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The Technology Behind Formula One

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the push-pedal-make-car-go dept.

Technology 586

axlrosen writes "An article in the NY Times about the technology behind Formula One. The wealthiest teams arm themselves with powerful advantages, almost entirely centering on computing controls in the cars and computer simulation in design. Car data is sent in multi-megabyte wireless bursts each time the team's cars flash past the pits, often in excess of 200 miles an hour. It is simultaneously sent over the Internet to a larger data center in Maranello, Italy, where more complex analysis is done. AMD is expected to supply a supercomputer roughly as fast as the world's 10th most powerful machine to the Swiss-based Sauber Petronas racing team... I love the crazy steering wheel - anyone know what all those buttons and knobs do?"

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Background article (5, Informative)

ralphb (15998) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454172)

HowStuffWorks has got an interesting article on CART (not F1, but similar) cars at here. [howstuffworks.com] It mentions some of the sensing, telemetry, and computing technology used. There's even an explanation of the controls on that crazy steering wheel. [howstuffworks.com]

Re:Background article (3, Funny)

WarriorPoet42 (762455) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454423)

From the article: "You can run a small country on $2.8 billion and still get change,"

Can I get that in small bills, please?

DTABN (-1, Troll)

Klerck (213193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454177)

Death to all black niggers.

Re:DTABN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454368)

As opposed to what, the white niggers? Or the arabic niggers? The asian niggers? The Native American niggers?

Re:DTABN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454427)

It's cool to call your friends "niggers" these days. I was just driving on the road in my car when I saw a sports utility vehicle full of white teenagers in the latest hippity-hop clothing and memorabilia. They were slapping each other high five and down low and calling each other "niggah" and "gee dog". So it seems less than redundant to focus on black niggers, if the situation calls for it.

war driving (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454183)

brings war driving to a whole new level

steering wheel buttons (5, Informative)

L-Train8 (70991) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454190)

The McLaren website has an interesting flash doo-dad that explains the steering wheel. Go here [mclaren.com] and click on "interactive steering wheel.

Re:steering wheel buttons (2, Funny)

Webmoth (75878) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454328)

"What's this Bf button for?"

"NO! Don't touch that!!!"


Bang! "Ow!" Bang! "Ow!" Bang! "Ow!"

"Ooooo, I can't watch!"


"I thought you knew..."

Re:steering wheel buttons (3, Informative)

Macsimus (245076) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454525)

That McLaren steering wheel is great, but it's a bit out of date. The launch-control buttons (the green ones in the upper corners) probably aren't there anymore or do something different. Launch control was banned for the 2004 season, although Renault [renaultf1.com] has been having amazing starts without it this year, and their process is still a bit of a mystery.

The New Direction In Sports (4, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454199)

I'm a cycling fan and you would be correct to assume I'm on the edge of my seat regarding the upcoming 2004 Tour de France [slashdot.org] . For the past few years cyclists have been getting better connected to the team directors with radios and able to feed performance information via radio back to the team car where a trainer or doctor monitors heartrate and who knows what else. Some in the sports media and among fans of the sport gripe that this is taking away the exciting guesswork of the sport and turning riders into little more than robots. e.g. How does the peloton know how much speed to pick up to sweep up a break away with a 12 minute lead, 10 km from the finish line? Knowledge, feedback and monitoring the opposition. Sometimes they still get it wrong and a break succeeds, but not often these days.

Having bought one of the top flight cycling computers, which came with software far more sophisticated than I need. I could go totally overboard on my power to mass, VO2 Max, heartrate training, etc. For what? To beat guys on my weekend rides? If I were a Pro I would need to have not just a coach, now, but a team behind me to monitor my fitness, nutrition, energy levels, and a slew of other data, where once I'd pretty much only need a coach. The bar is being raised and without money or sponsorship where does this leave the talented natural who can't meet the bar?

There's considerable complaining about how uneven F1 is, with Ferrari's huge budget. It's hitting all sports. Spend to win and use money and technology to remove so much doubt the mystery of the game is ultimately solved.

It was good to watch the Pistons dismantle the Lakers, but how less often are we to see upsets anymore?

Re:The New Direction In Sports (4, Insightful)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454279)

It's hitting all sports. Spend to win and use money and technology to remove so much doubt the mystery of the game is ultimately solved.

