation than was used to create the moulds. A calculation technique called finite stress analysis will have shown the engineers where the strength needs to be and so extra layers are laid in at the appropriate places.
Multiple layers mean several stints in the autoclave before the final high-pressure, high-temperature run of around 2.5 hours. Bonded together, the final tub weighs around 30kg.

Understanding F1 Engine

A Formula One engine operates on the same basic principle as any old petroleum-fired motor. It’s an internal combustion engine, with a cylinder block, cylinders, pistons and valves. The pistons inside the cylinders move up and down, driven by an explosive combustion of fuel and air allowed in by the inlet valves. The spent gases are allowed to escape via the exhaust valves. The pistons connect to a crankshaft which in turn drives camshafts – and those are the things that open and close those valves. Nothing new there. The radical thing about a Formula One engine is its light weight and humungous horsepower. Reconciling almost 900 horsepower with something that weighs less than 90kg may seem impossible, but a Formula One engine does so.

The engine uses very exotic metals – and some non-metallic materials too –to keep its weight and heat expansion down. A Formula One engine relies on speed to get much of its power, with the best of the current engines running to almost 19,000 revs per minute (rpm), about double the speed of the highestrevving road cars. How is that possible? Well, the engines have to be rebuilt after around 500 miles – kind of expensive. Any engine can be squeezed for more revs and power if it only has to last such a short distance. Current regulations limit the engine size to 3000cc (cubic centimetres), and turbo, or supercharging, is prohibited. The engine must have 10 cylinders. Four pneumatically-operated valves – two inlet and two exhaust – feed each cylinder (although up to five are allowed, no-one has found an advantage from this).

The pneumatic operation gives greater accuracy at high speeds than conventional valve springs. The cylinders are arranged in two banks of five, the banks splayed at an angle to each other to form a vee, hence the term of “V10” in describing the layout of the engines.
Why 10 cylinders and not less or not more? The pros and cons are as follows:
  • Engine speeds: The greater the number of cylinders an engine has, the more power it can theoretically produce. For a given engine capacity, each cylinder will be smaller the more of them there are; for example, each cylinder in an eight-cylinder, 3-litre engine would be of 375cc whereas a cylinder in a 10-cylinder 3-litre would be only 300cc. The smaller pistons inside these smaller cylinders can be moved up and down the cylinders faster. The faster they move, the more power they produce.
  • Valve area: Having more cylinders means greater inlet and exhaust valve area, which in turn means that more fuel and air can be pumped through the engine. That translates to more power.
  • Heat expansion: With more cylinders, less energy is lost to heat expansion because smaller cylinders and pistons can disperse their heat easier. Again, this means more power. On the other hand, higher speeds from more pistons mean more heat is generated. Complex, isn’t it?
  • Frictional losses: These refer to the energy you lose through the friction of one surface against another (in this case, a piston within a cylinder). The more cylinders, the more frictional losses.
  • Weight: The more cylinders, the more weight because not only does the engine have to be physically longer to fit in all those cylinders, but each cylinder brings its associated pistons, valves, connecting rods, and so on.
  • Fuel economy: Spreading the engine’s explosions between 10 cylinders rather than 8 is less fuel-efficient, so with more cylinders comes the need to carry more fuel, making the car yet heavier.
Many years of experience established that 10 cylinders was the optimum trade-off between these opposing pulls. As materials technology advanced, however, a real possibility existed that the optimum trade-off might have moved onto 12 cylinders or more (as many as 16 have been used in Formula One in the past). To close down an area of future expense, the governing body nailed the limit as 10 back in 1999.

The angle between the vee of cylinders is an area of key concern – and not just to the engine designer, but for the chassis designers too. The wider the angle is, the lower the car’s centre of gravity becomes, to the advantage of its grip and handling. But if the angle is too wide, the engine starts to block up the airflow around the back of the car, which leads to less efficient aerodynamics. Certain vee angles introduce bad vibrations that limit engine speeds and, therefore, power. At the moment, 90 degrees is the favourite trade-off between these conflicting pulls, though there are some shallower and one wider than that.

You might assume that power is everything and that an engine’s fuel consumption can go and be damned. But you’d be only partly right. Power and light weight are primary goals. But, within those requirements, the better an engine designer can make the fuel mileage, the less fuel in the tanks at the start of a race. Less fuel makes the car lighter – and therefore faster – and also keeps the fuel tank size down, to the benefit of the car’s aerodynamics.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Formula One driver believes sex scandal has damaged the sport's image

LONDON — Red Bull driver Mark Webber believes Formula One's image has been damaged by the sex scandal involving FIA president Max Mosley.

A British tabloid reported earlier this month that Mosley engaged in sex acts with five prostitutes that involved Nazi role-playing. Mosley admits visiting the prostitutes but denies there was any Nazi connotation.

