Formula One racing, also known as Grand Prix, is a sporting event that takes place over the course of three days. The races usually take place from Friday-Sunday with a series of prequalifying races taking place before a race on Sunday.
Cars that compete in Formula One races are a open-wheel, open-cockpit, single-sea car with large front and rear wings. The engine is positioned behind the driver. The regulations specify that cars are to be constructed by the teams themselves, though often the manufacture and design can be outsourced.
Formula One cars are constructed with composites of ultra-lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber. Cars can have a minimum weight of 642 kg including the driver and without fuel. It is noted that many Formula One cars actually weigh less than this, but many teams add ballast to the cars so they can reach minimum weight. The teams do this because the ballast can be added to any part of the car, thus giving the team advantage to improve stability by lowering the car’s center of gravity. It also allows the team to tune the weight distribution of the car to suit different racetracks.
In 2006, a new engine formula was announced which mandated cars to be powered by a 2.4 liter engine in a V8 configuration. No more than four valves can be allowed per cylinder. In addition to this change, other restrictions were announced such as a ban on variable intake trumpets. This prevents teams from reaching higher RPM and horsepower too fast. The cars use a semi-automatic gearbox, allowing seven forward gears and one reverse gear. In addition, the cars are rear-wheel drive. To shift gears, the driver shifts with gear paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
Perhaps one of the main components of design in Formula One cars is aerodynamics. Teams often spend millions of dollars researching the best design for a car. For an aerodynamic designer, there are two primary concerns: minimizing drag that acts to slow the car and creating down-force to push the car’s tires onto the track to improve cornering. The famous wing design of the cars is designed to act like aircraft wings and are configured to configure a downward force. The cars are typically so well designed to create such a downward force that, with enough speed, they could drive upside down.
The steering wheel of Formula One cars is typically designed to give the driver the ability to fine tune many elements of the race car. The wheel is used to apply rev. limiter, change gears, change brake pressure, call the radio, and adjust fuel/air mix. Many include an LCD screen on which data is displayed, such as lap times, gear, speed, and engine rpm.
The fuel used in Formula One cars can only contain elements that are found in most commercial gasoline. Blends are fine-tuned for maximum performance in many different weather conditions and circuits. To ensure that fuel suppliers and teams are not violating any regulations, the FIA requires teams to submit a sample of the fuel they provide for a race. Teams usually abide by this rule.