Doesn't always work in all sports. In baseball, for example, the Yankees, who spend the most of any team, have remained competetive, but are not guaranteed a Championship, as the last few years have shown. In fact, the World Series winners the past few years have all been mid-market teams (2003 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 2001 Diamondbacks). Conversely, the Mets, who spend the 2nd most in baseball, have been in the cellar for the last few seasons. Same for the Rangers, who also boast a fairly high rate of team spending.

Re:The New Direction In Sports (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454406)

Doesn't always work in all sports. In baseball, for example, the Yankees, who spend the most of any team, have remained competetive, but are not guaranteed a Championship, as the last few years have shown.

Mostly because George Steinbrenner spends most of that budget on salaries, particularly on star names rather than building a team of players wo work together. You can pretty much bet, though, that someone like Barry Bonds has his swing analyzed and others track where pitchers are likely to throw, etc. I wouldn't be hasty to chalk up the impressive batting these days purely to steroid use, some of these players must be relying more on information systems to eliminate doubt.

If you could demonstrate a system that would improve team batting by 0.050 or more, you'd have an instant and eager market.

It's a good point, but... (4, Interesting)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454316)

the price of all this equipment is always coming down. I remember when my mates and I were all using toeclips and we had to look on jealously at the pros using Look pedals, nowadays everybody has the Looks. It wasn't so long ago that a wrist/handlebar mounted heart monitor with a radio telemetry strap was out of range of mere mortals, now you can pick them up for less than $70 and with a boatload of functions.

Re:It's a good point, but... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454460)

It wasn't so long ago that a wrist/handlebar mounted heart monitor with a radio telemetry strap was out of range of mere mortals, now you can pick them up for less than $70 and with a boatload of functions.

True, but like in the H2G2 book, you still need Majikthise and Vroomfondel to tell you what it all means, that or attend school while training.

Re:The New Direction In Sports (1)

aj50 (789101) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454398)

The uneveness in F1 is now appauling, I've seen only two of the races this year whereas in 2002 I didn't miss any of them. Having a sport so unbalanced like this can't be any good for the people who run it as they will be losing viewers and therefore money from sponsors. Hopefully the FIA will restrict the use of computers and telemetry and give lower teams a chance.

Re:The New Direction In Sports (5, Insightful)

kmankmankman2001 (567212) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454410)

Ferrari isn't winning because they have the most money. BMW-Williams, Toyota, Ford (Jaguar-Cosworth), etc. aren't exactly collecting foodstamps you know.

Ferrari is winning because they have assembled a fantastic team. From the engineering talent that designed the car to the logistic support to the pit crew and, of course, one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport - Michael Schumaker.

I'm also trying to remember who won the World Series last year. The Yankees, right, cause they have the biggest payroll? Ooops, no, it was the Florida Marlins with a payroll at the other end of the spectrum.

Analogies are great except when they don't hold up.

Re:The New Direction In Sports (5, Informative)

another_mr_lizard (608713) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454519)

Ferrari budget was over 250 million last year. The next biggest spender was McLaren at 120 million. Jags budget last year was in the region of 70 million.

Even with equal budgets Schumacher would probably still be sneaking the championship, but currently no team spends like Ferrari and that is damaging the sport.

Amen on Cycling (1)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454447)

One of the wonderful things about the Giro this year is that Damiano Cunego won it and was not even his team's man to do it (Gilberto Simoni was the leader). How did he do it? Old Skool. Riding with flair and bravery. With poetry! I like Lance Armstrong as much as the next USian (he's a great story and a stand-up guy, but not my favorite rider), but the guy is a machine. He knows to the gram of carbs he has ingested and that he needs X more carbs to go at 44.3456 kph which will put him in the lead with 100 meters to go on a stage that averages 3.3% gradient.

Back in the day, cats like Eddy Merckx would just check out on the peloton. He would ride with one hand on the back shifter, daring any punk to try to ride with him. No nutrition experts. Nothing. Uphill. Downhill. Flats. It didn't matter. And he was the greatest ever on steel frame bikes built in a barn by a friend, not 11000USD 6.8kg space machines like you have today.

Watch and learn on the Tour this year. Tyler Hamilton or some other 'hard' man will win it.

Re:The New Direction In Sports (3, Insightful)

asoap (740625) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454526)

This is the old argument of "how fast do you want to go?" "How much money do you have?".

