RAC Cars News


F1 Drivers - Under Pressure

By raccars Published

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You might make 'vroom vroom' noises and lean dramatically into the bends while racing your Ford Fiesta around the countryside, but realistically, Formula One cars are financially and physically beyond the reach of most drivers.

A Clinical Neurosurgery publication by a former F1 medic and neurosurgeon, described the extensive physical demands experienced by racing drivers. F1 cars take corners at forces more than four times that of normal gravity, meaning drivers need the neck and shoulder muscles of a body builder to maintain control. However, this is nothing compared to the cardiovascular strain involved. F1 driver pulse rates have been measured as high as 200bpm while racing. Basically, the middle-aged and paunchy have no chance of controlling an F1 car on the track.

This sort of pressure explains why only a tiny minority of driving enthusiasts make the great leap from armchair cheerleader to podium. Formula One is the pinnacle of both engineering and physical challenge.

As brutal as this sounds, F1 cars are all about the rules and regulations. Governing bodies dictate the bigger picture in the form of engine sizes, overall weights and sponsorship signage, right down to tiny, technological details, such as construction materials and air intake management. The same rules mean F1 cars must come as a pair.

The minimum weight limit for an F1 car, driver included, is 642kg, which depends also upon a four-stroke, naturally aspirated V8 engine with a maximum 2.4 litre displacement. The maximum rev limit for that engine is 18,000rpm. The result is a possible 900 horsepower of thrust through a mid-mounted engine, managed by a prescribed seven-speed transmission.

In effect, driving a Formula 1 car is about as comparable to driving a family hatchback as broccoli is to sticky toffee pudding. The power to weight ratio is multiplied by about 11 times. F1 cars also have access to a boost function in the form of a kinetic energy recovery system, adding an extra 80hp to aid overtaking.

An F1 car's 0-60mph speed is around two seconds, while it will cover a quarter of a mile in about eight seconds. The F1 circuit doesn't feature any straights long enough for the cars to reach their estimated 250mph top speed, but Italy's Monza circuit will get them to something like 210mph.

If you're interested in belting around the track, you'll need to be of fairly compact build, supremely physically fit, comfortable with extreme sensory overload and to have the reflexes of a jungle cat. In return, you could experience glorious excitement and earn up to £15 million per year...

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