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Over the past two seasons, tyres have been in the Formula One spotlight more than ever. Unlike previous seasons, tyre development has been driven by the need for a sporting spectacle rather than ultimate performance. This has placed both Pirelli and the teams in an unusual position. Pirelli has had to build a less than optimal tyre, one that will degrade at a set rate on all the different track surfaces, while the teams have had to try to gain an understanding of the tyre’s...

The black art of machining composites

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The pun in the heading above was too tempting to resist; in reality, however, Formula One engineering is all about knowledge, not magic. The challenge when exploring Formula One technologies is that this knowledge is closely guarded, particularly when it delivers a performance advantage. To this end, carbon fibre reinforced polymer composites (CFRPs) have always had a certain mystique about them. This is due in part to the relative newness of the material (compared with the maturity of...

The steering wheel

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The move in Formula One from mechanical to electronic systems has been mirrored by the development of the steering wheel. No longer wheel-shaped or just for steering, the humble steering wheel now directly controls gearshift and clutch control, as well as a surprisingly wide range of other functions. The ‘wheel’ itself tends to be carbon fibre, with the grips being either suede or the more common silicone mouldings. Attached to the steering column via a quick-release mechanism,...


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Top-level motorsport now demands that electrical faults can no longer cause retirements or loss in car performance. For Formula One, the exponential rise in electronics in means that connecting up the various sections of loom to the ECUs and sensors has become critical. In recent years this connectivity has been driven by new systems, such as a standard ECU and KERS. There is then a further rise in complexity as the new 2013 ECU has an even greater capacity for sensors. Then next year the...

Brewer’s fare – the Formula One way

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For the student of automotive history who prefers to concentrate on the technical side of the sport, surely there is no finer topic than the history of racing fuel, particularly those used for Grand Prix racing. By the 1920s, blends of Grand Prix fuel are reported to have consisted of mixtures of ethanol, benzol (a mixture of benzene, toluene and xylene) and the gasoline of the day. Later, and by the late ’30s, ethanol was replaced by the higher specific energy and increased blending...