The real question you should be asking is. How do you stop it? Nascar seems like the one organization that tries to make everything equal. But it totally fails. The same rule applies. Whoever has the most money has the best shot at winning. In Nascar all of the cars are the same. The exact same bodies, and most of the settings are the same. The only difference is the motors, but those are more similar than different. They use technology that went out of the style in the mid 70's mixed with modern technology. For what? It's still not even. The team with the most money will have the best driver. The team with the most money will hire the best mechanics to setup the car the best.

So if it's not even in the first place, then why try to make all the cars even also? That is how you get F1.


it will take a supercomputer... (5, Interesting)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454214)

...to help a team beat Michael Schumacher. The guy is ridiculously good, and he's paired with a great car. F1 basically is a contest to see who will finish 2nd.

Tiger Woods in golf, Wayne Gretzky in hockey, Michael Jordan in basketball -- all three of these guys dominated their respective sports at one time or another. But I don't think anyone has ever dominated a sport as much as Schumacher has in the past few years. Its getting so bad that F1 is actively NOT promoting Schumacher, as people are losing interest...

Re:it will take a supercomputer... (2, Informative)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454264)

Yes, and the fact that, that guy has an ego that would put hitler to shame doesn't help the overall F1 image either.

When his own teammates accuse him of not playing as per team rules, you can begin to understand how much hated this guy is.

But give me F1 anyday over Nascar.

Playing by 'team rules' is the problem (5, Insightful)

Animaether (411575) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454490)

Just my opinion, for the most part (based on facts, sadly)...

He does play by team rules, that's partly the problem.

Who doesn't remember Barricello being in #1 position in front of M. Schumacher on #2 being ordered by the Ferrari team to let M. Schumacher win ?
Those kinds of tactics are exactly what are hurting Formula 1 as a whole, and not just the Ferrari/M. Schumacher image.

Mind you, any team M. Schumacher has been in has also always been cutting-edge to the point of risking safety. This ranges from cars being sprayed with fuel in the pit lane due to cutting corners to make tanking faster to crewmen getting hurt by driving into them.

Not taking away that M. Schumacher is a great driver, mind you, but so were Aeyrton Senna and Nigel Mansell - but those loved the sport. M. Schumacher, I'm afraid, tends to love mostly himself and will do anything to further his image.

Re:it will take a supercomputer... (1)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454282)

Sauber are not going to beat Ferrari, they are, more or less, Ferrari's B team, running with last years Ferrari engine and gearboxes.

Schumacher is a genius, but it is about time that he put his foot down and demanded that the team get a second driver of close to his caliber, so we can see some actual racing. Ferrari's clear 1, 2 strategy may be working, but the lack of excitement has hurt F1 to the point where it is hurting both Ferrari and Schumacher himself as well.

Re:it will take a supercomputer... (2, Informative)

Troed (102527) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454381)


At Albert Park in early March, Ferrari and Sauber had the same V10 engine.

New 'long life' rules meant last year's scarlet unit was not reliable enough to be fitted to the Sauber C23, so the customer team got works- spec Ferrari power.
link [racing-live.com]

... they have however not gotten the same updates, but when this season started Ferrari and Sauber had the same engines.

That's how much difference the REST of the car makes!

Steering wheel doodads (4, Funny)

digidave (259925) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454218)

"I love the crazy steering wheel - anyone know what all those buttons and knobs do?" "

I'm pretty sure I saw buttons for Ctrl-Alt-Delete on there.

Re:Steering wheel doodads (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454524)

Do you think it's windows OS? ANd if so, what happens when you get a BSOD (especially with no visible screen to tell you?)

Buttons and Knobs (5, Funny)

b12arr0 (3064) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454226)

I think the buttons and knobs control things like the oilslick and exhaust cloud. :)

I know , I know! (1, Troll)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454228)

anyone know what all those buttons and knobs do?

Well, the one with little scissors on it means "cut". The one with two pages means "copy". The little clipboard and piece of paper means "paste".

Oh and that great big knob? That's the radio.

Button uses (5, Informative)

hoyty (35485) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454231)

The buttons have a couple of uses. Usually 3-4 are for fuel mixture, how much fuel the engine is given. This determines HP and mileage. Then there is usually a rev limiter button for pit speeds. Other things on the steering wheel can include shifters or kill switches.

Super Speedway... (4, Interesting)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454235)

If you've watched the IMAX film "Super Speedway", you'll see how they build a CART racer from scratch. It doesn't focus a lot on applied computer technology in this field, but it's still informative.

