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Formula 1: Building the world’s fastest cars (arstechnica.com)
155 points by deegles on April 4, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 149 comments

I'm a diehard racing fan and F1 is the absolute pinnacle of car technology. I go to the Montreal Grand Prix every year (Singapore this year) and it's by far the most exciting point of my year.

The only thing though... with this insane technology, we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame.

I read an article (will try to find it) that was saying last week at this year's first race, there was only 1 racing pass the whole race.

It's become a challenge of who has the best first 3 seconds of the race to get into pole position. Once you are in first, besides a strategical error by your team, you can essentially stay in first for the rest of the race.

I'm a Ferrari fan and am hoping this year they can shape up, but I want to see some more passes!

My dad is a Formula 1600 driver here in Canada, and the 1600 races are ridiculously exciting. Open wheel madness, passes all over the track, so much fun.

You should give MotoGP a try. Sure, it's two wheels instead of four, but the whole 'pinnacle of racing technology' angle is there, and every race is exciting. There are clear stand-out riders and makes, but a winner is not guaranteed by any means. Just look at last season as an example.

> The only thing though... with this insane technology, we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame.

Completely agree! I was a die hard fan back in the days of Schumacher and my interest went downhill soon after they started introducing what I call 'artificial' racing concepts like DRS (Drag Reduction System) that heavily favored major constructors, who have unlimited engineering budget. Although, an antithesis is the refueling ban during the race. I think fueling strategies were a major contributor in making F1 entertaining. These days it's just.. boring for me. And the odd times to watch in the US doesn't help too.

But there was far less overtaking pre-DRS than there is now according to this site [1] which tracks such things. These stats don't include:

The overtaking figures for each race (across all data sets) do not include:

* Position changes on the first lap of the race

* Position changes due to drivers lapping backmarkers

* Positions gained in the pits

* Positions gained due to drivers yielding

* Positions gained when a car has a serious technical

problem; e.g. puncture, accident damage, etc.

[1] http://cliptheapex.com/overtaking/

There are more overtakes, but not _better_ overtakes. The vast majority are boring passes on the straights, with absolutely zero excitement.

Switch on DRS, breeze past the guy on the straight.

Yes, there were less overtaking. But whenever it happened, a large part of it was due to the driver's skills rather than sheer superiority of the car. The DRS rule says a driver can activate it only if he is within 1 second of the car in front. So when he does activate it, it's just like a free overtake and the car in front can't do anything to avoid because IIRC he can't activate DRS. This just doesn't make sense to me and takes the fun out of overtaking.

I don't think DRS was necessary in the old formula but with the new aerodynamic formula I think it is and will get much better. It's extremely hard to get within one second now so if you can do it you're much faster and only being held up due to the dirty air. Look at AUSGP, not much overtaking and I think it has two DRS zones.

Those restrictions on computing power (25 TFLOPS of CPU) for your CFD simulation cluster seem rather esoteric when it comes to racing cars...those hundreds of pages of regulations must be ridiculous to comply with.

In CAD they manifest themselves as a bunch of boxes in which you are allowed to put your shapes, so it's not overly taxing for the engineers to follow. However there is a risk that the 'box' layer is not done correctly at the beginning of the season and you end up missing something important.

The limit on computing power encourages you to think more carefully about what a certain component is interacting with the rest of the car. A few years ago I remember a CFD engineer running a massive DoE with hundreds of cases to get his stats up for the week when there was spare capacity in the cluster. If the limit were removed I doubt there would be any increase in innovation, just way more carpet bombing with parametric designs.

Yeah, the 25 TFLOPS thing is so weird. Is this just to ultimately force a trade off between simulation fidelity and cycle time for analyzing new designs? Can you not run multiple simulations on separate 25 TFLOPS clusters?

Also, how would regulators be able to verify how many simulations were run on how many designs?

It's an R&D spending cap, to keep the sport more competitive. Much like many pro sports leagues impose a salary cap, so the richest teams can't simply spend their way to victory.

While DRS may seem artificial, it may pay to re-watch Alonso's race in Abu Dhabi in 2010 where he was stuck behind a much slower car for what seemed like the entire race.

With the heavy reliance on aerodynamics and the issues with a car losing downforce in the wake of the one in front, you can view is as compensation for that effect and (if you stretch your imagination somewhat) closer to the pre-aero days of racing.

Since DRS has been introduced however, the number of overtakes in each race is steadily decreasing, so you may see a more radical solution in years to come. I personally would like to see wing-aero substantially reduced and grip / tyre size increased to compensate, but the massive investments in tech and people and aero's tendency to make the whole process mean-reverting make it a strongly vested interest for the top teams.

I'm only a casual motorsports fan, so I have to ask: why do you prefer F1 over rally or some other time-trial format? F1 technology is the pinnacle, but I find the skill of rally drivers or IoM TT riders much more fascinating.

EDIT: I can't find it online, but I still remember the onboard video a friend showed me (on VHS tape) that hooked me on rally. The car comes over a blind rise an absolutely dissects a sheep all over the front of the car. Driver and copilot are silent for a few moments, then the driver turns on the wipers, and the copilot goes back to reading the pacenotes.

Rally is insanely fun to watch because of the sheer balls it takes to do it at the WRC level. Unpredictable terrain and drivers who have seen the track at most once before the race makes for a very different type of intensity and precision. My favorite onboard clip from last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eCm8eTNcBU

But ever since the Group B days ended, the tech itself has been less about pushing technological limits and more about "how fast can we make the cars without killing the drivers?"

