Friday, April 11, 2008

F1 Technology :: Traction Control

Traction is tyres gripping the road. When there's more traction, we say there's more grip. With more grip, more amount of engine torque can be transferred to the road and the speed of the vehicle in corners (where lateral forces act on the tyres) can be relatively higher. Traction Control, as the name suggests, can be identified as a device that makes sure that the traction available at any instant of time is maximum--which is crucial to achieving the best possible lap time. Traction Control is an essential thing to have for cars that have prodigious power outputs. Formula 1 cars have incorporated this device since 2002 (until 2001 it was banned). For the 2007 season, the FIA have again banned the use of Traction Control to put more control back into the drivers' hands. This article analyses in brief how exactly Traction Control does what it does and the effect of its ban.

Traction Control regulates the amount of engine power going to the driven wheels to ensure that the tyres are not given more torque than what they can take effectively--lest the wheels will start spinning. Regulating engine power can be done by either cutting the spark or by cutting the fuel supply. In F1, the former is adopted as it is deemed to be "faster" although less fuel efficient. 

Banning Traction Control will require the drivers to be more judicious with the throttle, particularly in corners where the apex speeds are in the region of 100-150 kph. They just can't nail the throttle as they used to do previously. But, in high speed corners the problem of losing traction and hence spinning gets less aggravated as the huge down force that the rear wing produces pushes the rear axle down. The teams will be required to go softer with respect to their suspension settings and also run higher down force levels in an attempt to get more traction. The rear tyres will wear relatively aggressively in the 2008 cars as more often than not they'll be punished to the limits by the drivers. So, we can see more clearly the difference between the best drivers and the good drivers.

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