Such as this tidbit: modern brakes on CART (and F1) racers can bring the vehicle to a total stop from 200mph in 1.6 seconds. Imagine the g-forces.


Re:Super Speedway... (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454473)

The speeds are stunning. 1.6 seconds at 200mph is 143 meters. If stopping speed is linear (which it isn't of course), that's still about 70 meters to come to a stop... most impressive to me is that the tires can hold that well to the road.

Re:Super Speedway... (3, Insightful)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454493)

>>a total stop from 200mph in 1.6 seconds. Imagine the g-forces. ...not to mention the heat! 1000C+ is typical after braking at the end of a straight, with normal operating temperature between 400-800 degrees Celsius!

More info from http://www.f1technical.net/article2.html : "A mere 4 seconds is the amount of time it takes for a Formula One car to go from 300km/h to a complete halt. At 200 km/h, a Formula One contender requires just 2.9 seconds to stop completely, a process that will have been accomplished over 65 meters. At 100km/h, these values are just as mind-blowing: 1.4 seconds and 17 meters! Under these heavy braking periods, a driver is subjected to a horizontal deceleration of close to 5,2G."


"These brakes are extremely expensive as they are made from hi-tech carbon materials (long chain carbon, as in carbon fibre) and they can take up to 5 months to produce a single brake disk. The first stage in making a disc is to heat white polyacrylo nitrile (PAN) fibres until they turn black. This makes them pre-oxidised, and are arranged in layers similar to felt. They are then cut into shape and carbonised to obtain very pure carbon fibres. Next, they undergo two densification heat cycles at around 1000 degrees Celsius. These stages last hundreds of hours, during which a hydrocarbon-rich gas in injected into the oven or furnace. This helps the layers of felt-like material to fuse together and form a solid material. The finished disc is then machined to size ready for installing onto the car."

"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games." - Ernest Hemingway.

These are truly amazing cars (5, Funny)

adequacy (544972) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454238)

When I switch on Speedvision at my friend's house to watch Formula One, what amazes me most about these cars is not just their speed but their ability to turn left (of course) but also to the right. As a NASCAR fan, this "bidirectional steering" thing the Europeans are doing is truly amazing. Maybe someday it will come to the states.

NASCAR does go both directions (3, Informative)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454474)

ummmm.... actually NASCAR does go turn both directions. There are round courses where they only turn left, but there are also "road tracks" where they turn both ways. An example is the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma [nascar.com] . Click on the map on the right side of the page to see what it looks like.

Jamming! (5, Interesting)

itwerx (165526) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454240)

Wonder how long it takes before they start either jamming each other's transmissions or playing man-in-the-middle and injecting false data...?

Re:Jamming has been done (1)

Zlurg (591611) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454512)

Monaco 2002, David Coulthard's McLaren suffers major engine disruption. Technicians in the pit spend several laps (might even have been over a dozen) trying to get the car to stop smoking so horribly. They finally got the car fixed, David went on to win the race, and the FIA banned two-way telemetry soon thereafter.

Re:Jamming! (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454518)

They will start doing that when they get bored of participating and want to throw a billion dollar + investment away, coz after that they will be expelled. F1 regulations are too too stringent with disqualification over the slightest errors. In this Sundays Race Raif S(Micheal's bro) came second, but was stripped of the second place and disqualified coz the brake ducts(which carry brake oil to wheels) were slightly bigger than regulations. The net effect of using those ducts was about 10% increase in braking for first 5 laps and subsequently going on to 70th lap when the brake disks are almost cooked it would be about 1%. Yet disqualification was sudden and swift with no chance of any appeal whatsoever. So you can well imagine how far is Jamming and interference!

Thats why (1)

alex_ware (783764) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454245)

on the helmet is the AMD logo ;-) and they say it is essentially a computer nope it probably is a computer

Re:Thats why (1)

Zlurg (591611) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454550)

AMD sponsors Ferrari. They're not a sponsor of the series and I don't think are on any other cars. HP sponsors Williams BMW. Sun sponsors McLaren Mercedes. I'm not sure who Suber have in their camp, but the Saubers have last year's Ferrari engine (and have for several years used the previous year's Ferrari engine), so it's possible they have AMD on their sleeves.

Does the tech need a roll bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454246)

And how about speed holes and racing stripes?

Gosh, I hate Formula 1 racing, they are NASCAR rednecks, with more money in other countries.