Also have to give a shout-out to playing DiRT Rally with an Oculus Rift. With a flat screen, you can mentally distance yourself a bit from the immediacy of being in the driver's seat, but VR really makes it feel real. When I try to drive the simulated Group B Pugeot 205 with VR, I feel a gut-level persistent sense of terror and a very real feeling of controlling the beast of a car on a knife's edge.

May be this, or may be not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaSFffngtys

Unforgettable moment.

Yes, thank you! So much better when you have whole broadcast...

I'm a huge rally fan, and I find the driving skills are astonishingly diverse; the technology impressive; coverage spectacular; and all of it much more relatable.

BUT... it's for all intents and purposes a "race your own race" (with occasional exceptions). Despite the commentary setting up sense of competition, there's in reality only one car in camera shot at any given time. That, is an acquired taste as a spectator :)

I remember when they did the WRC recaps on SpeedTV in the 2000's. Rally is by far my favorite form of racing to watch. Sadly the format isn't conducive to drawing viewers (and ad money). They had all that cool telemetry and in-car video before F1 did though.

> I'm a diehard racing fan and F1 is the absolute pinnacle of car technology.

F1 is also the pinnacle of absurdity. I say this as a diehard fan myself, having been to 14 races over the past 6 years and having followed the sport for 25 years. I was in Melbourne the weekend before last, I'll be in China this coming weekend. Just for the races, nothing else.

The thing is, it feels more absurd now than ever, as the technology has reached the point that overtaking aids have to be brought in. DRS, KERS, etc. Before it was just flying all over the world to drive in circles, now it's flying all over the world to drive in circles with artificial overtaking aids to improve the show.

I still think it's great though.

I think that's were the real drivers are going to start showing up again, the technology helps but now we're going to start seeying the fights happen in the circuits, before we always knew that the guy behind was going to overtake with KERS, but now it's quality!

F1 is totally not the absolute pinnacle of car technology. It's the premier racing series but the hypercar projects such as the Red Bull / Aston Martin and the AMG project will shame any F1 car because they don't have to conform to a rule book.

Sorry, there's just no way putting a bunch of limits on stuff like traction control and other "cheats" counts as being the absolute peak when there are road-going examples of cars with superior tech from an objective standpoint.

>F1 is totally not the absolute pinnacle of car technology >Red Bull / Aston Martin and the AMG project will shame any F1 car

You know, there is no objective measure of "pinnacle of technology", and F1 cars are completely lacking in a variety of technological kit... the entertainment systems, for example.

But the F1 development budgets dwarf the total budgets of the projects you mention. Teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars on engine development alone each year.

And by objective measure of circuit lap times, nothing touches the F1 cars, despite all the restrictions.

So yeah... The Red Bull/AMG etc might be the equivalent of a fully loaded Alienware PC... but the F1 cars are whatever Intel/IBM/NVidia has in their labs.

Nothing can beat how motorsport looked backed in the '80s - early '90s. There was the B Group rally class, which has since grown into a myth among racing enthusiasts, there were the really interesting Le Mans prototypes of the late '80s - early '90s (the Mazda 787B is still considered by many as the car having the best engine sound ever), the Dakar race was still an adventure in itself with really intense competition and wonderful cars.

And there was also the greatest pilot that I've ever seen driving (I'm 36 now), Ayrton Senna. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BoukLE8V7M , you can see that back then drivers had to take their hand off the wheel while negotiation a curb at 280+ kph in order to change gears (and he was adjusting his visor at 300 kph). And the sound, the sound is irreplaceable.

Later edit: I forgot to mention DTM. Found this YT video 2-3 months ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw-AxiVqihM&) which I now listen/re-watch every week or so. Almost all the cars in that video are now car enthusiast classics. If I ever were to become a millionaire I'd buy a 190E 2.5-16 EVO2 in a second.

Don't forget the Chapparal cars! The first with active aero (a movable spoiler/wing), and then also with the famous "sucker car" that had a vacuum assist for traction.

I'm really with you though that racing series and "progress" also has a big incentive to increase safety and reliability and blah blah blah. I do very much love the quote from "Rush" (super well flimed I must say) about how being on the edge of death "is a wonderful way to live" because of how alive it makes us feel. I know that hasn't changed in motorsport, but simply evolved. Nostalgia certainly has its place.

If it's the hypercar I'm thinking of, it's target performance is that of LMP1 car. LMP1 cars are consistently 5-10 seconds slower around the tracks where they both compete. Impressive that it can come so close to an F1 but no where near "shaming" an F1. That being said, I find events where LMP cars race much more exciting due to all the different classes being on the same track at the same time. I love seeing the GT cars race even though I don't follow any of the series.

I've been wondering about the Ferrari FXX program though as sort of an in-between - cars using tech banned by F1 and not road legal in pursuit of new performance achievements.

One hypercar I found extremely appealing was the Jaguar CX-75 using a turbine powerplant. Those are banned in every racing series. The potential though is staggering, mating the best of electric motors and potential powerband efficiency. Drool. Sorry.

I love how the shape of that new Jaguar calls back to the XJ220! Japan would be the place to field a series that's crazy without being a circus. I too would love to see an all out series but I wonder the extent that humans will be in the car. F1 cars are already pushing 5-6G's in the corners. Perhaps drone-style racing will be where we see insane race track tech. However that tech might quickly diverge from anything that can be applied to road going cars.