"Whether we like it or not, all of us in F1 are role models, and F1 simply cannot have scandals of this type," Webber said on the BBC website Saturday. "He's in a very, very influential position and it's a very important role that he has - it makes it difficult when any of these sorts of scandals become public.

"F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport, so a lot of other sports have been tarred with the same brush. Because F1 is so high profile, we are always very sensitive to not bringing it into (disrepute) because of the amount of people involved in it."

F1 drivers have mostly stayed quiet over The News of the World story that could force Mosley out of his post, although Nico Rosberg of Williams said at the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago that everyone in the sport has a responsibility to set an example.

Mosley's fate as the head of world motor racing's governing body will be decided at a special general assembly in Paris on June 3. A secret vote by the 222 national motoring member organizations from 130 countries will decide his fate.

"We have got the confidence in the people - they have all the information they need to make the decision that will see if he can continue," Webber said. "Hopefully, that decision will come on June 3."

Four auto manufacturers and several national motoring federations have publicly criticized the 68-year-old Mosley. The South African federation has said it will vote against him fulfilling his fourth mandate, which lasts until October 2009.

Mosley, who is suing The News of the World, is the son of British Union of Fascists party founder Oswald Mosley, a former British politician who served in Parliament for both the Labour and Conservative parties. Oswald Mosley, who had Adolf Hitler as a guest at his wedding, died in 1980.

Understanding F1 chassis

The chassis is the central structure of the car, the part that the engine and suspension are bolted on to and the part that the driver sits inside. It’s usually referred to as the tub because that’s what it looks like before you bolt all the stuff onto it.
Formed from carbon fibre, the chassis has to be strong to withstand repeated downforce loadings (the weight pressing down on the car as a result of the airflow over it) of over 2,000kg, yet it weighs only around 30kg. If the chassis were insufficiently stiff, the car wouldn’t be able to translate the aerodynamic loadings to the tyres. Stiffness combined with low weight – two conflicting requirements – are the keys to a good chassis. The chassis is manufactured by laying up sheets of carbon fibre with a bonding agent in the shape required via a mould. This is then “cooked” in an autoclave (think of it as a big oven). You may think that a Formula One driver would rather not trust his life to something that sounded like it had been put together more like a cake than a car. An understandable concern, but you’d be wrong. The material provides much more protection in a big impact than the aluminium from which a Formula One chassis used to be made. Stress analysis tells the structural engineers precisely where the strength needs to be in the chassis, and so extra layers are incorporated at key points, such as suspension mounts. Getting the necessary stiffness is extremely difficult when the structure has to include one great big hole for the driver to sit in and another one for the fuel tank. But the engineers manage it; that’s what they’re paid the big bucks for.
Technical regulations require the chassis to have a flat floor (so limiting the amount of aerodynamically-induced grip). Regulations also specify minimum cockpit dimensions and minimum space requirement for fuel tank size (which is driven by how many laps the car needs to do on those tracks that induce the heaviest fuel consumption). Within those constraints, the chassis has to be as compact as possible to keep its frontal area, and therefore its air resistance, down.

Understanding a Formula One Car

Formula One, as its name implies, is the number one category of “Formula” racing – that is, open-wheel single-seaters. More than that, it is the premier form of all motor racing in terms of both its popularity and its technical standing. The sophistication and sheer scale of performance of a Formula One car justifies this standing as well as the vast amounts of money that are spent on the sport.
Formula One is a very precise term that defines the specification of the cars that compete for the World Championship of both drivers and constructors. The formula undergoes regular revision by the governing body, but its essence remains: A Formula One car is the fastest, most agile machine in the world in terms of getting around a road-racing track, that is, a race track with real corners like you might find on a real road, as opposed to a banked oval like those used in popular forms of American racing.
A Formula One car represents the biggest driving challenge for any racing driver because of its power-to-weight ratio and its huge, aerodynamicallyenhanced grip. It represents the ultimate in motor sport technology in its use of materials, the intensity of its design, and the resources required to build and develop it. A Formula One car stands at the very cutting edge of automotive technology.

Famous F1 cheats of the past

Back in the early 1980s, when the weight limit of a Formula One car was 580kg, those teams that hadn’t yet been able to get hold of the newfangled turbo engines were faced with a real problem. Outgunned by around 150 horsepower, they had to find a way to compete. Their solution was ingenious – but on the cusp of illegal. They built their cars up to 60kg under the weight limit but installed huge water tanks that took advantage of a rule that allowed replenishable fluids to be added after the race. They claimed the water tanks were for water-cooled brakes, ran the race with them empty, then filled ’em up after the race – bringing the cars up to the regulation weight.
After this loophole was closed, a later refinement of a similar principle allowed a team to run significantly underweight for most of the race and then make a late refuelling stop. As well as fuel, lead pellets were injected into the tank to bring the weight up to the required post-race level.
Moveable aerodynamic devices were banned from Formula One in the late 1960s, but in 1978, Brabham turned up at the Swedish Grand Prix with its “fan car”. A huge fan at the back sucked the car into the ground. The fan was a moveable aerodynamic device, but its designer argued that the primary function of the fan was for engine cooling and any aerodynamic benefits were incidental. The fan car won its one and only race but was subsequently banned.