Things are going to change... (5, Interesting)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454252)

New regulations are being ushered through to eliminate a lot of the computerized systems in F1 cars. No more fancy traction control, the engines are going to be smaller, and there might even be an honest manual gearbox in future seasons. I doubt this will effect the telemetry advances, you still need all that data. What it will do is eliminate the edge Ferrari and BMW Williams have over everyone...

Go out and look for articles on the changes. I read a great piece in Autoweek a month or two ago.

Re:Things are going to change... (1)

SoTuA (683507) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454393)

It happens every year.

Team X comes up with great new tech Y.

Team X wipes the floor with everybody else.

Regulations make Y ilegal or restrains it hard.

Back to square one.

(Remember Williams' active suspension? It got Nigel Mansell a chamopionship!)

Auto/Semi-Auto Gearboxes may stay (1)

Camaro (13996) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454452)

I think on an episode of Windtunnel with Dave Despain someone said that the teams said they wanted to keep the current technology of gearboxes because it wasn't all that new and fancy anymore since it had been around for ten years already. Although I think it might be cool to see these guys trying to bang through the gears with an H-pattern shifter and a real foot clutch, I also believe it might not save much money for the smaller teams to have to redevelop a lot of parts to to fall in line with new rules.

Interactive F1 steering wheel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454254)

McLaren [mclaren.com]

For the American audience (2, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454257)

Formula 1 is Grand Prix racing, similar to Indycars but I believe the speed is slightly slower, tracks are more varied than the ovals that you're used to, and it's the major motorsport that the rest of the world watches. There is also competition between various teams who construct the cars rather than all of them being built by one or two manufacturers as (I think) it is in Indycars. Most of the constructors are British-based with the obvious exception of Ferrari.

Re:For the American audience (2, Insightful)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454317)

I like F1, and Le Mans, but the problem most Americans face is that the races are on at like 3AM. I sometimes catch a race real late or maybe watch one on tape delay, but it just isn't the same as Live.

Re:For the American audience (0)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454324)

Average speeds over a lap may be slower in F1 then with indycars racing on ovals, but only because F1 reaces of courses that actually require driving. Head to head, an F1 car will leave an indycar in the dust (the difference isn't so much speed and acceleration, but handling and especially braking).

Re:For the American audience (1)

dougrun (633662) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454344)

Indycars don't come close to being an F1 car! They are lower on the totem pole. They can only turn left, literally, their chassis is designed that way. F1 cars are lighter than Champcars (CART) but not as fast. With the push-to-pass button Champcars get 800hp. Theres a good car comparison on carts website. Watch them in HDNET or SpikeTV this weeknd at Porltand and look for me! I'll be there.

Re:For the American audience (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454501)

A few of the F1-cars have over 900hp. They also have superior track handling and brakes compared to CART-cars. The common reasoning is that an F1 car will outpace any IRL or CART car - except on ovals.

Re:For the American audience (1)

Zach978 (98911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454420)

Also, don't forget to watch the USGP this weekend...it's America's only F1 race each year, so don't miss it. Sun. at 1 PM EDT on SpeedTV.

Re:For the American audience (1)

turbo_magic_hat (555235) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454438)

Indycars (IRL/Cart) tend to top out at faster speeds - on an oval the Indycars would slaughter an F1, but F1 are optimised to keep as high an average on straights and corners as all races are on different courses including the streets of Monte Carlo. Every time an Indycar guy tests an F1 they comment on the higher G-forces and braking efficiency over their home sport.

buttons (5, Informative)

dougrun (633662) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454260)

N is the Nuetral button to kick the transmission into N. E is the cockpit extinguisher. L is probably the pit lane speed Limiter. Others control brake bias, fuel mixture, radio communications, the wheel's screen (pi display), and other handling stuff. The steering wheel alone is about $50-100k. (a Champcar figure but should be close).

Re:buttons (1)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454513)

E is the cockpit extinguisher. L is probably the pit lane speed Limiter.
No, E is the eject button and L is the lasers. Obviously.

Reaction Time? (0, Redundant)

artlu (265391) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454261)

That is amazing that there is that amount of data streaming down the pipelines, however, does this help the driver in the actual race? If so, is there regulation for that? I understand that the data can be later analyzed and then used for tuning, but the data should also be able to recognize if there is an engine error and the car is going to instantly explode.

