Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Physics of F1...


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Was watching a rerun of Top Gear, or more precisely, the highlights of Top Gear on BBC's iplayer. That in my opinion is the highest echelon in media heaven that BBC has come up with. Not Top Gear but the iplayer. But Top Gear comes in a close second... together with Doctor Who.

Anyway, Richard Hammond was strapped into the machine that Lewis Hamilton wowed the world in his debut run. It was unbelivable. It's the second time I've watched it but it never ceased to amazed me and I can go on and on about that.

Now, the F1 race car has a power of 1,500 horsepower per ton. Imagine that raw power under that hood. One particular observation that Hammond made, amidst all the swearing when he lost control... several times, was that the way F1 car handles turning tight corners.

Conventional wisdom tells us that one should slow down when cutting corners, that's even in the syllabus of A-level physics under Circular Motion. The difference between a normal and a F1 car is that the latter is equipped with broad but smooth tyres. In order to have a fighting chance in the race, a racer will have to turn fast. However, there'll be insufficient grip and the car will swerve. If it goes faster than that, it'll just crash. The trick is to go much faster so that the tyres will be heated up and friction can be built up between the tarmac and the rubber.

Amazing.

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