TourTourFORMULA ONE RACING F1-Sound off.

In Formula one racing, material reliability and great performance are essential. How is it, for example, that one team experiences several engine blow-ups in one season while its competitor almost always manages to reach the finishing line? In the 1996 season, Ferraris broke down 16 times with engine problems or related defects, in 1997 on nine occasions, three times in 1998, twice in 1999 and only once in 2001. After this convincing success, Ferrari started the next season with the car of the previous season. Only limited adjustments were made in the course of the season. The successful record was the result of the close relationship between Shell and Ferrari. Ferrari builds the engine, while Shell researches the fuel and oil. The search for an optimal combination of engine, fuel, lubrication, etc. is relentless. How does the engine react to the fuel; how thick does the oil film need to be; what wear is taking place? During a race weekend, researchers test burning and wear processes on site, taking samples after every race, test drive or pitstop. The results are immediately analysed and processed in European laboratories.

Ferrari won six constructors' titles in succession before their domination ended abruptly. In 2005, Renault claimed the F1 Constructors Championship and also powered Fernando Alonso to his first Driver's Championship. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher had been champion for the previous five seasons. For Renault, those results only four years after coming back to F1 are exceptional. Innovation is always the driving force behind the constructors' title. Optimal reliability and performance of the car are essential to win the races.

Performance in Formula 1 racing stands or falls by the performance of the "machine". For high performance, it is necessary for the rigidity, strength and dynamics of all components to be optimally attuned to each other. All moving parts are designed to be as light as possible, high-grade materials are used and precise calculation methods are invaluable, for instance to optimise the distribution of stresses in the components. Material that is not exposed to high stresses is removed in order to keep the moving mass as low as possible.

When the machine is ready, it undergoes extensive test procedures. The machine is running, but for how long can it run, when does it need another pitstop and what maintenance does it require? What stresses can the machine be put under, how warm does the engine and brakes get, etc? Engines are built so light that, at full charge, they will only last for 1500 km at the most. The crankshaft turns 17,000 times per minute, moving the piston 25 meters a second. Until the 1980s, the metal valve springs limited rpm to about 12,000. Since the 1990s, they were replaced by pressured air, allowing for revs over 20,000. To obtain such high RPMs the stroke of an F1 engine is only 45mm, approximately half as big as the bore. The engine is also well balanced and extremely precise in order to maintain the lowest friction.

The unrelenting pressure to meet higher requirements and deliver improved performance places high demands on engineers and their environment. Apart from close co-operation, in-depth knowledge and creativity are vital. The Formula 1 machine is an example that appeals to many. Directly related to developments in Formula 1 is the development of internal combustion engines in private cars which are becoming ever smaller and lighter, yielding a great performance, using less fuel and lasting longer with less maintenance. How do the engineers manage it?