GroupShares [groupshares.com]

How'd they get so rich? (1, Interesting)

CompWerks (684874) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454270)

I always wondered where the hell all of these F1 teams get so much cash. I know there tons of corporate sponsors, but I'd love to see the ROI of a 2x2 vodafone sticker on the front of a F1 car traveling @ 200 mph.

Re:How'd they get so rich? (1)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454414)

well, they don't get any money from ticket sales. FIA eats all that up plus the TV rights, as far as i know.

Brake Balance (5, Informative)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454274)

On a F1 car a car's front-to-rear brake balance can only be adjusted with an analog lever or knob. If you watch Michael Schumacher go down a long straight, you will see him reach with his right hand to adjust the brake balance. Interestingly, the Ferrari has a shifter interface on the left hand that allows both up and down shifts but only downs on the right (I think). When he adjusts the brakes he can continue to shift with his left hand. Also, because the cars use compressed air to shift and are always in gear (essentially) there is a lockout button (N) for stewards to put the machine in neutral on top of the bonnet. So an F1 car is not all high-tech, but a mix. I wish it were more like the the 60s though. Rolling death rides. Those guys had to be brave, talented AND FUCKING NUTS.

Re:Brake Balance (1)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454417)

Also, because the cars use compressed air to shift

Actually I believe they're hydraulic. If a driver stalls the car, they have to lift the drive wheels off the ground because it won't shift w/o the hydraulic pump, and it won't start in gear (unless it's off the ground).

Hydraulic (1)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454484)

Yeah, you are right. I think they experimented with compressed air at one time. I think the hydraulics are easier to balance on weight, but are just as heavy as a compressed air system.

Re:Hydraulic (1)

nxg125 (30911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454546)

Yeah, you are right. I think they experimented with compressed air at one time.

I believe they do use compressed air to close the valves, though. Doing it mechanically is too slow, especially when it has to happen like 300 times a second.

What does Formula One mean? (0, Troll)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454280)

I've always wondered this. Is it like Formula 409? Or Heinz 57? Does it just sound cool like MacOSX.

"What formula do you use to win?"

"The simplest formula of all. FORMULA ONE!"

Seriously, anyone know?

Re:What does Formula One mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454360)

I would of gone with love formula number 9.

british touring car championships (5, Informative)

rapiddescent (572442) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454281)

I've done some work for one of the major teams in the BTCC. These are 2.0 litre normally aspirated 1000kg cars that have been homologated from standard euro saloons. Even at this level, data is gathered from the car and analysed carefully to detect even the slightest dent in the power map. Most of the teams use the same off the shelf package for analysis.

However, the championship do not allow wireless data xfer anymore and only unencrypted voice is allowed to communicate with the driver. There is a sturdy DIN style plug that one of the engineers plugs a laptop into and downloads the data from the car when it is in the pits. A 20 minute race typically will see about 30Mb of data being retrieved. The organisers TOCA stopped wireless xfer because team managers were able to change the cars characteristics mid race and then reset them back before the scruitineers got a look in!

Most of the teams use windows xp on sturdy laptops with more powerful computing back at base - I guess because most of the software is off the shelf.

Formula1 is another ballgame...

The buttons do a lot of stuff (3, Interesting)

asoap (740625) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454290)

Dynamic Suspension (the suspension changing automatically via electronics) and also changing settings of the car automatically from the pits has been outlawed in f1. So when you see the driver pressing buttons he can be doing stuff like changing fuel maps, suspension damping, viewing differnt informatio. They also have a 'turbo' button. Which has nothing do with a turbocharger. But it works like this. If you are at the last few laps of a race, and you want to catch the guy ahead of you, you press this button which lets you raise the rpms of the motor another 500 rpms, which gives you a little extra boost. But you also sacrifice the health of the motor.

Years ago, when a driver crashed, you would see him get out and throw his steering wheel against something. That doesn't happen any more because those steering wheels cost $50,000.


Re:The buttons do a lot of stuff (1)

nxg125 (30911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454358)

Years ago, when a driver crashed, you would see him get out and throw his steering wheel against something. That doesn't happen any more because those steering wheels cost $50,000.

And also because they get a hefty fine if they don't replace the steering wheel!


Re:The buttons do a lot of stuff (1)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454431)

It also costs $10000 if you fail to put the wheel back in the car.

Re:The buttons do a lot of stuff (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454476)

Actually, the drivers have to put the steering wheel back on so that the car can be moved by the track crew. The drivers/teams will get fined if they do not do so.

