Friday, December 4, 2009


I am a proud owner of a recently acquired state of the art RC model F1 car. It’s about 1/6th the size of a real F1 grand prix car. The model is reasonably priced, its available here for about 50 USD. The first thing one would notice about this car is its sheer length; it’s about 78 cms in length & 33 cms across. It weighs bout 1.2 Kgs.

The transmitter for the RC car transmits a 40 MHz PWM (pulse width modulated) signal. The receiver circuit within the vehicle picks this PWM signal and then carries out the assigned task. The transmitter has a ‘Forward, Reverse’ and a precision steering capability of ‘Left and Right’.
The working for these four tasks is simple; the transmitter produces different PWMs for each of the four tasks while the receiver decodes the same to guide the model car to zoom at an incredible speed while you maneuver it on its assigned track. The battery is a heavy duty rechargeable 1.2V x 10 nickel-cadmium pack.

The car resembles a real F1 car, but to prevent copyright violations, the adverts on the car are miss-spelled, for example yahoo is written as yoo-hoo, elf is alf, and shell is shield & so on. The car looks perfect except for its Driver who looks rather too plastic. The manufacturers should have paid more attention to this.

The wheels are quite nice & have a rubbery feel to it. Its hold on to the floor is not really good as it creates too much traction & hence slows the vehicle down, the best surface has proven to be tiles, and these tires glide on them quite smoothly. Initially the Ni-Cd battery pack required a charge of about 12 hours. After that a 2 hour recharge suffices. The only drawback is that once recharged the battery drains quite fast. One can enjoy a thorough 15 minutes of intense racing with the car after which it starts to slow down & then gradually coming to a halt.

The real F1 car however is an Engineering marvel, with about 200 moving parts. The low centre of gravity ensures that the vehicle does not flip. The wings at the front & rear of the car act like an aero plane’s wings but they are upside down, thus creating a down force. This down force is of the magnitude of 2.5, in simple words this means that the down force created by an F1 car is about 2.5 times its own body weight. Theoretically at about 120 mph (192 kmph) an F1 car can be driven upside down in a tunnel. More the down force subjected on these cars more is their grip on the road & thus the car can turn better at tight corners.

As I earlier mentioned that my F1 car is creating a drag on the carpet (but works perfect on tiles), the real drag on an F1 car is about the same as an 18 wheeler’s drag.

An F1 car runs very close to the tarmac, its ground clearance is just about 1 inch or even less. To ensure that the car produces maximum down force, the suspension is made quite tensile, about ten times as tensile as a passenger car.

Being the most expensive sport in the world, it’s no wonder that a great amount of time & money is spent on ensuring the safety of the driver. If a crash occurs, the F1 car is designed to destruct around the driver, the car has been engineered to take in as much impact as possible. However to be able to drive such a vehicle itself is an art. The driver’s ability to be able to focus & be absolutely fit is a key criterion in the effective handling of such vehicles.

The engineering aspect of these vehicles is very interesting & makes a good read. Many new technologies have been invented due to this sport. Mc-Laren for example invented a braking system that would bring to rest an F1 car in about 2.2 seconds; however this has been banned by the sporting federation.

When an F1 car travels at high speeds it creates a vacuum behind it, this phenomenon is called the ‘Bernoulli effect’. When a high speed object cuts through the air, a low pressure region is created behind it & thus the surrounding air rushes in to fill this void of air. It is for this reason that fallen leaves on the road follow the vehicle when it moves over them. This vacuum created by an F1 car is somewhat dangerous for the cars that follow it. But the unique shape of the frontal end of an F1 car compensates for this. The tires are a special mix of rubber & nylon. This is such a superior mix that the tires on an F1 car virtually grip the road.

Important electronic data is collected from sensors that are attached to almost every component of the car. As the car races around the track the data is transmitted around the pits in the form of radio signals. Amazingly the F1 teams can actually electronically control the car but this is naturally forbidden, but the team can give verbal advice to the driver.

I’m going to put up the video of my F1 RC car soon; I’ve driven it around a tiled track. But good riding skill is needed as this RC model goes quite fast & a simple crash will result in colossal damage to its front wings. The famous red color was not available, so I had to pick out the next best.

My eye is now on a gasoline powered RC car. It’s about 9cc & cost about five times my present model.

I also have a ‘Ford’ RC pickup truck named ‘Midnight Pumpkin’. Its a rough rider too.

To sum it all up, an F1 car s one of the most superior machines on this earth. The next time you see an F1/ Indy car think about the tremendous engineering that goes into making them perform, and sometimes even over-perform. Comments are welcome.

NOTE: The carbon footprint of a F1 car is terribly bad.... thats something the budding auto Engineers have to look into.

Let’s compare an F1 car to a typical car in the UK which produces about 160 g/km, and over a year (10,000 miles) will produce about 2.56 tonnes of CO2.
According to Wikipedia a typical F1 burns 75 litres of fuel per 100km raced. Based on figures for petrol (which is a reasonable proxy of race fuel), 0.75 litres of fuel burnt per km equates to a CO2 output of 1737 g/km. And over a race season using approx 100,000 litres of the stuff, that’s 231 tonnes of CO2. Per car. And each team has 2. So for fuel alone, before the costs of flying to races, support vehicles and the number of cows required to furnish Max Mosley’s “special” wardrobe, that’s about 463 tonnes per team. I wonder if they carbon offset? At least they’re becoming hybrids for the 2009 season…


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