I am still eagerly awaiting this generations racing. Active aero, traction control, active handling, augmented driver displays, etc. are all banned in racing. Where once was innovation is now a bunch of rich pricks and advertisers patting themselves on the back while they destroy their own sport. F1 is not alone, but used to be the pinnicle, so it seems the fall is further.

there is a reason, human physical capabilities were surpassed in the 80s with F1 due to massive power from turbos, improved aero, and active hydraulic suspension. They were right on the edge of having drivers passing out due to G-LOCK. Since then the technology has to be restrained because of the drivers, primarily because no company will sponsor a race car where there is a good chance the driver will pass out and crash.

Tracks with sloped turns aren't used because of this. I think they should leave the fully unlimited class for the self-driving cars :)

If you want to see a totally different form of auto racing complete with extremely impressive engineering and (comparatively) microscopic budgets... check out https://ultra4racing.com. In particular, their "championship" race, King of The Hammers: https://youtu.be/eDEPm_H66Xg.

The SL 65 AMG definitely has better tech than any Formula 1 car, but I think that it's also a little important to note that a Formula 1 car is going to be much faster around a track than the SL 65, since it'll be a full thousand kilograms lighter. Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Gear_test_track#The_Power_...

I'm not sure if having TCS matters if you're going to be slow.

It has lower tech because it is heavier. It is a huge part of the F1 challenge to fit all those horsepowers in such a small weight

The only thing though... with this insane technology, we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame.

I an under the impression that it is not so much the technology as it is the rules. Specifically, the rules allow for giant rear spoilers that ruin the air behind the cars, with the result that cars behind must keep some distance or lose their downforce, which means that there are fewer opportunities for overtaking.

Yeah, the concern is that cars are following too far behind to be in DRS range. That said, one of the main things we heard about over the last few years was that one of the main consequences of close following, was increased tire degradation, which seems to be much less of an issue this year with the new tires.

Even DRS is a "hack" to fix the difficulty of following.

The challenge is to find a decent set of regulations that allow decent downforce and fast cars, without too much wake disturbance.

Honestly I think narrower cars would make a huge difference (and of course they went and widened them this year... SMH). Passing almost exclusively happens on the straights, unless you're Max Verstappen who is singlehandedly keeping races exciting (maybe some Vettel / Ricciardo in there).

Make the cars narrow enough that passing in the corners is feasible and I think it'd make a big difference.

Yeah, it's to where the only exciting races are the wet races. I've only been following F1 for about 3 years now, and Brazil 2016 was hands down the most exciting race I've ever seen.

9/10 wet races are awful. They're lots of laps under the SC, rolling starts, and a lot of luck.

"we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame." - I've given up on F1 for that very reason but haven't missed it since I started watching MotoGP (F1 of motorbikes). New season has just started.

You can also go out an buy near motogp tech in bikes on the market. An R1 is closer to a race bike than a ferrari is to a race car.

To watch consumer available bikes racing, there is also World Super Bikes (WSBK).

"The motorcycles that race in the championship are tuned versions of motorcycles available for sale to the public"

And I have tickets to COTA !

Which is why i like the world Endurance Championship. All the technology of F1 and absolutely crazy racing.


Bureaucrats have taken over F1 and turned an amazing sport into a mind-numbing event for the nouveau riche to flaunt their $$ and poor taste.

At least the North American races retain some of that spirit - people care about the racing and the cars. In Asia it is already an afterparty that people attend where a car race sort-of breaks out.

The USGP is basically the warm up act for a Taylor swift or Justin Timberlake concert

In defense of the concerts: I'm an F1 fan, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to talk at least one more person to go to the USGP with me this year so that they can catch the JT concert.

I mean, it's not like it takes place at a time when cars would be on track anyway. It's OK if a little extra entertainment happens at an event that is, fundamentally, entertainment.

I went to the LoneStar Le Mans last year at COTA, all of the marketing I saw the usgp itself was a footnote.

The only thing though... with this insane technology, we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame.

I've been hearing that on and off for thirty years of sort of paying attention to F1. Not that it isn't a valid complaint, just not new.

Sadly unless you normalize the cars we may never see true racing as you say. Someone in my F1 watch group pointed out the minimal passes in that race. It would be sad if it ends up being like the Peak Schumacher days where races were more or less won by pit strategy.

Also worried that it's now Ferrari, Mercedes, and everyone else. By a long shot.

> Sadly unless you normalize the cars we may never see true racing as you say.

For interesting single-make racing, you can watch the GP2 and GP3 races before/after the F1 race and qualifying (for European races, and a few others).

Traditionally, multi-make series have been called "Formula" series in racing lingo.

Sadly unless you normalize the cars we may never see true racing as you say.

Or put a dynamic rev limiter in the cars that's bound to how well you're doing in the race, so the car in the lead literally can't go as fast as the car in last place. Then we'd get 'rubber banding' like computer game AI[1]. That'd be brilliant to watch.

I don't imagine manufacturers would be very happy about it though.

[1] https://www.giantbomb.com/rubber-band-ai/3015-35/

That's better than the five seasons of single team dominance we've had before (Red Bull, then Mercedes). There's a lot more competition going on this year, and it may even include the podium.

