The F1 FAQ

By Marcel Schot, Netherlands
Atlas F1 Magazine Writer

"Are all current F1 Engines V10 and if so when did the other configurations demise ? Who brought the first V10? Are the valves opened by Camshafts or ? Andrew"

Yes, all current Formula One engines are indeed V10 configurations, as the rules don't allow any other configuration.

The origin of the V10 engine lies at the end of the turbo era. When turbos were forbidden, starting in 1989, two rules more or less forced the V10 idea onto the teams. First of all, the pedals were now required to be behind the front axle, which meant the cockpits had to be further to the back. The second rule was that the fuel tanks had to have a capacity between 200 and 220 litres. These two rules effectively ruled out the powerful V12 configuration, because it was simply too big. V8 engines had been very common until the turbo era started. Most teams indeed reverted to the V8 for 1989. However, McLaren with Honda and Williams with Renault both came up with the idea and resources to produce a V10 engine. The result was that these two teams took home 12 of the 16 victories in 1989. Still, it took quite a few years for all teams to get themselves a V10 engine. The last team to switch was Tyrrell, who used the V8 Ford in 1997 after they lost the Yamaha V10 due to the manufacturer switching to Arrows.

Until now, the valves were always opened by camshafts. However, Renault are rumoured to be using a camless engine in 2002.

"Just wanted to know what exactly "aquaplaning" is. Coulthard complained of aquaplaning at 100km/h behind the safety car during the Malaysian race, so how could they race faster than that, if aquaplaning is dangerous and most likely to cause a driver to leave the track? Had the track dried sufficiently by the time they re-started racing? Thanks, Andy"

Aquaplaning happens when the amount of water on the asphalt is more than the tyres can handle. Generally speaking, the water gets transported through the grooves in the tyres. However, when the amount of water is too much for the tyre to dissipate, it will stay in front of the tyres, which then causes the tyres to float on a cushion of water. The tyres lose all grip, as they are no longer in direct contact with the asphalt. At that moment even a wet weather tyre acts like a slick.

As a rule of thumb with normal road cars, the speed above which aquaplaning can happen is ten times the square root of the tyre pressure in psi. The FIA Technical Regulations state that a Formula One tyre has to have a pressure of 1.4 bar, which is 20.3 psi. If this rule of thumb would apply to Formula One cars, that would mean that aquaplaning could happen at a speed as low as 45 km/h. This leads me to believe that the biggest problem in this case wasn't the speed, but rather the lack of it. Behind the safety car, Formula One cars can only use a very limited part of their power. Therefore, the slightest increase in speed to maintain the gap to the safety car, causes a sudden significant acceleration which will be enough to make the car aquaplane as the water builds up in front of the tyre.

"Could the pace of (especially in qualifying) of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen over their teammates (Barrichello and Coulthard) be due the fact they they employ left-foot braking? which drivers use left-foot braking and which have conventional pedals? are there statistics that compare footwork technique? what determines a driver's choice? how simple is it to adapt a car?"

Left foot braking is the norm these days. Only a few drivers brake with their right foot, such as Jean Alesi and Rubens Barrichello. On his website, Alex Yoong speaks about adapting to left foot braking in his first Minardi test, saying that it was very difficult as the left foot doesn't yet have the "memory" of how much muscle force is needed for the amount of braking he wants to apply. Most often, those drivers with a karting background find little difficulty in left foot braking, as they're already used to it.

"I would appreciate If you can tell me, how F1 drivers changed gears back in eighties and nineties. I saw a video clip with Senna in Monaco and got the impression he was changing gears like we still do in our cars today - first / third / fifth forward and second / fourth backward. But friend told me that they had sequential gearboxes, like Tiptronic in today's Audies or Porsches or like gearboxes in modern Rally cars. Thank you for your answer. Best regards, Ales"

This one required the technical knowledge of Kurt Sperry once again.

Kurt: History of F1 not being my long suit, I am not sure when the teams went from gated shifters to the current sequential motorcycle-style transmissions. Actually the Tiptronic-type gearboxes aren't true sequential units - those must pass through any intermediate gears to get from one ratio to another - but are more akin to a traditional automotive-type transmission. Current F1 transmissions are quite similar to a standard motorcycle design, but the actual shifting is implemented electrohydraulically rather than by hand (or foot!)

"Can you explain to me, or tell me where I can find, the meaning of the "Brake Test" action? Juan"

When a driver does a brake test, he brakes in an unexpected area when another driver is driving closely behind him. This is usually done either by braking earlier and often harder than usual before entering a corner or in some cases in a position where braking is absolutely not necessary. There can basically be two reasons for brake testing another driver. The first is the most practical: to make a driver back off from a position in which he is an overtaking risk. An example of this is Michael Schumacher's much discussed brake test of the field behind the safety car at Monza in 2000, which caught Jenson Button off guard. The second is the more common one: irritation over an earlier incident.

"The question that I have for you is: How do the curves or chicanes get their names? Are they named after Race Drivers? Thank you, Fred"

The naming of corners is something that's handled differently on many circuits. At Catalunya and the Nurburgring the corners are named after sponsors, at Magny Cours they're named after other circuits and at many other circuits they're named after locations that were already there before the circuit was. Albert Park is one of the circuits that has named most corners after drivers, in this case, retired multiple World Champions.

A quick scan of this year's circuits gives the following drivers after who corners have been named:

Ayrton Senna - 3 (Interlagos, Montreal, Hockenheim)
Alberto Ascari - 2 (Albert Park, Monza)
Niki Lauda - 2 (Albert Park, A1 Ring)
Jim Clark - 2 (Albert Park, Hockenheim)
Jack Brabham - 1 (Albert Park)
Alan Jones - 1 (Albert Park)
Jochen Rindt - 1 (A1 Ring)
Graham Hill - 1 (Albert Park)
Jackie Stewart - 1 (Albert Park)
Alain Prost - 1 (Albert Park)
Gilles Villeneuve - 1 (Imola)

"On 14/12/1994 M Schumacher tested a Ligier. Was it as an introduction to the Renault engine, and is their any more info on it? thanx, Burton"

Yes, this test was for Schumacher to familiarize with the Renault engine that Benetton would be using the next year. As their contract with Renault hadn't started yet, Flavio Briatore, who at the time had stakes in both Benetton and Ligier, arranged the test for Schumacher. It took place in Estoril and Schumacher's time was 1:20.84, 1.3 seconds slower than Damon Hill and 0.1 of a second slower than Emmanuel Collard, both driving Williamses.

"What what special about Ferrari car on the USA GP 1963? Thanks, Dasha"

I think you might be referring to the 1964 US Grand Prix. This indeed was quite unique. After a dispute with the Italian automobile association, Enzo Ferrari refused to let his cars compete under the Italian flag. Instead, he put them under the American NART - North American Racing Team - banner through Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari's chief representative in America. The real curiosity about this was that the Ferrari's did not race in the usual red, but in a blue and white color scheme. The situation was the same at the final race of the season in Mexico, but come 1965, the cars were back in red as they've been ever since.

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Volume 8, Issue 01
January 2nd 2002


Rear View Mirror
by Don Capps

The Measure of Massa
by Karl Ludvigsen

Off-Season Strokes
by Bruce Thomson


The F1 FAQ
by Marcel Schot

Bookworm Critique
by Mark Glendenning

The Weekly Grapevine
by The F1 Rumours Team

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