Thursday, May 8, 2008

Formula One suspension components

The suspension is made up of the following components:
  • Springs: The springs absorb the basic loadings. Sometimes these are in the classic coil shape that most people associate with the word spring. More usually, however, they are things called torsion bars, a sort of straightened-out spring, that makes for easier changing and lighter weight. Changing the stiffness of the spring – how much it deflects for a given load – is a key way to change the handling of the car.
  • Dampers: Once a load is released from a spring – like when the car has finished cornering or braking – the spring oscillates. Dampers damp out the oscillations, enabling the car to recover its equilibrium quicker. The stiffness of the dampers is adjustable, and they form another key variable in establishing the driver’s preferred set-up.
  • Arms: Arms are the connections that transfer the loadings from the wheels to the spring/dampers. In a Formula One car, arms are almost always arranged in what is known as the double wishbone formation. Two upper and two lower arms stretch horizontally in a vee shape from the wheel to pick-up points on the chassis. In between is a pushrod, a single arm that stretches (at an angle from the horizontal) from the wheel to the spring/damper attached within the main chassis. As the wheel moves up and down supported by the wishbones, the pushrod translates the loadings onto the spring and damper. The arms are connected to the wheel via an upright, a cast piece of metal (usually titanium) onto which the wheel hub is bolted on one side and the suspension arms on the other. The front suspension arms (and sometimes the rear suspension arms, too) are usually made from carbon fibre. But the heat from the exhausts can have a damaging effect on the strength of the material, requiring that an exotic lightweight metal might be used instead.
  • Roll bars: The roll bar is a metal bar linking one side of the suspension to the other. It limits how much the car rolls during cornering. The thickness of the bar determines its stiffness. There is a roll bar at the front and another at the back of the car.

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