Getting around the Rules in Formula One

The days of trying a blatant cheat and hoping to get away with it are largely gone from Formula One. The rule book is too tight, the checks too thorough, and the penalties too draconian for that to work. The more common approach now is to get past the intent of the rules but not their wording. A great example of a team doing this involved the regulation banning traction control (which, by the way, was legally re-introduced in Spain 2001). With traction control, power delivered to the wheels is reduced when the electronics sense the onset of wheelspin. That’s what the rule banned. But what about changing the torque curve of the engine when the electronics predicted wheelspin was about to occur? The actual difference in the timing between predicting the spin and sensing it was perhaps one-hundredth of a second. But under the accepted terms, one system was traction control and therefore banned; the other one wasn’t and was allowed.
The traction control ban is set to reappear for 2004. This time, as well as more sophisticated policing devices and a different wording of the regulation, there is to be a psychological war on cheating the rule too! If anyone can supply information to the FIA that leads to a successful discovery of a transgression, the informant receives $1 million from the FIA and his identity is kept a secret. In this way, a mechanic or engineer could grass on his own team but still go on working there!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Running checks after the race

Those cars finishing the race are normally checked for technical compliance immediately afterwards.
The cars are weighed – as is the driver. That is why you see the drivers standing on a weighbridge holding their helmets as soon as they’ve stepped out of the car. Fuel samples may be taken, tyre checks made, and engines may be sealed.
All the same measurements that were taken in scrutineering are taken again (see the section “Scrutineering” earlier in this chapter for what these measurements are). Sometimes the battering a car receives over the bumps of a track or the kerbs will be enough to, say, bring that front wing-height down just below the minimum allowed. This happened to David Coulthard’s car at the 2000 Brazilian Grand Prix, and he was disqualified from second place. It is up to the teams to anticipate such factors in ensuring their car stays legal throughout the event. Teams have in the past challenged such rulings but the appeal process means that the FIA is both judge and jury. Often appealing against a sentence has resulted in a larger sentence being issued. Teams therefore usually shy away from appealing.

Keeping an open eye

The checking doesn’t stop just because scrutineering has been completed. Random tests occur throughout the weekend. Fuel samples may be taken at any time, and if the fuel doesn’t match the chemical fingerprint submitted by the team at the beginning of the weekend it’s deemed illegal. Weight checks are also commonplace to ensure that the cars (including driver) aren’t below the regulation 605kg. A strict eye is kept on the teams’ use of their allocated tyres to ensure they don’t use more than the regulation 12 sets throughout the race weekend.

Occasionally, the FIA seals a team’s engine. Sealing an engine involves putting a tamper-proof seal on it that would break if any attempt were made to change or modify it. A technical inspector (similar to a scrutineer, but technical inspectors travel and do much a more detailed analysis of the cars than can be done at a race meeting) will then usually visit the factory where the engine is held, strip it down, and inspect it for compliance – in particular whether it is within the maximum capacity of 3 litres. The FIA can seal an engine at any time and they don’t reveal why they’ve sealed an engine. One can only speculate.

Once the cars have finished qualifying, they are kept in parc ferme (an area where the cars are held under supervision to ensure they cannot be worked on by the teams) overnight and held there until shortly before the race is due to start. No work other than minor matters such as checking of tyre pressures can be carried out on the cars prior to the race. Anything else the team may want to work on requires the permission of the appropriate FIA representative.


On the Thursday leading up to each race, the cars are checked at the track for compliance to the regulations. FIA-approved scrutineers – people with a technical background in racing who check the cars at events– perform these tests. The checks are safety and performance related. The safety checks include tests on the wheels, steering, and suspension attachments as well as whether the regulatory safety features are all present and correctly installed. The performance checks also include measurement of the bodywork, position of the cockpit, width measurement, front and rear wing height, shapes and widths, underbody contours, the presence of the regulatory plank on the car’s underside (the plank keeps ride height at a critical minimum to limit downforce). All these things are strictly legislated in the technical rule book. You may expect all these features to have been checked at the first race each season. But if the checks weren’t repeated each race, you can be sure that some – or hey, maybe even all – of the teams would take advantage.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Understanding crash tests

Before a new design is even taken to a race, it must pass very stringent crash tests. The following sections explain what these tests include.

