There are things of beauty in this world that one can gaze at for hours on end. Forms and shapes that are as close to perfection as our human imperfections can bring us. The water lily paintings of Claude Monet, the perfect curves of Brigette Bardot or Sophia Loren, and the raw beauty and power of a Formula One race car.
These are things I can endlessly ponder and dream of. While I would love to wax lyrical on the French and Italian actresses or to go into further details on the technique and brushstrokes which bring depth and feeling to the lilies of Monet, instead I am going to delve into the mysteries of the Formula One race car.
A Formula One car is simple when considering the description – single seat, open cockpit, wings on the front and back, rear engine vehicle with an open wheel design made for racing, however, just have a look at one.
I can sit and stare at a painting for hours and when I visited the Enzo Ferrari museum in Modena, Italy – I had no problem staring at the Formula One cars in the same way. These are works of art. These are masterpieces. These are exquisite.
Don’t believe me? Watch the movie Rush – it isn’t just about the drivers or the tracks – it is about the cars. I would venture to say that the drivers get involved because of the cars. It is no coincidence that beautiful women and race cars go hand in hand. They are both reflections of God’s face which somehow do not blind us when we look upon them.
Formula One began in 1946 with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA’s) standardisation of the rules in which they decreed specific specs for the cars to be able to compete. Every Formula One car must adhere to these specs, but there is and always has been room for innovation in design. The World Drivers’ Championship of 1950 set the stage for the sport’s history and the regulations which have grown out of safety and fairness have shaped the cars of today from those at the beginning – but it is the designers who have really made an impact.
Ferrari, Lotus, Alfa Romeo, Mazaratti, Mercedes-Benz – these are the names behind the most famous Formula One cars of them all. Here’s the thing – you can’t just hop in an F1 car and drive to the market. These cars are highly engineered and developed for one thing – going in excess of 200 miles per hour – although in most races, average speed is far lower at somewhere around 100-150 miles per hour.
The chassis of an F1 is the skeleton of the car -everything else is attached to it with bolts, welding, screws, or glue. They are made with monocoque construction like most cars and planes – it’s a fancy way of saying one body or single shell. In other words – it’s one piece. At different times in the sport’s history the chassis has been aluminum or even steel but today it is a much stronger carbon fiber body of resin put over a light alloy mesh. The shape of the car pushes it towards the ground as air rushes over it. Without the aerodynamics, the chassis would lift into the air.
Within the chassis is the cockpit. There is a minimum size and many other specifications which are set for the cockpit – some of these regulations have caused problems in the past by obstructing vision or not offering enough protection to drivers. Here’s a big difference between your car and an F1 – F1 seats are designed specifically for the drivers. You can’t just hop in any F1 – it’s engineered for the driver.
F1 engines are always undergoing changes. It used to be V10s or V8s but one thing has remained constant since the 1960s – an engine in the back is far more efficient – why? Because pushing takes less force than pulling. Now, consider your cars 150 hp engine pulling you along – imagine replacing that with 900 hp pushing you…wow. That’s why the drivers have to be professionals.
In terms of gas – you can’t just fill er up at the local petrol station. F1 cars run on fuel that the teams engineer for specific tracks and conditions and when you talk about mileage – um…it’s not a Prius. Formula One cars get about 4 miles per gallon.
But, they are beautiful and beautiful cars like other beautiful things simply require a finer degree of care and maintenance, right?