Agree on normalization. Or at least keep the core regulation (engines, aerodynamics, tires) untouched for a few years. Right now it's some kind of new regulation every year, and the big teams with their crazy development budgets can buy wins in the next year. If that stuff would at least stay the same for a while, the teams could become more even. For a few years Red Bull dominated completely because of aerodynamics regulation, now it was Mercedes because of engine regulation, and it just becomes more boring all the time.

The other more mainstream word for that concept is Balance of Performance. That is generally considered a dirty word amongst most racing purists.

Well, the 2017 regulation cars are faster that last gen - They are saying around 20-30km/h faster in corners, so we should see more passing.

Albert Park is not really a 'passing circuit' per se, being a street race - I am keen to see how these cars go at sweeping tracks like Spa, Mexico or Hungary etc.

Having said that - I'd like to see pit strategy as less of a factor in getting cars in front of each other. Much rather see drivers duke it out on track. We've got some good drivers out there, and I wish that McLaren would get their hardware working well so Alonso can have a crack too, but overall if we can see the likes of Ferrari and RB caning the Mercs on track (and I say that as a Hamilton fan), then all the better for F1.

I just wish they'd pick one in the strategy/speed dynamic and optimise for it. It's kind of in the middle and suits no one.

I wouldn't mind F1 to be based on pitstop strategy if it made a real difference like back in the refueling days, as in there were more elements that mattered (weight, tyres, length of time, track position) that could pan out over the race - now it's a case of who can optimise another half a tenth on their jack-release and everyone does pretty much the same as there's an objectively optimal way to do the race.

"The only thing though... with this insane technology, we see less and less 'real racing' which is a shame."

I was just reading the "Computer Moves" essay (1), that it's now in HN's first page, and I think it's interesting how it express more or less the same about chess and computers that you do about cars and technology.

We better get used to that trend, because I suspect it's not going downward.

(1) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14039919

Love the Grand Prix Du Canada. Easy to get to through walking and the Metro, great fans, awesome city, favorable USD exchange rate (and you can bring in your own beer/drinks/etc)!

I probably won't do Austin again.

I believe sky commentary touched this in the last race and I fully agree: They should take out blue flags, which would make for a spectacular team/strategy display, as well as add way more legitimate race passes.

Yes it would be far less about individual car performance, but that existing overemphasis is what has made the last 8 seasons so predictable.

Having tier 3 teams crash out tier 1 would be unfortunate, but should not really be an issue on most circuits for tier 1 drivers in tier 1 cars with DRS advantage. More likely it will just delay the pass by half a lap.

Agree, demonstrates driver skill of the frontmarkers and will make the race dynamic more interesting. Especially from under-the-table engine supplier preference.

>>Once you are in first, besides a strategical error by your team, you can essentially stay in first for the rest of the race

Knowing nothing about the sport it seams to me that they need to implement some rules that allow for safe passing. Frankly, this is what I would do:

1st-Have a speed limit much lower then the currently max limit.

2nd-Allow for temporary speed boosters. Each car has a limited # of speed boosts that last for a couple of seconds each.

hmmmm... It seems that I'm describing a racing video game. Never mind.

They already rely on your 2nd point quite a bit between KERS and DRS. The former stores brake energy for a speed boost and the latter reduces drag on a straight to improve top-end speed. They haven't helped much.



As a former big fan, these is my "never gonna happen" idea to make the sport exciting again: award some championship points for the best qualifying performances, but then make the cars start the race from random or semi-random positions. This would force teams (especially the top ones) to optimize for overtaking instead of qualification time and reliability.

That is a huge idea oO

I enjoy the pre-race commentary and qualifying more than the actual races these days. Which, is a real shame.

That's mostly only true for the 1-3 top teams, though - there's quite a bit of battles going on behind them, at least that's what I remember from last season to be the enjoyable part. I hope we'll see more even fights at the top as well.

Le mans prototypes is now my source of old style f1 excitement.

Best race ever: Jenson Button wins in the rain in Montreal.

Well, there was the time that Ayrton Senna won an F1 race, in the rain, 1 minute and 23 seconds ahead of 2nd place finisher Damon Hill. Senna lapped the rest of the field!


I was at that race and it was indeed pretty great. Vettel slid his car on the last lap right in front of the stands where I was sitting, not a terrible loss of control but enough to give up the position. So fun to watch.

There were plenty of real passes in the race. Stroll made up 5 places or so on the first lap, and Ocon and Hulkenberg both passed Alonso in a single move.

I have been wanting to check out the Montreal race for years. Its just been bad timing. I find the engineering amazing

Pix of formula 1600 please?

(I race SCCA Spec Miata. If anyone has questions about how to get into racing let me know)

I wish the actual Formula 1 race shows would make more use of explanations and technical details. There's some mentions during the race by the reporters of some aspects of the technology, but they could do a lot better before and after with animations etc.

I watched this Top Gear video a while ago, showing one of their guys trying to drive a F1 car (and one of a slower league) around a race track, which is pretty tough if you're not trained to do so, because of the massive G-force in the turns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9773pisjCSw

Compared to that, the race reporting often looks kind of dull and slow.

That video you linked was very interesting. The car just doesn't work properly until it's being driven very hard. So the challenge for the beginner is to go fast right away. If you take it too easy, the tires and brakes are cold and don't work, and you'll crash. The amateur driver was much more experienced than most, and he really struggled.

