Molten lava brakes, NASA level G-forces, budgets in the hundreds of millions. Formula One is hands down the most insane motorsport on the planet. It’s where the world’s biggest manufacturers, the most dedicated teams, and the most brazen drivers compete. No other racing series can even compare. When you compete at this level, the bar is constantly raised, boundaries are always pushed, and that’s when things get interesting and downright weird.
So, in honor of the Formula One season, let’s dive in on some of the wild facts about Formula One you probably aren’t aware of! And hey, even if you’re not Formula One fan, anyone with a heart for fast cars and future tech will find something to love here!
Speed and Heat
Right off the bat, Formula One cars are fast, like next level fast. The fastest a Formula One car has been clocked in competition is over 231 miles per hour. That’s not on some super long oval test track, that’s during an actual race! Juan Pablo Montoya set the record at the historic Monza race track in 2005, and that record has stood for fifteen years! But 231 miles per hour? That’s not even what Formula One is really all about!
You see, to measure how fast an F1 car truly is, you need an entirely different metric. Let me break this down for you. The current fastest production car, measured in 0 to 60 times, is the Porsche 918 hybrid. That thing is neck-snapping, it hits 60 in just 2.1 seconds. Fast, right? Well, an F1 car does it in a mere 1.6 seconds. Wow, pretty fast, right? Well, we’re not done.
You see, today’s F1 cars scream up to a blistering 200 miles per hour and then can brake back to a literal standstill in just about 6.1 seconds. That’s as much time as it takes an Audi TT Quattro JUST to hit 60. That is bar none the definition of fast. And the effects on the car of going from 200 down to zero that fast? The carbon fiber brake discs can reach temps of up to 1,200 degrees Celsius, or nearly 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit for us dummies still using the imperial system. That’s right, I said it, what the heck is a mile? Or a ton? Anyway, 1,200 degrees Celsius is as hot as molten freakin’ lava!
And the brave souls pushing the brake pedals are experiencing 5 G’s of force on their body as they enter turns. That’s more G’s than astronauts experience when blasting off the launchpad! It’s no wonder Formula One drivers essentially train like they’re interviewing for jobs at NASA. You can’t skip neck day when you are pulling 5 G’s in every corner and wearing a helmet for two hours straight.
Want a rockin’ beach bod? Maybe you should go on the F1 Diet. Thanks to a stuffy firesuit, and a second racing suit on top of that, and cockpit temperatures of up to 122 degrees, Formula One drivers lose on average about 8 pounds of body weight per race. Definitely the most expensive gym membership ever…
Speaking of expensive, the cost of Formula One’s high-tech machines is insane! Sadly, they’re not available on Amazon Prime so we don’t know the exact price. But estimates are around $12 million to build one out! The steering wheel alone is worth anywhere from $500,000 to a $1 million, and it doesn’t even have an airbag. The bulk of that cost is, of course, the hybrid turbocharged V6s powering the cars.
And, since we’re on the subject of engines, the engines in Formula One haven’t always been turbo-6’s. And that change has been pretty controversial for fans of the days of raw, throaty roars of the V12 engines in the 90’s. Or the screaming V10s of the early aughts. Or even the ear-piercing high-revving V8s they’re replacing. But, those little V6’s scream up to 15,000 RPM and deliver about 1,000 horsepower. Respectable!
And the price tag for these power plants? Well, just a measley $10 million! And with the engines lasting about 5 races, you can see why Formula One budgets are reaching $400 million a year. Just a few more subscribers and we’re starting the Ideal F1 team.
Now, you’re screaming up Eau Rouge at well over 100 miles per hour, and there you see it, it’s too late, there’s another car stopped right at the apex at the top of the hill, and boom! You hit them. If you’re smashing into a stationary object at 100 miles per hour in your Subaru WRX, you’re probably going to see a hospital bed, or a coffin… But, in the full carbon fiber monocoque chassis of a modern F1 car?You’ll walk it off.
A driver could sustain going from a full 100 miles per hour to a complete standstill in 2 seconds and survive. Kimi Raikkonen crashed into a wall in Silverstone and experienced a full 47 G’s as he slammed into a wall, and walked, well limped, away with only a sore ankle. Why don’t they make road cars this safe? Oh right, no room for cup holders.
Now, they are not indestructible. Prior to the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Formula One and fatal accidents went together like peanut butter and jelly, or chicken and waffles, or ice cream and french fries. I’m hungry. But ever since, the sport has really taken huge steps to make drivers and teams safe, and it’s shown. There are very few fatalities in the sport now thanks to additions like the halo that wraps around the driver’s head.
Formula One Ladies
Now, Formula One is all about going fast, big crashes, screaming engines, this is the sport of men, right? Wrong! There have actually been 5 Formula One drivers of the fairer sex. Not long after Formula One debuted, females started trying their hand at the top tier of automotive competition. And the first woman to compete was none other than Maria Teresa de Filippis. I’m not going to attempt to say her name out loud.
Now, she wasn’t very competitive, but she did pave the way for women to compete in the sport. But now, it’s been 18 years since we’ve seen women in F1! So, if you’re one of the very few women that read this blog, jump in the simulator. We need you! A female F1 champion would really turn the sport on it’s head.
And for the grand finale, the fact that most of you might already know. The secret ingredient in the speed of Formula One is downforce. Thanks to the extreme lightweight builds of the cars and the insane aerodynamics used, a Formula One car generates upwards of 3.5 G’s of downforce at full tilt. That means its generating 3.5 its own weight. These things are glued to the ground.
So, at 150 miles per hour, you could drive upside-down on the ceiling in an F1 car. Now, no one’s been brave enough to test it, so it’s all theoretical, and Mercedes even tried something similar to show off their new SLS AMG. Impressive, but they kind of faked it by using a hard turn to generate more G’s to keep the gullwing glued to the roof. Sadly, Mythbusters isn’t on the air anymore, as they’d probably give this a whirl.
So, there you have it, the world of Formula One is fast, it’s rich, it’s dangerous, and it’s downright weird. But it’s the pinnacle of automotive performance. It’s gearhead NASA. If you’re not watching Formula One right now, go check out some of our videos on our Ideal YouTube channel!