Why old F1 cars take hours to start
- March 18, 2023
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Formula 1 is all about speed, but it takes patience to prepare a car for the race. Even 25 years ago, F1 race cars took hours to start, as YouTuber Matt Amys explains in this video.
The car used for this demonstration is a Minardi M198 used during the 1998 season by the Italian team now known as AlphaTauri. It wasn’t the most competitive car, as it was estimated to be around three seconds behind Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F300 and the McLaren MP4/13 that drove Mika Häkkinen to the drivers’ title that season, but it is representative of the technology of the day.
Cars from that era, when F1 used glorious, high-revving V-10 engines, can take 1.5 to 2.5 hours to start, according to TDF, depending on a number of factors including ambient temperature (they take longer to start cold days to get going). , which has this Minardi and other classic F1 cars in store for collectors.
The process begins by preheating the engine with heated coolant. A common misconception is that the tolerances on these engines are so tight that they will seize when cold. While that’s not true, running an engine like the M198’s Ford-Cosworth V-10 at temperatures below optimum will result in excessive wear. In addition, the air is flushed out of the hydraulic lines before the car is started.
Next, the air cylinders on board must be charged. These provide air to actuate the valve springs, as conventional valve springs cannot keep up with the engine speed. The engine is then filled with fuel and cranked with an external starter motor that plugs into the back of the gearbox, which in turn turns the crankshaft.
Everything is controlled from an old laptop running Windows 95 because the car’s software is not compatible with newer computers. Even some vintage laptops are faster than the car’s on-board computer, which can skew the readings. This isn’t an issue unique to 1990’s race cars; The McLaren F1 also needs computers from the 1990s to communicate with its outdated electronics. When all temperatures and pressures look good, the car is ready for the track.