There was an article where a Reporter got the chance to drive the old Honda LMP-1 car around Sebring. One of the things that I found incredible was in his briefing they told him he had to take turn 2 no slower than a certain speed. otherwise the Body Work would not create enough downforce and it would go off track.

As an ex-F1 Strategist without the data that I'm used to when watching races, I find this incredibly frustrating. The FIA is the source of any data that teams have about their competitors and this could very easily be forwarded on to the broadcasters. Given that the ownership of F1 has changed recently, there is a chance that this will be opened up at some point in the future.

FWIW, I think that if broadcasters do manage to get their hands on the live timing in a numerical format (rather than on a TV screen) you could see them extracting more interesting stuff than the teams do themselves!

Ex-F1 Strategist? That sounds really interesting. What did you do there?

Mostly tried to bring some kind of rigour to the process of deciding strategies. The majority of the day job was spent persuading people that spreadsheets are not the way forward and implementing stuff in python with web front ends. I think most people would be shocked at how non-cutting edge the software is across the industry!

Working during the races were fun when there was a genuine decision to be made however!

That still sounds like an amazing job. Thanks for sharing!

What country are yo watching F1 in? In the U.K. I find there's a fair bit of technical content (obviously they can't do too much as a lot of people won't care).

I'm from Germany, but I usually try to get the British Sky streams, because it's way better than German reporting, yes. Still think they could do a little better. Not necessarily in addition to how it looks now, but maybe the visuals need to change as well. But from my understanding that's the same for everybody, just different voice-over.

For context, which channel?

I watch Sky F1, which provides a decent amount of technical context, but I don't know what content is delivered by Channel 4, or how it compares to Sky.

Channel 4 coverage is brilliant, especially the technical side which is covered by Karun Chandhok. I actually watched the Sky stream live last weekend, and then tonight I watched the Channel 4 highlights as well purely for the coverage around the race.

Having watched at least a few races from every season since 1979 onwards, I'd say Channel 4 is the best reporting team Formula 1 has had so far.

I was referring mostly to Sky. I'm sure BBC did a fair amount though, not really sure on C4. With Sky now including Pat Symonds I'm sure the amount of technical content will increase too.

Dunno about TV, but a good website for the technology side is http://www.racecar-engineering.com/

I grew up around racing and cars, not F1, but SCCA, NHRA, NSCAR and the like.

F1 is just plain boring. Yes, the tech is ASTOUNDING and really got me into engineering to begin with. Taking into account the elasticity of titanium piston rods, the down force aerodynamics, the regen braking, all that jazz, it is all SO COOL.

But, as other commenters point out, the race is won in 10 seconds, there is no passing anymore. Like the recent Pacquiao or Rousey fights, you can't even enjoy a single beer before the event is done. There is no drama, there is no excitement, just a ton of talking by boring people trying to fill time. In F1, it becomes a match of who does not screw up and make a mistake.

Why watch that? How can I get my own kids into that kind of a 'sport', to them is it their father sitting on the edge of the seat for about a minute, then hours of nothing. Why would they want to watch it? They know that they will never be able to compete at that level, as they know it is all about the money that we don't have as a family. No amount of hard work will get a little boy into those seats if dad is not a Billionaire. Maybe they can study really hard and become a person that does CAD models for one of those teams. But there are no dreams of F1 cars for little boys anymore. So why bother? What does F1 have that could keep me watching? If you believe the stats, a lot of people are asking the same thing: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2016/04/20/f1-has-lost-one-third-...

You say all that like it's fact. Personally I love F1 for the strategy. Watching a car slowly close on another car 0.25s a lap for 20 laps is thrilling. Trying to figure out where people are coming out after pit stops and whether they're lap times are good enough is fun.

I feel like the argument that 'there is no overtaking in F1 so it's bad' is akin to people not liking Soccer because there are never more than a few goals a game. There's much more to it than that and their are other series that cater to people who just want lots of passing.

Yes but in soccer, both teams start with 0 points and can tie. You can't do that in racing (a tie does happen but is so rare, it might as well never happen). Would you like to just watch cars draft each other for 3 hours and never actually overtake or try to win? Because that's what F1 is kinda is, a 15 second death scramble at the front of the poll followed by a non-competitive Sunday drive at extreme speeds. The damn time trials for poll in NASCAR are more worth watching, at least they are trying to go fast.

No overtaking != no competition. The competition largely comes down to strategy now. I find nothing more boring than racing series where cars are constantly overtaking each other. It just gets boring and repetitive.

Wait, define overtaking. I would define it as: My team moved into 15 place, from 16th, thereby increasing my chances of winning the race and the season title. Are you saying that overtaking can or cannot occur due to pit stops and the like? Because if I am reading you the way I think I am, you are saying that there can be competition even though no-one changes place in the race. If you are saying that, we just have fundamentally different ways of defining entertainment/fun. For me, overtaking and changes in position with the goal of taking 1st place are the point of racing no matter the venue (foot-races, boats, etc). For me, if you aren't trying to take 1st, you might as well hold the competition in your backyard.

Here's one lap onboard from last weekend's qualifying, showing 6G+ forces many times over the course of a single lap: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/features/2017/3/f1-video-...

And that track isn't even one of the most demanding ones.

For me, endurance racing (WEC) is quite a bit more fascinating and impressive than F1. Racing a car on the cutting edge of race technology for 2 hours is one thing, but 24 hours is a whole different ballgame.