Frontal impact
The frontal impact involves a head-on collision at 30 mph (45 kph) into a thick steel plate set in concrete. In such an impact, the nosebox in front of the pedals is allowed only a small amount of deformation, and there must be no chassis damage beyond the nosebox. The average deceleration must not exceed 25g (25 times the force of gravity), and forces in excess of 60g are not permitted to last more than three milliseconds. This is a severe test of energy dissipation. The speed is low compared to likely impact speeds on the track, but the steel plate has zero give in it unlike metal barriers that the car would hit at the track. The absolute head-on nature also means less dissipation of impact energy than in a typical real-life impact.

Rear impact
Once the frontal test has been passed (explained in the preceding section), the same chassis then has to withstand a rear impact. This time the car remains stationary while a sled weighing the same as a fully-fuelled Formula One car is rammed into the back at 30 mph. Structural damage cannot extend beyond the rear axle line.

Roll-over test
When strictly controlled lateral (from the side), longitudinal (from in front and behind), and vertical (from above) loadings (usually measured as weight per square area) are imposed on the roll-over hoop, the hoop must not deform by more than 50mm. Any structural failure has to be limited to the top 100mm of the structure. The cars are not actually rolled over. The loadings of such an occurrence are simply simulated by the FIA’s apparatus.

Side impact test
The cars incorporate impact structures at the side of the cockpit. These must withstand pre-specified impacts and leave the internal cockpit undeformed. Specifically, a weight of 780kg travelling at 10 metres per second is impacted on the car 300mm above the “reference plane” (a strip on the car’s underside used for referencing measures) and 500mm forward of the rear edge of the cockpit. The average deceleration cannot be more than 20g, the energy absorption must be between 15 and 35 per cent of the total and a force of 80kN can be exceeded for no more than three milliseconds.

Steering column test
The steering wheel is impacted with a pre-determined force. An 8kg hemispherical weight of 165mm diameter impacts the steering wheel at seven metres per second on the same axis as the steering column. Afterwards there can be no deformation of the wheel – only of the steering column. The wheel’s quickrelease mechanism must still function perfectly.

Static load tests
A series of tests are conducted whereby a steady pressure – as opposed to a sudden impact – is applied to key parts of the car to ensure the necessary strength. These squeeze tests include cockpit sides, the rear of the chassis around the fuel cell, the gearbox, and the nosebox. For the cockpit sides a transverse load of 25kN is applied and no failure of the structure is allowed. This is then repeated at loads 20 per cent reduced each time. Deflections greater than 3mm cannot exceed 120 per cent of that obtained at 80 per cent of the first squeeze test. For the fuel tank floor a vertical load of 12.5kN is applied and the same process of repeat squeezes follow, with the same stipulation on deflections. For the cockpit rim 10kN is applied and there is a deflection limit of 20mm. For the nosebox and the rear structure a 40kN force is applied for 30 seconds and there can be no failure.

F1 Rules and where your can find them

In years gone by, you could purchase a book containing the rules and regulations, but the pace of modern Formula One development requires that the rules be updated so frequently that a book would soon be out of date. The book is not therefore sold to the public anymore. Now you can find the sporting and technical regulations for Formula One on the FIA’s website (

The technical regulations alone stretch to over 15,000 words – and then there are the accompanying drawings. It makes good reading – if you’re an insomniac.
FIA technical delegates as well as a race director attend each race. Together, these people ensure that the sporting and technical regulations are met. The Race Director – currently a man named Charlie Whiting – has overall control of the implementation of the rules, and he is the one who chairs the pre-race driver briefings in which queries and points of contention are resolved. As a former Formula One mechanic, Whiting is very familiar with the way that teams try to outsmart the regulations in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Defining a Formula One car

The technical regulations in effect determine what a Formula One car is – in very, very specific detail. These regulations go way beyond general definitions and principles; they stipulate dimensions so tightly that the layout of the cars is largely dictated by the rule book and not the designers. The technical regulations also to a large extent define engine and transmission specifications, as well as specs of brakes, suspension, tyres, and fuel. Some of the old-school ex-designers say that they left the sport precisely because the rule book and not designers determine what a Formula One car is. The regulations, they claim, took away their creativity. Others say that, because the parameters are so tightly defined, finding an advantage is that much more difficult and requires that much more skill. Take your pick between these two perspectives.
The technical regulations also stipulate specific performance criteria the cars must meet. Before they’re allowed to compete, each design of car has to pass severe crash tests that involve impact into solid objects and roll-over crashes, as well as static load tests. The severity of these tests is well beyond those required by law for roadgoing cars.
Why does the governing body control these things so tightly? Usually for reasons of cost containment or safety. Having more-open technical rules would pave the way for technology that only top teams could afford or lead to cars that were inherently less safe.