Technology is killing F1 (2, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454292)

I think they should remove most of the technology to level the playing field for the smaller teams. F1 should be a bit more in the spirit of man and machine racing each other, not man determines direction computer controlled racing machine is pointing in.

Rule Changes Coming (1)

Zach978 (98911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454294)

There are a lot of rule changes [planetf1.com] in the talks. One of them is to have a "standard FIA ECU for the engines". The ECU is the electronics that control the engines. The problem with changes like this is that F1 is supposed to push technology to the limits, but when you let the teams do all kinds of high tech stuff it gets too expensive and you have too much of a divide between the best and worst teams. We'll see if the changes cut costs or make the races more exciting...I just hope that the FIA doesn't forget that F1 should be expenisive and high tech.

Re:Rule Changes Coming (1)

another_mr_lizard (608713) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454373)

"I just hope that the FIA doesn't forget that F1 should be expenisive and high tech"

I would rather the excitement of the sport returned rather than the neutered high-tech parade that we get to watch these days.

The FIA's rule changes are to stop the big three (Ferrari, McLaren, Williams) from just throwing ridiculous amounts of money at a problem rather than engineering a solution.

Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454301)

Unsuprisingly when compared to yesterdays sports and technology story they dont use linux. Guess your penguins only for flashy scoreboards for now, huh?

Buttons (5, Informative)

openSoar (89599) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454302)

Article on the steering where here [f1technical.net] that describes hat each button does. I think this one is from the 2002 season but most things are the same.

While we're talking about car racing... (2, Interesting)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454313)

I'll take the liberty to recommend the 3D IMAX Nascar [imax.com] movie for likeminded 3D/slashdot buffs.

That movie's the next best thing to experiencing the joys of 250mph+ car racing, and an absolute must if you're into car racing games (TD, NFS, etc). I also learnt a couple of neat facts like driving in quick succession (about 5ft apart) helps the successive cars to avoid drag, and the air flow from the following car helps push the leading car along.

Anyway, enough ranting...here's hoping for a 3-D car racing game for the PC.

F1 Technical (4, Interesting)

richj (85270) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454334)

This is a great site for a lot of the technical aspects of F1.


I found it funny that the NYT waited until the Ferrari was in Canada so they could shoot pictures of it without the Marlboro ads the car typically has painted on while racing outside North America. :)

What the buttons do (2, Interesting)

jdehnert (84375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454340)

The buttons control all sorts of aspects of the car. Brake bias, sway bar settings, fuel mixture and horsepower, pit speed rev limiter, etc.

Now the really AMAZING part is that if you watch the races, you can usually see Schumacher fiddling with these settings during a race and often in a turn or at well over 100 MPH.

I race myself in an open wheel car, and I do OK, but my concentration is usually at close to 100% all of the time, so seeing Schumi adjusting things in a turn just blows me away every time.

Timing (1, Troll)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454352)

While the driver has a lot of cool buttons and features, at 200 MPH, does he really have the time to worry about the things? I mean lets face it, a slight (and i mean SLIGHT) jerk of the stearing wheel at 200 MPH generally means flying to one's death....

The Steering Wheel (5, Informative)

aluminumcube (542280) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454359)

The steering wheels are all proprietary items for each team, so I can't tell you exactly what Ferrari's does.


- Behind the wheel are two paddles. Pull one and you get an upshift on the computer controlled sequential gearbox, pull the other for a downshift. The cars have what are essentially normal manual transmissions, but instead of the driver controlling the clutch and shift forks, computer controlled hydraulics do the job and produce perfect shifts. Typically, pulling both paddles will put the car in neutral (allowing drivers to get out of a spin if possible)

- On the upper right and left, the + and - buttons are probably backup shift buttons. For the team I worked with, the paddles behind the wheel could sometimes be problematic, so they had backups in the same place as the wheel in the picture.

- The yellow "N" switch is "Set Neutral." Press it once and the car stays in Neutral even if the steering wheel is removed. Drivers are required to, upon exiting the race due to a mechanical failure or crash, replace the steering wheel (which they need to remove to get out of the car) and place the vehicle in neutral so crews can remove it. If they don't, they are fined an obscene amount of money.

- The red "L" switch is the pit lane speed limiter switch. In F1, the pit lanes have a very rigorously enforced speed limit. Hitting that button causes the computer to limit the car's speed to whatever the track pit speed limit is.

- The LED display can show a whole bunch of data. From moving track maps to onboard telemetry, timing, gear status, Gran Turismo...

