Formula 1 cars are extremely sensitive machines. Just like your average petrol road car, Formula 1 cars can stall too. But F1 cars have a clever system built into them to prevent the car from stalling, and this system is called anti-stall.
The anti-stall system on an F1 car triggers the onboard computer to automatically engage the clutch of the car when the revs drop too low. This prevents the engine from stalling and gives the driver a chance to keep the engine running, useful at the race start or after a spin.
Stalling a Formula 1 car is a disaster. There is no onboard starter motor which means that if a driver stalls the car there is no way to get the engine going again. This is why anti-stall is so important for modern Formula 1 cars. Below, we talk about anti-stall in F1 in more detail.
What Is Stalling?
Stalling is something that can happen in your average road car as well as Formula 1 cars. It’s not normally possible for an automatic car to stall (at least not at the fault of the driver) as the gearbox is controlled by the car’s onboard ECU (which can fail). However, when it comes to a manual or stick shift, stalling is common, especially for inexperienced drivers.
A car’s engine will stall (cut out) when the engine’s revs get too low to no longer overcome the losses in energy required to keep the engine turning over, or if there is a sudden increase in engine load. The most common way for a driver to stall is to let the clutch up too fast. There are other reasons a car may stall, including mechanical failures.
How It’s Different In An F1 Car
The RPM in a normal road car is modulated by the driver’s throttle usage using their right foot, and the clutch bite point using their left foot. F1 cars have semi-automatic gearboxes, and they only have two pedals: a throttle, and a brake.
But F1 cars do still have a clutch. The clutch is located on the back of the steering wheel in the form of a paddle, and the bite point of the clutch can be adjusted to be most comfortable for the driver. The clutch on an F1 car is only used to engage the first and reverse gears, as the rest are taken care of by the semi-automatic transmission.
But Formula 1 cars will also stall if the revs drop too low and there is not enough power for the engine to move the weight of the car. Basically, the wheels not turning means the engine at low revs can’t keep turning either. However, stalling in F1 is a disaster as it would leave the car stuck on the track and out of the race. Therefore, Formula 1 cars have a clever system called anti stall.
What Is Anti-Stall In F1?
Anti-stall is a program that has been installed into the onboard ECU (electronic control unit) of each Formula 1 car. This system has been around for around two decades, and it has survived many rule changes over the years.
The anti-stall system essentially prevents a Formula 1 car from stalling. This is important in Formula 1 as there is no way for the driver to restart the car once the engine is switched off. Formula 1 cars are started using external starter motors in the garage.
The anti-stall program is always running when the engine is on, as this means there is less risk of the driver stalling their engine, which would leave them out of the rest of the session, whether it’s practice, qualifying, or even the race. We’ll talk about when this system kicks in below.
However, there are some cases where the anti-stall cannot keep the engine running. Even though the anti-stall is designed to stop the engine from dying, the program can’t keep the clutch engaged for long. This means that if the driver does not react and engage the clutch manually the engine will automatically cut out.
How Does Anti Stall Work?
The anti-stall system is programmed into an F1 car’s onboard ECU. The anti-stall program will be constantly monitoring the revolutions per minute of the engine as well as the driver’s throttle modulation. If the ECU detects that the revs are dropping too low then the anti-stall will immediately kick in and engage the clutch. The driver then has to manually engage the clutch again to deactivate it.
Formula 1 cars only use their clutch in order to pull away from a standing start or to put the car into reverse, which means that the clutch is only used at the start of the race and during pit stops, or if the driver has to reverse after a spin. This means anti-stall is only ever required at these times if the driver fails to launch properly or spins off the track.
Why Is Anti-Stall So Important In F1?
Formula 1 cars have extremely sensitive throttles. They also don’t have traction control. This means that there is a careful balance that drivers need to strike in order to get the perfect start when the Grand Prix gets underway.
Using too much throttle at the start of the race will cause massive amounts of wheelspin. This will cause the rear tires to lose traction, which means a slower getaway off the line. Wheelspin can also destroy the rear tires and lead to heavy wear and degradation which will influence the driver’s pace until the pit stops.
However, if the driver does not use enough throttle at the start of the race they will also have a slower getaway as there won’t be enough power being produced to get the car going. There is also the risk of the car stalling at the start of the race, which will cost the driver a lot of time and also cause them to drop down the order.
So, if a driver either lets off the clutch too quickly or doesn’t keep the revs high enough at the start of a race, the anti-stall will kick in, leaving them stationary on the grid until they can get going again.
When An F1 Car Spins
When an F1 car spins the revs often drop very low as they take their foot off the throttle, especially when the car comes to a standstill. In the case of a spin where the driver does not expect it, or if the driver is not able to react quickly enough to pull the clutch in, the anti-stall can help to keep the engine running.
Formula 1 is punishing enough for drivers when they make mistakes. Spinning off track ruins lap times, tires, and often entire races. Without anti-stall, a small spin would often be race ending for drivers. With anti-stall, it may simply drop them back in the race, but at least they can get going again. This also limits the need for red flags or safety cars to get the stalled car off the track.
What Happens If You Stall An F1 Car?
If a driver stalls a Formula 1 car the anti-stall will usually automatically engage the clutch. This will essentially neutralize the engine again and the driver will have to pull in their clutch paddle on the back of the steering wheel, bring up the revs, and then try to launch again.
Stalling a Formula 1 car on the grid is a disaster as the anti-stall will cause the car to remain in place. All the other cars will most likely be getting away fine, which will leave the driver who has stalled at the very back of the pack in the majority of cases, and having a stationary car on track also presents a danger for them and the drivers around them.
Proposals To Remove Anti-Stall From F1
In 2019, then FIA President Jean Todt suggested that anti-stall be removed from Formula 1 cars in order to make the starts more difficult and create a higher-pressure situation for the drivers at the start of the Grand Prix, removing what was seen as a driver aid.
All drivers were against this proposal as it would lead to more challenging race starts, and if a car was to stall on the grid it would cause a huge delay to the starting procedure to get the Grand Prix underway again, never mind a potentially dangerous situation. Drivers would have to do an extra formation lap while the car is cleared off the grid, which would also waste fuel.
In the end, the anti-stall system was not removed from Formula 1 cars, and it still remains on them today.
Anti-stall on an F1 car refers to the program on the car’s computer that detects when the engine revs get too low, and it automatically engages the clutch. This prevents the car from stalling altogether, and the driver can then engage the clutch, bring up the revs, and get going again.