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CFD: why Formula One is creating its own (and less useful) branch of the science

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Formula One is often held up as an innovator, a creator of new technology and inventions. It is debatable to what extent this is true, but for CFD technology there have been direct benefits driven by Formula One over the past 10-15 years. This ‘sharpening’ of CFD tools – as in better accuracy, ease of use, speed and so on – has helped almost all other CFD users, from the more mainstream automotive engineers to Olympic cyclists, to do more. But there is a real danger...

Monocoque materials

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While the monocoque of a modern Formula One car performs multiple functions, including aerodynamic performance and the provision of sufficient stiffness (combined with the powertrain and suspension) to ensure adequate traction and handling, its primary purpose is to protect the driver. To this end the Formula One technical regulations require chassis to pass a series of impact and intrusion tests before they can be used in competition. This requirement was first introduced in the...

Carbon and its fibre composites

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In providing the physical contact points with the track surface, the ‘corners’ of a Formula One racecar –the wheels, brakes, uprights and suspension – could be argued to perform the most important function of all. Reacting forces induced by tyre traction, the generation of aerodynamic downforce, deceleration and acceleration make these elements among the most highly stressed in the overall car package. Like every other aspect of a racecar design, these areas are...

Not composite yet

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Carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites first found their way into Formula One during the mid-1970s; however their full potential was not universally recognised until 1981 when John Barnard pioneered the carbon fibre monocoque with the McLaren MP4/1. After John Watson’s crash at Monza that season silenced sceptics’ concerns over structural integrity during impact, all Formula One teams followed suit, developing their own composite monocoques. The carbon fibre revolution...

Drivers’ bias towards the brakes

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Over recent years a niche solution used by a few drivers has become a standard feature on all Formula One cars – the rapid bias adjustment lever. Adjustable brake bias has been a feature of racecars and Formula One for decades, but until recently, the driver’s control of brake bias was not commonly seen as a means for improving overall lap times. Drivers have been able to adapt the braking bias from front to rear throughout the race, to compensate for changing conditions. This...