Formula 1 cars are some of the most high-tech machines on the planet. There are countless elements that can be adjusted in the garage or on track by the driver. However, how F1 cars start, and if they can start themselves, are questions many new fans may ask.
F1 cars cannot start themselves as they do not have onboard starter motors due to the extra weight they add to the car. Instead, a mechanic uses an external starter motor at the back of the car to start the engine in a modern Formula 1 car.
The starting procedure for a Formula 1 car is fairly complex, and there’s a lot more to it than just starting the engine and driving the car. If the correct procedure is not followed there could be disastrous consequences, and we discuss the F1 car starting procedure in more detail below.
How Do F1 Cars Start?
Formula 1 cars are not started from inside the cockpit. The driver has no control over starting their own engine while they are inside the car. Instead, F1 cars are started by the mechanics using a heavy-duty external starter motor.
Formula 1 cars do not have onboard starter motors. Instead, the team’s mechanics need to use an external starter motor, which is a long shaft that connects directly to the flywheel at the back of the car near the gearbox.
This external starter motor then spins at high revolutions and sets the Formula 1 car’s engine into motion. Once the engine has been fired up the car will be fully functional and can be driven onto the track for the upcoming session.
Why Do F1 Cars Not Have Onboard Starters?
Formula 1 cars do not have onboard starter motors simply because the ones they need are too heavy. Due to the complexity and power of a Formula 1 car’s engine, they need a lot of force to get them started, so a small battery or starter motor wouldn’t be powerful enough.
Instead, a much stronger and heavier starter motor is needed to get the engine fired up. The engine fire up is only ever needed before a session and won’t be used throughout a race or qualifying session, unless the car is in the garage and ready to go out, which means that having such a heavy element on the car at all times is technically unnecessary.
In Formula 1, teams are always trying to save as much weight as they possibly can. The slightest bit of extra weight on the car will make it slower. Therefore, having a starter motor on the car would make it much heavier. This wouldn’t make sense as it’s an element that will only be used when the car is in the garage. This is the same reason MotoGP bikes don’t have starters.
Do F1 Cars Have Keys?
Formula 1 cars do not have keys, but they cannot be started from inside the cockpit anyway. The car has to be started with the external starter motor, which means that this heavy-duty machine technically acts as the keys to an F1 car.
How Do F1 Engines Start?
Formula 1 engines have to be started from the outside of the car by a mechanic with an external starter motor. The external starter motor is a heavy machine with a shaft that connects to the flywheel at the back of the car. F1 engines need to be prewarmed with hot oil before they’re started.
The external starter motor is connected to an electric power source, and it then spins at high revolutions which sets the entire engine into motion. From there the engine will be fired up.
There are also a lot of electronic procedures going on behind the scenes. The car’s onboard computer system will be monitoring several different elements on the car to ensure that the engine is running as it should be before the car is given the all clear to go onto the track. However, there is more to an F1 car starting procedure than just the starter motor.
F1 Car Starting Procedure
When it comes to race day there’s an even more complicated engine starting procedure that teams need to follow. This is because the stakes are high, and the team needs to ensure that they do everything right to prevent any kind of failure on the engine.
Before the engine is even started it needs to be warmed up. The team does this by pumping warm oil through the engine that allows the heat from the oil to transfer into the cold engine and warm up the internals.
The engine is then started up and the car will embark on its installation lap. During the installation lap the team will be checking the various sensors on the car to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Starting The Engine As Late As Possible
When the cars sit on the grid waiting for the start of the race (before the formation lap), their engines are always switched off. The teams will wait until the very last minute before the formation lap until they start the car’s engine.
This is because a Formula 1 car relies heavily on airflow into the intakes in order to cool the car down. If the car is stationary with the engine running, there is a good chance that it will overheat before the race has even started.
The cars will also be standing still on the grid waiting for the lights to go out after the formation lap, and during this time a lot of heat will build up inside the engine as the drivers begin to rev their engines higher in anticipation for the start of the race.
The engine needs to be warm for maximum performance. However, too much heat inside the engine also reduces its lifespan and causes reliability issues. This is because, when the elements inside the engine become hot, they begin to change shape and size slightly, reducing the engine’s overall performance and reliability, causing wear over time. So, it’s always a balance involving temperatures.
What Happens If A Formula 1 Car Stalls Out On Track?
Because Formula 1 cars do not have onboard starter motors, they cannot be started again if the engine dies out on track. It’s not possible for the mechanics to bring their starter motor out to the car and restart the engine. If the engine stalls, you are out of the race.
Formula 1 teams have developed a clever system on their cars that has been used for many years now. This system is called anti-stall. It does exactly as the name suggests. When the engine’s revs drop too low, the car’s onboard computer will automatically engage the clutch and prevent the car from stalling.
The system is quick enough to realize this in most situations, such as at the race start and if the driver spins. However, the are some cases where the anti-stall is unable to engage the clutch quick enough, leading to the engine cutting out completely.
Will Formula 1 Cars Ever Have Starter Motors?
It’s unlikely that Formula 1 cars will ever have starter motors in the future. With starter motors being way too heavy and effectively useless on the cars while they’re out on track, they are not considered to be important enough to be permanently included on a Formula 1 car.
The system that Formula 1 teams are currently using works perfectly fine, and in the majority of cases the anti-stall system will do its job when the revs drop too low and there’s a risk of the engine cutting out while the car is out on track. Even if the weight limit was increased, F1 teams would rather use other performance elements on their cars rather than adding a starter motor.
F1 cars cannot start themselves. Formula 1 cars are not started from inside the cockpit of the car, and the cars do not have onboard starter motors. Instead, teams use an external starter motor that connects to the engine through the back of the car and starts the engine.
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