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A tribute to the strength of the modern Formula 1 car

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The European Grand Prix at Nürburgring (, Germany, today witnessed the season leader – Lewis Hamilton – who reminds me more and more of Senna’s beyond the limit driving and Schumacher’s pin-point perfect driving combined – witness a head-on collision at over 250 kmph.

Just a few months ago, we witnessed a major accident involving Robert Kubica of BMW F1 and he escaped unscathed with a few minor concussions.

What makes a Formula1 car so safe, so tough but yet so fast?

After Ayrton Senna’s tragic death at San Marino GP in 1994 (, F1 basically went through a sea of changes with security gaining a major share of the manufacturers of F1 cars involved in the F1 circus.

In 1999, Michael Schumacher ( who was leading the points table suffered a broken leg during his race at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. This just goes to show what a dangerous sport F1 can really be.

I was watching almost all these incidents live on TV.

Multiple reasons.

1. A Formula-1 car is like an aeroplane only that the concept is the opposite. A plane’s wings produce lift (Bernaulli’s principle) while an F1 car’s wings produce downforce that keeps it sucked to the ground. This theoretically means that a Formula1 car can be driven upside down and will still stick onto the track!

The concept essentially is that high pressure is created above the car that pushes the car to the ground and the low pressure is created under the car because the space is so narrow for air to pass under the chassis of the car which is so close to the ground.

2. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of security in automobiles/motor sport today. Yes, we do have Cart FedEx championships and Indy car championships but F1 is still considered the most global and high profie sport in the world today and safety is given the topmost preference in F1 today. The recent introduction of the HANS (Head and neck support) device makes sure the driver lives to tell the tale of the extreme G forces that his body is subjected to (in the event of a crash, a driver goes through as much as 30 G’s – this means, he is subjected to 30 times his body weight!). I was reading somewhere that a human being can live upto 60 G’s for a micro second being subjected without sustaining irreversible damage – not sure of the authenticity of this claim though!

The carbon fiber structure of the F1 car is designed to disintegrate absorbing all the shock of an impact by transferring the impact to the body of the car than allow it to pass to the driver. The brakes of a modern F1 car can bring the car from 300 kmph to 0 kmph in a distance of a few of meters. Traction control and launch control (now non existent in modern F1 cars) provide better grip to negotiate corners/chicanes at high speeds. The car’s carbon fiber monocoque ( is so narrow and the driver so heavily strapped up that in the impact of a collision, the driver’s body is literally immobilized to prevent accidental injuries.

Check out some good articles that gives a very good insight into the safety and security provided to the monocoque ( of the F1 car.


Written by Naveen Athresh

July 21, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Beautiful cars, F1, Sports

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