F1 Tech: The gadgets inside the car


Recording anything
that goes 200mph is
tricky. We asked F1’s
top teams for the
inside track on the
tech inside the car…
When we think of Formula
One technology, invariably
we think of screaming V8
engines, super sticky tyres
and the now infamous
Kinetic Energy Retension
System (or KERS for short).
But there’s plenty of other
stuff going on in an F1
racer that we’d never
normally think of. With the
help of some of Formula
One’s top teams, we’ve
brought you a few smaller,
but equally incredible bits
of tech from inside an F1
car.
HELMET
You’re able to hear what
each driver is saying
because he’s wearing
custom-made earplugs, and
speaking into a minute,
noise-cancelling microphone
installed in his crash hat.
The double face mic is just
5mm in diameter and 2mm
thick and can usually
manage around 80 per cent
noise suppression thanks
to two signals – one that
broadcasts the driver’s
voice and another that
cancels the noise of the car
and the electrical noise that
can interfere with the radio
from the car’s generator
and voltage regulator.
COCK PIT
The electronics that
manage the radio link
between the car and the pit
that we all hear weigh no
more than 200g and are
installed in the cockpit. The
12 teams are allocated
specific frequencies on race
day, but that still involves
up to 40 frequencies per
team including drivers,
mechanics and various
telemetry frequencies from
the chassis and engine. On
race day there are
upwards of 900 radios on
the air including
broadcasters, security,
hospitality, other teams and
fans, so each team has to
decide on a frequency
strategy so that it can be
picked up by the FIA
broadcast.
AIR BOX
On every day of a grand
prix weekend each car
must be fitted with at least
five camera housings, with
one mandatory camera,
weighing less than an iPod
Touch, placed above the
air box behind the driver’s
head. With its 39.2mm single
lens it shoots at 240fps,
which represents the limit
of human visual perception
– handy when a car is
hitting a top speed of
190mph down Hangar Strait
at Silverstone. The
captured images are
beamed back via the
Formula 1 Interface unit to
go out on the “World
feed”, so viewers globally
see all the same images at
exactly the same time. The
cost of each camera is
about £15,000.
GEARBOX
When the driver hits one of
the paddles on his steering
wheel to change gear it
feeds into the TAG-320
electronic control unit (ECU)
built by McLaren
electronics, responsible for
every F1 car’s drive-by-
wire system. The seamless
shift gearbox registers the
change, which happens in
1/10,000th of a second,
and sends the information
back to the ECU. This
processes it wirelessly in
real time over the FIA
network so that the
driver’s gear selection
shows up on screen when
looking at the onboard
camera.
WHEELS
There are sensors on the
four corners of the car that
take information from the
wheels and interface with
the HIU-3 hub interface
units. These send the info
back to the TAG-320 ECU
via a two-wire network,
which vastly reduces the
number of wires running
around the wishbones. It’s
then transmitted to the FIA
network and is interpreted
into the onscreen rev
counter.
STEERING WHEEL
The wheel is home to the
KERS boost button, which is
depressed by the driver to
release some, or all, of the
kinetic energy captured
while braking, sending up
to an additional 80bhp to
the rear wheels. Sensors
on the batteries, housed
under the chassis, detect
the charge level of the
packs and store the
information on the ECU. The
data is then picked up
wirelessly and converted
into an onscreen battery
visual.
FRONT AXLE
All cars are fitted with dual
timing transponders that
record lap times. The
primary transponder, made
by AMB, is recessed
underneath the car at the
front axle and transmits a
unique ID from a 45-degree
beam when it passes over
a timing loop – two wires
embedded in the track.
every loop is connected to
a receiver and decoder,
which then sends the ID to
the timing software on FIA
computers at the control
centre. The data is then
uploaded to feed
broadcasters

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