I don't know exactly what the rotary switches do on that car, but I have seen them for:

- Brake bias; controls the front and rear split of pressure on the brakes allowing the driver to set the car up based on tyre wear and fuel weight (in F1, fuel is measured by weight, not by volume).

- Engine fuel mapping; drivers can conserve fuel at the expense of raw power or gain raw power at the expense of fuel depending on the tactical situation.

- Oil/Water cooling; they can control how much water and oil is flowing through the coolers. In wet races or if your trapped behind the slipstream of another vehicle, it becomes important to control these things. F1 car engines require heat for all the components to work properly, but too much heat of course, kills them. It is a constant game of keeping these things in balance. Usually, engineers in the pit lane will inform the driver of exactly what changes to make (by the rules, they cannot simply have radio commands control the vehicle).

Of course, the rest of the buttons are for the radio, drinking water pump, the fuel filler flap, rear caution light and those sorts of gizmos.

A few of the buttons are also like the water/oil cooler controls in that they only exist for the driver to press when the engineers tell him to.

All of that for around US$30K per steering wheel...

Steering Wheel Buttons and Controls (5, Informative)

SaxMaster (95691) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454363)

The steering wheel controls, as a couple posters above have said, are used to change fuel mixture, rev limiters for pit speeds, as well as adjusting launch and traction control systems. What they DONT tell you in the article is one of the things that makes Schumacher so good is how he utilizes that wheel during a race, aside from steering the car :) He adjusts his mixture, TCS systems and gearbox on the fly during the race, sometimes in the middle of one corner anticipating the needs of the next corner (!) This adjustability and all the testing he does is one reason he dominates the competition. Schumi's wheel has even more controlls than the wheel they pictured in the article, which belongs to Barachello.

F1 Rules (3, Informative)

Apreche (239272) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454400)

F1 Steering Wheel [bbc.co.uk]

Formula 1, if you didn't know, is the premiere motorsport in the world. Every rule about car design in F1 falls into one of two categories. Rules that prevent the egineer from killing the driver and rules that say the car must not fall apart. The result is the most technologically advanced cars in the entire world. These are the fastest four wheeled motor vehicles on earth that can make both left and right turns. Every race car driver falls into 3 categories. Driving F1, wanting to drive F1 and too afraid to drive F1. If you think Nascar is dumb because they go around in circles, F1 is for you. I've heard it described as driving a go-kart with a jet engine. (it's really just a V10).

Oh, and some other information. Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver in F1 today, he has won the championship the last 6 times. He is the highest paid athlete in the entire world. He drives a ferrari, the best car there is. It looks like he is going to win again this year, he has lost only one race so far. And while it seems boring to watch the same guy win every time it shows you why F1 is so great. The best driver wins every time. And this guy is the undisputed greatest driver of cars to ever live.

The US grand prix in Indianapolis is this sunday at 1pm. It is the only race in the US this year. If you haven't seen an F1 race I highly reccomend you check it out. Imagine Nascar, with right turns and no rednecks. It doesn't suck.

The buttons (1)

Tranzig (786710) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454412)

The actual meaning and the layout of the buttons on the wheel is secret and varies by driver, but usually there are buttons for setting the balance and torque of the brakes, the pitstop speed limiter, the differential, the ratio of fuel and air, and probably much more.

Reply to original story: (2, Funny)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454462)

I love the crazy steering wheel - anyone know what all those buttons and knobs do?"

About Mach 2, depending on how you hit. Let's ask Dale Earnhardt.

Mod this down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9454465)

I accidentally moderated a perfectly good post down so I am posting real quick to kill my moderation in this forum

What Technology? (2, Insightful)

Viceice (462967) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454481)

Everytime some engineer dreams up a killer piece of technology, it gets banned. Figured out an effective shape that generates downforce? Get banned. Figure out how to recofigure ur car on the fly? Get banned.

And what about traction control? Adaptive suspension? not to mention 1001 other things that make a car go faster and safer, and turn better.

I hate it the way they keep banning technology. It used to be that F1 was the pinnicle of automative technology. Not anymore. Now you can buy a road car with more technology in it then an F1 car.


I am floored! (1)

Tired_Blood (582679) | more than 9 years ago | (#9454541)

I see a NY Times link without the standard apologies and it doesn't redirect me to a subscription page.

What the hell is going on? Is this really slashdot?
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