The other thing that WEC has that Formula 1 doesn't is the chaos and excitement caused by multiple classes of car competing at the same time. It's not just a matter of negotiating your car around all the other cars that are pretty much identical to yours. You have to negotiate around cars that are both slower and faster. Dealing with traffic is a major aspect of WEC, and it's something that's entirely lacking from F1.

If you like the chaos and excitement of WEC you should come on over to WRC. $5/month for 3-hours of live streaming HD content per Rally, including full on-board cams for every major driver and stage:


I mean c'mon, Kris Meeke with an accidental exit into a car park with just a few corners to go while leading Rally Mexico. You can't get much more exciting than that!


I already have :) WRC is fantastic.

At this point, I think I'm supposed to whine about how "modern rallying doesn't hold a shadow to Group B" :)

the map readers are the best thing in rally. Well, and the spectators who push the cars from ditches and turn them right side up again etc...

Absolutely. I mean, could you imagine F1 drivers having to negotiate the track with the 911s, Astons & Corvettes? They'd throw a damn hissy fit.

Not only does it make the race exciting from logistics/entertainment perspective, but at any given time there are multiple first place battles occurring. It's hugely entertaining.

If you really want to geek out about F1 (which is incredibly fascinating from a rules and sheer technical wizardry perspective), I would highly recommend the F1 Technical forum.


I also enjoy Scarbs: http://scarbsf1.com/. He sometimes goes a long time with no updates there, but he'll do really good deep dives on a specific part and all the various trade-offs the teams make. He's really good on social media too: often notices tiny tweaks the teams have made on race weekend and does an analysis of what they're probably trying to do.

Though, now dated, I'd also recommend [Steve Matchett's books](http://stevematchett.com/). Previous mechanic, and now commentator (which, yeah, some people hate... but i love the guy). Interesting insider perspective.

I don't mind most of his commentary, except for the bit where he calls all the teams by their home city. People don't really care about Brackley vs. Maranello.

I've never seen Steve's commentary (although I do love his books), but those references could be useful in appreciating the lineage of the teams on track, e.g. the consideration the the team that once was Spyker finished 4th in the championship last year.

Yeah, I don't mind it occasionally, but he'll open up qualifying with something like, "Well today we're going to see if Maranello can take the fight to Brackley," and I wish he'd just use the team names.

On the other hand, I really look forward to hearing Hobbs go "Whoeuueeuuueeeoaa!!" midsentence every time someone gets even slightly sideways.

So much emphasis on Microsoft technology in here. Veiled advertisement?

I thought the same thing while reading the article. The whole part about Power BI is definitely an advertisement, it has little to do with the rest of the story.

For sure. I have worked in F1 at the forefront, and they are so good despite still being tied to Microsoft and Oracle. The real hard problems are not done on Windows of course. They are using e.g a soft real-time OS - inTime - beneath Windows. Wind tunnel, engine, transmission, vehicle simulations are sometimes cross compiled to special hardware.

But SW development on the other hand if so much easier on Windows, esp now with .Net and c#. I just didn't see real-time c# yet.

Microsoft are listed as a "partner" on the Renault Sport site [1], which may be a synonym for sponsor (even if that's simply providing free/reduced-price services). So yes, I would expect them to mention + promote MS services in their posts.

[1] https://www.renaultsport.com/-formule-1-partners-.html

25 teraflops and not a drop more - I did not expect to see a limit for the hardware used for simulations!

Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections on F1 [1] is a great watch for some of the technical details.

It is however a bit dated; there have been changes to the rules and the cars themselves since the video was made. The Reddit guide [2] to F1 is more up to date.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC_gpr2xAjk

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/wiki/newtof1

So both my wife and I watch every race. I have been to the Singapore race in the past. What an amazing party. The races themselves are getting to be quite dull. The lack of passing and things like DRS have made the racing all about the first few seconds. With the exception of Max V. amazing driving in some of the races last year it is not as fun as it used to be. I really wish they would mandate a single engine and a singe car type. Lets make it about the drivers and the strategy. The teams with the money win here.

I think part of F1's fascination is the technology so I don't think single engine is a good thing. In the 70s and 80s they introduced turbo engines, active suspension, 6 wheeler, automatic gearboxes, carbon fiber and other stuff. They did all this without being as expensive as it is now. I don't know where all the money goes but I think F1 should be about crazy technology. They have to find a way to let designers be creative while still keeping cost in check.

I think the middle ground there is not "one engine for everybody" but probably "one set of rules for a long time". The money game is really worst with this set of ever changing regulations, which favors large development budgets for rapid adoption. If regulations stay the same for 10-15 years, there can be learning and progress and technological competition even for the smaller teams.

I think the cars are too reliable now. The cars used to blow up all the time but now this rarely happens anymore. I think there is a lot cost involved in making an engine super reliable.

> I really wish they would mandate a single engine and a singe car type.

Right now, it's the engine manufacturers (and the conglomerates behind them) that provide the biggest chunk of funding. If a single engine would be mandated, the funding would dry out.

And if you look back to pre-2014 naturally aspirated V8 engine era (which were quite closely matched), the engines were pretty closely matched but the racing was completely and utterly dominated by a single team (RBR) because of their superior aerodynamics (and exhaust blown diffusers, etc).

