Electronics

A modern F1 car has more than 1km of cables in it.

Modern F1 cars are packed with electronics systems which govern a huge range of features. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) is the heart which controls various systems on the car to make sure they work to maximum effect. One of the things the ECU controls is the differential – this controls the rotational speed between the rear wheels on the entry and exit of corners. It also controls inlet trumpet height and fuel injection to help maintain maximum torque.

The ECU will also control the clutch and gearbox. The clutch is only ever controlled by the driver when starting a car from standstill (such as at the race-start). When changing up a gear, it lets the driver keep their foot flat to the floor; when changing down a gear, it will match the engine and transmission speeds to prevent driveline snatch.

Engine mappings can change from circuit to circuit, depending on the speed and twistiness of the track. In a circuit such as Monza, the driver will apply the throttle quickly out of chicanes so the accelerator will be adjusted so that a tiny amount of movement on the pedal results in greater acceleration. At a circuit such as Monaco, the system helps the driver to maintain greater throttle control by making the first half of pedal travel very sensitive, and the latter half of pedal travel to be less sensitive. This system gives the driver greater control through the twisty bends.

Almost every part of the car is measured during a race from the pit wall. There are two main types of telemetry – microwave and real-time. When a car passes the pitwall, a burst of data about 4MB big is sent to the team’s computers. When the car is in the pits, about 40 MB of data can be downloaded via a laptop plugged into the car. This type of telemetry is known as microwave telemetry and is important because it gives the engineers a good idea of how well the car is performing. When on the track, the car is constantly sending smaller pieces of information to the team, such as track position. This is known as real-time telemetry.