Carbon Fibre Composites : The Top Level Of Single Seater Motorsports
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These days, Carbon-Fibre Composites (CFCs) are synonymous with the top level of single-seater motorsports – Formula 1. But it wasn’t always this way. Formula 1 chassis design and manufacture has changed with the times. A chassis must be strong, stiff and light to be competitive and safe. As technology has progressed, Formula 1 has been quick to follow in the pursuit of speed and safety. This article explores the history of the Formula 1 chassis in order to understand why every F1 car in the last 30 years has used CFCs as the material of choice when building a chassis.
From the early 1950s till the 1960s, many Formula 1 cars had spaceframe chassis. This type of chassis consists of steel or aluminium tubes cut into specific shapes and welded…show more content… In terms of safety, panels can easily be attached to the outside of the frame to create a solid outer shell which can prevent rocks and general debris from entering the car and damaging components or the driver. These panels were usually made of fibre-glass or aluminium. Though these materials are light, none would be strong enough to withstand a side-on impact and since the chassis has gaps where there are no tubes, there was always a great risk of a driver getting seriously injured through one of these collisions.
Despite the fact that spaceframe chassis are no longer used in Formula 1, they are still used, even to this day, by the automotive industry. This is because, compared to carbon-fibre, steel and aluminium are very cheap materials.
Following on from spaceframes came the aluminium monocoque at the beginning of the 1960s. This is a very different chassis design approach where, instead of having many tubes forming a complex frame, a single shell, or monocoque, gets it strength and form from the body panels. Structural load is supported by the external skin which, in the 60s was aluminium welded together to form a single shell.
The iconic torpedo, or cigar, shape of the cars of that era came with the added bonus of torsional rigidity – something not guaranteed with spaceframes – due to their cylindrical shape. Torsional