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  • W Wootten

Anatomy of A F1 Car

F1 cars are a miracles of engineering. Designed to compete at the highest level around the world's hardest circuits. W Wootten explains all

An F1 car can take approximately 1000 to 1500 hours to construct. Aerodynamics are most important with durability probably least. I’ll cover tires, pit crews and how they affect the race, the making of F1 cars and their components. Let’s get into it!


There are three types of tires: softs, medium and hards. A pit strategy is implemented by every team to maximise tire life and minimise having to go into the pits. For example, a car will usually start on soft tires, the best for racing but will only last 20-30 laps. Then they will pit, usually on their 27th lap to go onto mediums, which last 30-40 laps. Then they usually go back on to softs for the last 15-20 laps of the race. This is the standard strategy but other teams have varied it. Ferrari has been notorious for their terrible pit strategies. 

Many fans have said things like:

"It’s not even like it’s one missing tyre, all 4"

Some others posted:

"The wrong tyre choice can be disastrous, they rejected the choice"

"You'd think they would've learnt from the other dozen or so times they have tried this." 

Pit Crews 

Every F1 team needs a pit crew. There are up to 22 people involved in an F1 pit stop. They break down to the following roles. 

12 crew members are focused on the tyre change process. There are three people on each tyre; one will be loosening and tightening the wheel nut, one will be removing the old tyre and one will be placing on the new tyre. The wheel-gunman — most pit crew mechanics are men — loosens and tightens the wheel nut. At most stops, two mechanics adjust the front wing flap angle. Other team members act as spotters, perform other minor car maintenance and stand by with fire extinguishers, backup equipment and extra tools and parts.

Refuelling was removed in 2010 as numerous incidents occurred where fuel leaked from faulty hoses and ignited underneath cars, resulting in the death of Roland Ratzenburger in 1994.The teams then had to consider fuel management as part of their strategy plans to ensure they got the best performance out of their cars. Before the ban on refuelling there were several incidents in the pit which were caused by cars trying to refuel. Cost-cutting was another reason the FIA decided to ban refuelling. 

How an F1 car is Constructed

Huge amounts of testing is done before the car ever turns a corner, to make sure there is as much certainty in reliability as possible – and the numbers of finishes in modern races compared to even 10 years ago shows that this works.

Materials are put under the microscope and every part on the car will have undergone non-destructive testing (NDT) ,Computer-based coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and hand-held laser devices are also used to check dimensions, measuring to ensure perfect fit and legality.

A nose cone, for example, will go through an inspection, hexagon laser scanning, composite NDT for crack checking using an ultrasonic couplant. All subassemblies and assemblies are then put together and run on test rigs that put the parts through their paces, matching the temperatures and motion they would expect to see in action on the track.

Every part is given a mileage or time-based ‘life’ after which it must be removed and replaced, and components, particularly safety critical ones, are often tested to three or four times the life they are required to last, just to be sure.

Teams must also include a number of crash structures around the car and FIA crash tests must be passed before the car is certified. These include front, rear and side impact and rollover tests, and they are extremely destructive. 

F1 behind the scenes is just as interesting off the grid as on it with driver and manager changes that can cause as much controversy as a huge race crash. F1 pit crews are very skilled at their craft. 

Pictures: Wikipedia, daily mail, the race       


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