At this speed, it’s essential that every piece of the vehicle is created to perfection. If one component fails or isn’t up for the task, not only will the vehicle have a hard time competing, but it can even become dangerous for the driver. One area that is of particular concern in F1 vehicles is the suspension. This system may not get talked about as often as some of the others, but that doesn’t make it any less important. In this guide, we’ll discuss the role of the suspension system and why it is so important to F1 vehicles that wish to compete.
Typical Purpose of the Suspension System
In most cars, the suspension system serves two primary purposes. The first purpose is to deliver a comfortable ride. A good suspension makes it so the drivers and passengers don’t feel the bumps in the road too much. This makes for a smoother and more comfortable ride, something drivers want, especially in more luxury vehicles.
The other purpose is handling. Handling is the car’s ability to adjust to the driver’s intentions. When the driver hits the brakes or makes a sharp turn, it’s essential that the car is able to react quickly to this command. While there are many factors that go into this process, the suspension system is a vital factor.
The Role of a Suspension System in F1 Vehicles
The suspension system in F1 vehicles provides the same two functions, albeit with a different level of importance. For instance, the comfort of the ride is less important in F1 vehicles. The drivers of these vehicles care more about speed and handling than they do the comfort level.
Besides these two functions, suspension systems in F1 vehicles have an additional purpose. Cars that go as fast as F1 vehicles generate a lot of what is called downforce. This is the pressure that the car exerts on the ground and the faster the car goes, the more downforce generated. In fact, at top speeds, the car can push down several times its weight in downforce. Due to this, the suspension system must be able to handle the increased weight.
In addition, the car needs to remain aerodynamic. Without the correct aerodynamic construction, the car is liable to either start raising off the ground or push down to it even further. In either case, the result is a slower car. For an F1 car to compete, it needs to be perfectly aerodynamic in every aspect, including the suspension system.
To do this, engineers consider a few things. First, the suspension needs to be able to correctly control the pitch and ride height of the car. No matter what speed the car is going at, or what amount of downforce it is generating, the pitch and height need to remain the same. Besides this, the construction and placement of each part of the suspension must optimize airflow and take the wear and tear into account. Suspension system engineers must therefore find everything from the best manufacturers to the best strut brands to ensure an optimal system.
The Future of Suspension Systems in F1
F1 engineers are always looking for ways to improve their suspension systems to give them an edge over the competition. However, before changes can be implemented, they need to be approved by the sports governing body.
For example, a proposal to bring back computer-controlled active suspension systems in 2021 was recently rejected. This active suspension system allowed teams to configure their ride height and other variables from corner to corner and was last used in 1993. It has been banned ever since, but some would like to bring it back. However, a decision was made to continue banning this type of suspension system, as they felt it would undermine efforts to improve the quality of racing.
But while this suspension system change was denied, others are sure to follow. Because suspension systems play such a vital role in how well an F1 vehicle performs, there will always be efforts to improve them and introduce those changes into the sport.
When you see an F1 vehicle racing around the tracks, your first thought may not be the suspension system. Attention is typically drawn to the tires, engines, and aerodynamic design of the vehicle. And while these things are all important, we shouldn’t overlook the suspension system. A poor suspension system can make all the other upgrades irrelevant, while the perfect suspension system sets up an F1 vehicle for long-term success.