This is how a Formula 1 start works

This has been prohibited since Spa
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W What does the driver need for a Formula 1 start? An accelerator pedal, two clutch levers, software for pressure point search, a rotary switch on the steering wheel and lots of instructions. An actually simple process has turned into a doctoral thesis in recent years.

80 percent of the technology drives the car for the first 100 meters. 20 percent human. And all of this just out of sheer fear that people might do something wrong. The audience does not notice anything and the sport suffers. Because the factor of chance is very limited.

The start actually begins in the pit garage. The so-called Bitepoint Finder searches for the optimal pressure point for the clutch. The driver stands on the brakes and releases the clutch. A computer remembers the point at which the transmission picks up a certain load. That is the pressure point.

In the past, it was adjusted again and again on the drive to the starting grid and during the formation lap. Because of the many trial starts on the way there, the pressure point could still shift in one direction or the other.

The pressure point is readjusted before the start

The engineers were able to see the relevant data on their screens and then told the driver how far he had to turn the clutch switch on the steering wheel into minus or plus.

The first pressure point determined in the garage determined the zero point. The driver could then readjust in 6 positions. The instruction came from the box. The only risk then was an unexpectedly long or short wait for the start light to go out.

Since Spa there are more factors that can go wrong. The clutch switch must not be touched after leaving the box. And the engineers are no longer allowed to tell the driver what to do on the radio.

They can, however, do it on the grid. With the difference that the driver has to remember everything and live with the pressure point that has been set. He receives tips in advance from his team on how best to operate the accelerator pedal and the second clutch lever in order to react to a pressure point that is too early or too late.

Burnouts to regulate temperature

From the formation lap the driver is on his own. All he knows is how many burnouts he has to do to bring the tire and clutch temperature into the window desired by the engineers. The number of burnouts can be between zero and five, depending on the deviation from the optimum value. There aretherefor empirical values. Burnouts are usually practiced in second gear during the warm-up lap.

On Friday and Saturday, the driver practices how far the driver has to engage the second clutch lever if the expected torque is above or below the optimum value. The first pedal is simply released at the so-called 'holding speed'. It is between 9,000 and 10,000 rpm.

The release of the first pedal determines the first half second of the start. At 50 km /h, the driver begins to allow the transmission of torque or to stall it with the second pedal via the accelerator pedal position and the slip of the clutch. This process lasts up to about 100 km /h. From then on, the driver is fully on the gas and shifts up.

The question arises as to why the engineers did not put the locking function and the modulation of the grinding point on a single pedal. Answer from Force India Technical Director Andy Green: 'Because too much time would be lost if the driver had to let go of the pedal up to a certain point and then let it click into place with feeling.'

Tire temperature no longer on display

The shift in the pressure point is related to the temperature. This is not about the carbon plates in the clutch. They are relatively insensitive. With additional heat, however, the metal box expands around the carbon parts. And with that the pressure point shifts. Depending on the torque transmission by up to half a millimeter.

This means that the drivers deal with their burnouts quite sparingly on the formation lap. Because any load on the coupling can shift the pressure point. But if the tire temperature is too low, there is not enough grip. Incidentally, the driver can only guess at them. He only sees the jacket temperature on the display. Any information about the heat on the surface is prohibited.

If the pressure point is incorrect, the driver can only exert limited influence. That will change in 2016. Then there is only one clutch pedal. And all functions that support the start are prohibited. The feeling in your right hand and right foot decides who is best to sprint towards the first corner.


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