Materials in Formula One

What makes a modern Formula 1 car? The old days of cars built with everyday materials are long gone, with Panasonic Toyota Racing using space-age technology to optimise every part of its TF107. To succeed in Formula 1, every element of the car and ...

Materials in Formula One

What makes a modern Formula 1 car? The old days of cars built with everyday materials are long gone, with Panasonic Toyota Racing using space-age technology to optimise every part of its TF107.

To succeed in Formula 1, every element of the car and the team must be at the very highest level, and that applies to the materials which make up the car. Materials are chosen for their lightness, strength and durability, with careful consideration given not just to performance but also to reliability.

A perfect compromise is the key, with materials ideally being as light as possible to minimise the weight of the car, but also being durable and strong to ensure all parts perform to the limit without failure.

The technology of materials in Formula 1 has advanced at a fierce pace over the last decade, with specialist technicians required to truly design and manufacture a competitive Formula 1 car. Progress has been such that the sport's rules have been amended to restrict the use of certain alloys in order to keep costs at an acceptable level.

But even given the rule restrictions, there is plenty of work to do for those at Panasonic Toyota Racing who are living in a material world. With over 100 different alloys available at the team's factory in Cologne, Germany, the materials store is full of high-tech building blocks.

Of course, quality control is vital to ensure everything works as planned and the team demands high standards from every component, as Senior General Manager Engine Luca Marmorini explains: "We are using more than 100 different alloys, typically aluminium, titanium, copper, cobalt, tungsten are used. There is a standard, that is the aerospace standard but a lot of materials are developed with some suppliers and we can develop our own standards. Typically, if you have to mention a standard, it is aerospace standard."

The materials store has 360 square metres of space but stock levels are continually monitored and adjusted according to the Toyota Way principal of Just In Time, which means supply is closely linked to demand to eliminate excess stock.

Of course, with the variety of materials used by Panasonic Toyota Racing, the materials store is more than your traditional store room. Some of the materials require special storage, for example carbon fibres must be stored at -20C.

Carbon fibre first appeared in Formula 1 in the 1980s and soon became the key to a successful car due to its lightness combined with great strength, as well as new possibilities to build different shaped components than previously possible. Carbon fibre has become so widespread in Formula 1 now that around 75% of a car is built from that material, including the safety cell which surrounds the driver.

The fabrication department is where the materials are transformed from basic elements to high-tech components for a Formula 1 car. Luca adds: "In the fabrication department, some very experienced, trained technicians are able to weld very difficult parts like the exhaust, and also apply some welding panels on a casted component.

"Together with this we have a lot of composite parts in the car and for this we are using carbon fibre compounds."

While new materials have been developed and added over the past few years, some have fallen out of use. For example, it is hard to imagine now that a wooden board was ever an essential component of a Formula 1 car, but when the 'plank' on the floor of the car was first introduced in 1994, to enforce a minimum ride height, wood was the chosen material.

The primary purpose of the 'plank' is to show when a car has run too low, which can be seen by wearing on the 'plank' itself. Wood was a good initial choice but the materials soon became more advanced says Luca: "In the past the 'plank' under the car was made of wood, now it is made from a composite material that is very light. The 'plank' of the car touches the ground so it has to be made from something that can be deformed."

Such major changes in materials are unusual in modern Formula 1 but gradual changes are regularly implemented as the team pursues its kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement. "We are not changing materials a lot, but we are developing them during the season. It is a continuous evolution, we are constantly developing materials to improve performance of future parts," adds Luca.

Formula 1 may now be focused on an evolution of materials, but a revolution has taken place in material usage since the first World Championship Formula 1 race in 1950.

As car design has advanced at pace, so too have the materials used to construct them -- to the point now that a modern team needs a dedicated team of staff focused solely on material technology.

"The approach has completely changed," Luca says. "Fifty years ago no Formula 1 team had its own materials department but now we have a very advanced materials department and we can perform analysis in our own buildings. In the past every Formula 1 team relied on external labs to do mechanical calculations of material consistency. Now everything is done in house - you have to do it in house to have true quality standards."

And high standards are what Panasonic Toyota Racing is dedicated to achieving, not only in materials but in every aspect of the team.

-credit: toyota

shares
comments
Standings after Japanese GP (REVISED)
Previous article

Standings after Japanese GP (REVISED)

Next article

Chinese GP: Toyota preview

Chinese GP: Toyota preview
The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared Prime

The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared

Recent moves within the driver market have reminded Maurce Hamilton of a time when contracts weren’t worth the paper they weren’t written on…

The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination Prime

The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination

After a tooth and nail and, at times, toxic Formula 1 world championship scrap last year, Max Verstappen's march to a second consecutive title has been the exact opposite. But has he really changed in 2022? Here's a dive into what factors have played a crucial role, both inside the Verstappen camp and elsewhere, in the Dutch driver's domination.

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2022
The time lag of ideas that offers intrigue over F1's future fight Prime

The time lag of ideas that offers intrigue over F1's future fight

The pecking order in 2022's Formula 1 season may look pretty static as the season draws to a close, but the unique nature of the cost cap means that preparation for next season takes precedence. New developments are being pushed back to 2023, which could mask the technical development war ongoing...

Formula 1
Sep 22, 2022
The surprise biggest indicator of Ferrari's 2022 F1 points downfall Prime

The surprise biggest indicator of Ferrari's 2022 F1 points downfall

Looking back to the early races of 2022 and Ferrari’s challenge to Red Bull and Max Verstappen was going better than many expected. But it has lost so much ground a surprise rival can even pip Charles Leclerc to runner-up in the standings if given the chance

Formula 1
Sep 20, 2022
The F1 podium-finisher that gave Jordan stability in a year of chaos Prime

The F1 podium-finisher that gave Jordan stability in a year of chaos

The Hart-powered Jordan 194 gave the team hope that the good times were just around the corner. Its 1994 steed wasn’t the start of a move up F1’s pecking order - even if the car did earn the Silverstone team a first pole position. But, as STUART CODLING explains, it did provide a platform for Jordan to become a manufacturer-supported squad.

Formula 1
Sep 18, 2022
BRM V16: How F1's greatest sound has returned to the track Prime

BRM V16: How F1's greatest sound has returned to the track

The first of three new BRM V16s is bringing the greatest-sounding engine to a new audience – and back to the race track - at the Goodwood Revival this weekend. Here is the story of the ambitious 1950 Formula 1 project's resurrection for historic competition

Formula 1
Sep 17, 2022
The juggling act that makes up an F1 team principal’s weekend Prime

The juggling act that makes up an F1 team principal’s weekend

Have you ever wondered what a Formula 1 team principal actually does at a grand prix? GP RACING followed Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack to open a window into the TP’s race weekend world…

Formula 1
Sep 16, 2022
The F1 car concept dilemma that Mercedes must answer soon Prime

The F1 car concept dilemma that Mercedes must answer soon

Mercedes is yet to get on top of its troubled W13 Formula 1 car as it gets set to face its first season of the hybrid era without winning either of the titles. As the time comes to switch focus to the 2023 campaign, Mercedes faces a dilemma on whether or not it should stay the course with its current car philosophy or change tact altogether

Formula 1
Sep 15, 2022