FRIC-y Friday

Hey Guys, I thought I’d write my first ‘technical’ F1 post about the hot topic of FRIC. If you want to show off to your mates (or your less-than-interested mother like I do), then have a butcher’s at this, hopefully it’ll make sense.

So if you don’t follow the technical changes that happen in F1 (which is arguably more than half of the whole sport, but that’s a different blog…), FRIC is the latest ‘fad’ that has been banned in a misguided effort to ‘cost-cut’ in the sport. To understand why the FIA really made this decision, we must hark back to the days of Senna/Prost, when Williams were the magicians that held the secret to the dark art of Active Suspension… *cue eerie music*

You know what to do with that big fat… Active Suspension?

So in the Early 90s, the cars in F1 were subject to a computer controlled system that essentially stabilised the car through corners, which allowed for more downforce, ergo more speed, ergo more wins. Now, this groundbreaking technology (which has remained prominent in road cars from the Nissan GTR to the latest all-terrain Land Rover settings) was banned by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile: the governing body of F1) as it was sensed that it removed driver skill from the finely balanced equation that made the sport what it was. Williams were outraged – rightly so, as the team that had developed the best system, only to have it outlawed – and the sport lost one of its most innovative technologies.

Jump back to today, and the system that has replaced Active Suspension is a analogue version that utilises the fluid mechanics of the suspension dampers to alter ride characteristics on the fly: FRIC (Front to Rear Inter-Connected) Suspension. I’ve drawn some diagrams to help illustrate how it works (please bear with the artistic talent, its the first time I’ve drawn in about 3 months)

So first, we will look at how the car performs under braking (and from this, acceleration). If you imagine driving down the road at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone, and your friend see the speed camera, he will slam the brakes on, and you are thrown forward due to the change in momentum. The car under goes a similar motion, only it tilts, with the load being absorbed by the shock absorbers¬†(or suspension as i’ll refer to it). Now, look¬†at the diagram below:

IMG_20140718_203305

Heave: The effect of braking upon a car’s pitch

We can see that the front suspension will be compressed, whilst the rear will extend. To counter this, the pressure from the top of both the front and rear are inter-connected, so that the pressure from the front is applied to the rear, reducing the effects of braking (or heave). The same applies for the bottom half of the damper.

Now, although the name suggests only front and rear linkage, the roll characteristics are also controlled. Looking at the diagrams below will explain how the process works for horizontal tilt. Note how the cylinders are inversely linked, so as to harden the outer suspension as well as prevent the inner suspension from extending, thus giving a ‘flatter’ cornering position.

IMG_20140718_214309

IMG_20140718_214330 Such a professional drawing… Anybody would think I’m doing a degree in this…

Not only do these modifications give a flatter, quicker corner, but the complex aerodynamic packages on modern F1 cars are very sensitive to any disturbance along the floor of the car. The elimination of the previous unknowns of pitch and yaw under braking, accelerating and cornering, would provide teams with a large advantage over rivals. The banning of this system, however, has done nothing to weaken the superiority of the Mercedes team, and this would lead me to believe that the team has a much more mechanical-heavy package than other teams, and only investigated FRIC as an ‘afterthought’.

So, when you’re sat down on Sunday watching the Grand Prix, be sure to tell your family/friends/significant others about this, and I’ll even let you pretend you knew it yourself; our little secret, eh?

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

PS, share this with your mates, I’d quite like to do more of these kind of articles

Why I like Vroom Vroom

This weekend has been a smorgasbord of British sport (try saying that after a few pints down the Norfolk) and with it came some difficult choices to make. In my household it came down to one of four options:

1) Do I go and watch the Tour de France over in the sprawling metropolis of Tintwistle?
2) Do I watch the Wimbledon Men’s final, stuffing my face with strawberries and cream?
3) Do I watch a bit of the old football, whilst having to put up with Adrian Chiles?
4) Do I watch the British GP and enjoy around 90 minutes of incredibly tense racing?

No prizes for guessing which one i chose…

‘Tint’: If you squint, you can almost make out the Workhouse…

Now this is my first ‘proper’ blog entry, so i thought I might as well delve into what you’ll be seeing a lot of: opinions on what’s been happening in F1 recently. But rather than summarise the events like some sort of ‘highlight reel’, I’m going to use it to explain why I love Formula 1 more than anything else (besides the obvious Girlfriend/Family/Friends/Dog).

 


FULL DISCLAIMER:

I am soon to be a Williams F1 Employee, I am a Williams F1 fan, and I am very much expecting Valtteri Bottas to become a World Champion soon. Having said that, all my (most likely biased) opinions in this blog (and all posts on social media too) are my own, not on the behalf of any company/organisation.
I probably didn’t need to do that, but I’ve always wanted to…


 

The main selling point of F1 to those that aren’t enlightened, is the promise of fast, dangerous and excting racing, and nothing came close to the Alonso/Vettel battle this weekend. For more than quarter of the race, the 2 previous World Champions fought wheel to wheel at speeds over 170mph. Whilst doing this, they both had time to watch each other to see if their opponents ventured off the track limits, which would allow for sanctions to be handed out by the track officials. Thankfully, the head honchos decided to just let them race, and whilst they did so, the fans were treated to a spectacle, nearly half an hour of impeccable driving under immense pressure, and with heartrates of over 170bpm throughout. Who said F1 Drivers aren’t athletes?

2 Champions, racing like professionals. Ben Hur anyone?

 

However, the fast paced racing isn’t enough for a lot of people, and the threat of high speed incidents provides both entertainment for those who don’t realise the danger that these drivers are exposed to, as well as gratitude to the engineers that can design cars that not only race at break-neck speed, but protect the drivers from break-neck collisions. The race was unfortunately delayed for nearly an hour whilst repairs were carried out after a dangerous accident on the opening lap that left Kimi Raikkonen leaving the track in a medical car, Felipe Massa having to retire from his 200th GP, and Max Chilton narrowly avoiding a flying wheel, only inches from his helmet. The crash wasn’t only dangerous, but has since raised questions as to whether or not Kimi should be allowed to race, as aspersions have been cast that he doesn’t carry out the proper pre-race checks that others do means he put other drivers at risk by rejoining the track at an unsafe point: Who said F1 doesn’t have drama like football?

Out of control: was Raikkonen too hasty to rejoin the track?

 

For the British fans, there wasn’t much to complain about either, Hamilton made a spectacular comeback from 6th position after a poor’s day qualifying, whereby he gifted pole position to his teammate, but that didn’t stop him coming through the field to garner 1st place. Williams are maintaining their comeback as one of the top teams by securing 2nd place at their home Grand Prix (something i’m very pleased about). And Jenson responded to criticism by finishing a very respectable 4th place, on a track that isn’t Mclaren’s forte. Who said F1 has no national Pride? (note: 8 of the 11 teams have UK-based factories)


So yeah, a lot of people think its boring to drive round for 90 minutes (My girlfriend and dad included…), but I challenge anyone to watch the racing on show at the British Grand Prix and say it isn’t better than England’s World Cup performance… This Engineer thinks we might need a new national sport, what do you think? Comment below!!

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

PS I managed to catch the end of the Tennis as well, bloody cracking!! Although my mum wasn’t happy old Roger didn’t win #MiddleAgedCrush