F1 is a multi manufacturer racing series and will remain to be one (that's what the name "Formula" stands for). If you take away the competition between the manufacturers, it would quickly cause the whole series to dry out.

There are plenty of good single manufacturer racing series out there (GP2, GP3, Formula Renault, etc). As much as I enjoy watching those, what brings me to F1 is knowing that every car on the grid is different from each other as well as different from what it was two weeks ago.

But you're missing the point. This sport is about engineering teams competing to build the best machinery. It's probably the best manifestation of technology applied as a sport.

Then why don't we just forgo human drivers, if it's only about the engineering teams. Just have self driving cars battling it out.

In my opinion, F1 should go back to manual transmission, and no driver assists. Do whatever else you want to make the car perfect, but the driver must be in control of the entire machine.

Just look at the 80's in those monstrous turbo V6's approaching 1500HP, no traction control, no power steering, and manual transmission. THAT was driving.

Not sure if you are aware of it, but there is a group trying to do just this (with electric cars): http://roborace.com/

I've been following it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/roborace) but it seems like there's a long way to go for even a full stint.

>Then why don't we just forgo human drivers, if it's only about the engineering teams. Just have self driving cars battling it out.

Because driver personalities are also a very big draw for a lot of people watching these races and self-driving tech probably ain't fully there yet as most of the research/development is still focused on the, far more lucrative, transportation sector.

But I can easily fathom a future with a racing league that doesn't involve any human drivers but instead self-driving racing cars that won't be bothered by massive G forces while having inhumane reaction times during passes/maneuvers.

It's not only about engineering teams... but about teams (engineering + driver). Obviously the human drivers, and the drama they generate, is what makes the race worth watching. But giving the driver a good car is a fundamental part of the game.

Thus my response.

I think of it as the closest thing I can find to a general engineering competition, on a professional scale. Build the device that best optimizes the problem space, and then give it to the most accomplished users you can get and see which device is the best.

I hope self driving cars take the crown in the future. The more the F1 is regulated the more boring it get's (at least for me).

Since no driver is in danger they could make the cars faster and the race tracks more interesting. Maybe this will revive some of the race tracks that apparently are not on the F1 list anymore because they are to dangerous.

Or in the far future even high speed racing with weapons like in the games Rollcage, Wipeout, F-Zero and Extreme-G (of course with technology that is available...)

Self-driving car races sound like the most boring thing imaginable to me. Drivers don't have to be risking death (and they are, and they have died recently) to make the sport exciting. They have to be in immensely good physical condition to drive those cars and they have to have better race craft than ever as overtaking has become more difficult too. I'm not saying self-driving cars couldn't be it's own series but it would never reach the level of F1/WEC/WRC in terms of popularity. Nobody wants to cheer on a CPU.

I have started a competition for autonomous vehicles. I struggle to see much spectator interest as well. I see it has more of an engineering competition that happens to culminate in a race.

That said, most of amateur racing has no spectatorship either.


Funny title. FIA has, for decades, been explicitly forcing the cars to not be the fastest racing cars with byzantine restrictions on the design of the cars and even how they can be designed. I gradually stopped watching F1 races through the late 90's because there was less and less racing and the winning cars were more and more determined by how the engineers found loopholes in the rules for one season until those got regulated or banned for the next season.

If they just gave everyone the same car and let the teams augment the base construction instead of building a new car from scratch then the drivers' skills would be more emphasised and leave more room for race action. Also, the more activity there is during the race the more entertaining.

> FIA has, for decades, been explicitly forcing the cars to not be the fastest racing cars with byzantine restrictions on the design of the cars and even how they can be designed.

Of course they are doing that. The whole history of F1, starting from the late 1950's has been a cat and mouse game of teams pushing the rules and the regulators patching the loopholes to keep it competitive, safe and costs sane.

By the early 1970s it became apparent that "anything goes" is a bad recipe for racing cars. By then, technology had advanced to a level where the cars could be made too fast to be safely driven by humans. A third of the racing drivers died in accidents.

The fastest cars then were Can-Am cars, which had monstrous engines (1000hp+), huge levels of downforce (and a lot of drag, but enough power to counter that) and stiff chassis made from vacuum filled magnesium tubing.

> I gradually stopped watching F1 races through the late 90's because there was less and less racing and the winning cars were more and more determined by how the engineers found loopholes in the rules for one season until those got regulated or banned for the next season.

It's not like this begun in the 1990s (although there were record low number of overtakes then). The late 70s and early 80s were largely defined by a team making a vastly superior car and then just dominating. Like Mario Andretti winning with the Lotus 78/79 or the McLaren dominance of mid-80s.

F1 is often misunderstood. It's not the most exciting driver-to-driver racing for 120 minutes and it doesn't strive to be. It's predominantly the competition of teams over a whole season. It's not friendly to the casual observer. But they are the fastest racing cars on the planet driven by some of the best drivers there are. And right now it seems that 2017 will be faster than ever and looks like we might be getting some competition at the top this year.

I agree on your points. Although I believe giving everyone the same car (including engine) would kill F1.

I mean the historical and most influential teams like Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and McLaren are manufacturers and they are there for visibility, they would just ditch the series and with them 95% of the fans.

There are many series with same car that are very entertaining to watch, but F1 for its own nature will never be one

I have the opposite impression: it seems to me that FIA regulations are making the cars pretty much the same for all teams.

That is the main goal, but take the turbo switch in 2014 as a counter example-Mercedes out their turbo-charger inline with the engine, and no other teams did this[0], so they dominated for years. So yes, if you have the most money for engineers and parts, you generally have the best chance of winning.


I think PG once wrote an essay explaining that most press is agenda-driven and there's somebody with money behind the story.

I wonder if that's the case here. F1 just passed out of Bernie Ecclestone's hands and has a new leadership team as well as shareholder base. They are aiming to revamp the sport and make it more exciting by addressing a lot of the issues brought up in other comments, like the rules stacking the deck in favor of rich teams and the fact that there is no streaming/digital option available to global fans.

If I ruled the world, F1 cars would not be allowed to use any electronics other than in safety systems. Something about a computer taking the place of clever mechanics sucks the joy out of it.

And no aerodynamics active or otherwise. :-)


Tuning up a race car with a laptop just seems like cheating to me, they should be tuned by ear :-)

Clickbait title. (technical deep dive? really?).

I don't understand why on Hackernews we change the titles of the submissions, if the originating site (a repudable arstechnica in this case) has the original title of "Formula 1: A technical deep dive into building the world’s fastest cars".

And with gems like this in the article, how someone couldn't say that it's technical?

"For example, each Formula 1 team is only allowed to use 25 teraflops (trillions of floating point operations per second) of double precision (64-bit) computing power for simulating car aerodynamics. 25 teraflops isn't a lot of processing power, in the grand scheme of supercomputers: it's about comparable to 25 of the original Nvidia Titan graphics cards (the new Pascal-based cards are no good at double-precision maths)."

Yes coming from a From an rnd background I was surprised that they are limited to half scale tunnels.

IT would make more sense to limit the max power for you computing resource - it would encourage innovation.

The tunnels themselves can be full size (which is good for reduction of boundary layer effects) but the models are typically 60%. There do exist some 50% models for cost reasons, but the correlation is worse and there are problems like the pirelli-supplied model tyres (amongst many other things) tend to be a bit crap.

I thought it was fairly enlightening. I was unaware of the computational limits that FIA imposes on CFD calculations.

OK, we've taken that out of the title since interpretations may vary and the article is represented just fine without it.

The irony is there's still a rather obvious factual error left in the title, in that the slowest top fuel dragsters are well over 100 MPH faster than the fastest straightaway speeds of F1 cars.

Eventually the title is going to be chopped down to not much more than "F1" LOL.

Due to continuous modification of the rules, today F1 cars are faster than NASCAR but its an incredibly close race (LOL the pun) and it seems inevitable that given the constant turmoil of the rules there will eventually be a season where the top NASCAR speed is higher than the top F1 speed for that season.

So if its not bad enough that the dragsters are faster than F1, its only via extensive rules manipulation that the fastest NASCAR cars are not occasionally faster than the fastest F1.

The absolute fastest "cars" in the world tend to be the jet-propelled vehicles solely built to break land speed records (I believe the current holder is this car: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThrustSSC)

A jet car isn't going to be able to be driven very easily on a closed race course, though. :)

Many cars are designed to be fast in one way, but not as quick in other ways. Cars designed just to go straight (like dragsters) do not need loads of speed-robbing downforce for taking corners quickly.

Formula 1 doesn't even hold the fastest lap ever recorded by a sanctioned racing series... as far as I know, that would be CART / Indycar, who achieved a 241mph (387kph) qualifying lap at Fontana (http://www.prnmag.com/columns/44-columns/66-who-holds-the-wo...).

But Formula 1 doesn't run on banked ovals like Indycar does.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has hosted a lot of series, including both Formula 1 and the NASCAR Nationwide series. There's a comparison of record lap times at the end of the Wiki article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_Gilles_Villeneuve). At least here, it seems that Formula 1 is a fair bit quicker than Indycar and loads quicker than the saloon / sport type cars. For this particular type of course, they probably are the fastest racing class.

F1 is about 10x better than other racing series or car tech. The top speed and power obviously not. But look at the max. rpm. Capped now at about 20k, but they can easily go to 26k. F1 is all about high freq and acceleration. Internal systems are running at 10khz cycles, normally a NASCAR or normal car Max is 500-1k. F1 dynos are small monsters compared to NASCAR. Dragsters have strong power, 3x more than F1 with stronger dynos but this is like a ship dyno. You could use cheap hydraulic dynos to test them.

Transmitted data rates and sensors are insane, team budgets ditto. NASCAR and Indy could never use that much sensor tech as F1. They are highly motivated, but it's a different league. The F1 dyno tech would blow away any Tesla e-motor.

No, 20k rpm was "the good old days". Now they are limited to 15k.[1]

I think the engine manufacturers were the ones pushing for all these rule changes. The reason is the manufacturers want to be able to utilize this technology in their road cars. Just look at turbos, not too long ago F1 went turbo (again). Not coincidentally many recent road cars are turbo. E.g. Honda has turbos in their econoboxes.

[1] https://www.formula1.com/en/championship/inside-f1/rules-reg...

Sorry, I didn't want to editorialize :)

It's Ars Technica, they specialize in click-bait titles and acting technologically ignorant when convenient. It's unfortunate to see them linked consistently, because they are a low-merit publication.

I really don't think they are 'a low-merit publication' and I'm very curious as to what you consider a 'high-merit publication'.

In the sector I'd cite AnandTech and Evo as superior sources of tech and/or auto related content.

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