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Using Alternative Materials In A Racing Car Engineering Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Engineering
Wordcount: 5343 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Materials play a very important role in functioning of any Machine. The idea of using alternative materials in a racing car is often an option used by the designers to improve the overall performance of the car. But the growing research on new materials creates confusion for the Racing car designers. The failure of material plays the most significant role in any kind of loss in a racing car. Engineers design the car and select the material in such a way that, the materials is able to cope with all the forces acting on the car and also weigh as less as possible. The overall weight of the car is dependent on the properties of the materials. In this report an effort is made to identify these materials used in the current Formula 1 cars and suggest alternatives, which shall provide us a solution for the material selection criteria considering the cost, availability, environmental effect in manufacturing parts from this materials and also end of life issues of these materials. In this report we are going to review the work done till the end of May on this project. An overview of the current materials used and the reasons for the selection materials for the various components of the formula 1 car is briefly described in this report.

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Formula 1 is one of the most rapidly developing sport, as far as research and development is concerned. New technologies are discovered and used on the car every year in order to win the races. Materials are also an option for the designers to get the weight distribution of the car as desired. The weight of the car is dependent on the materials used for construction. FIA has its regulations on the minimum weight of the car that is 605 kg for the 2010 season. But using exotic materials designers can design the car for about 450 - 500 kgs. And the rest is used by ballast for improving the weight distribution of the car. Materials selection for a formula 1 car is one of the most significant decisions for the designer. It also reflects the sustainability of the materials with respect to environmental concerns.

"The four main factors upon which the designers relies when considering materials choice are the relationship between materials specifications and technical performance of the product, the economic performance of the product, the environmental performance of the product the practice of industrial design embedded in the product and its Functionality" as told by Clark and Ashby. In formula 1 because of the high budgets the economic issue is not really big atleast with the major teams. Thus the designer has the liberty to use as exotic material as he wants for achieving the minimum weight of the car. Critical components such as engine, suspension, brakes, and wheels play a major part in the performance of the car. The materials to be selected for these components need a deep research on the forces and temperatures achieved in these parts.

Reducing the overall weight of the car is not difficult. Designers achieve the overall weight of the car well below the minimum specified FIA limit. The main achievement for the designers is to get the overall weight distribution.

But apart from these performance issues there are many other issues which need directive. FIA has banned certain materials such as non ferrous alloys and Berillium alloys for Health and Safety requirements. But because F1 is a glamorous sport with high budgets and speed, environmental concern due to materials used is least analysed. It is very important, that the materials to be used in the sport should be environmental friendly considering the LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS, RECYCLING and THE AVAILABLITY OF THE MATERIALS IN FUTURE, etc. In this project an effort is made to analyse the current materials used with respect to these environmental issues and suggest alternatives.

This project particularly aims at the F1 industry for the selection of alternative materials for specific components which can benefit them further. Use of CES software will be done, which is industry Standard software to select materials depending on their particular application of components. Although this project is more of a research project the outcomes from the project can be used for future F1 industry and also to the high end Motor industry as well as other motorsport sectors. The project aims at providing industry relevant solutions via research on the current materials being used and also on the future materials that can be used. With the help of the CES software we will be trying to find materials which can meet the requirements of the components and then with literature obtained from the books and journals we shall try to figure out the best possible materials for the use.


The Objectives of the project are shown below.

Identification of some of the most critical parts in an F1 car.

The functions of each critical component analysed in the car.

Find the materials currently used for each component in the F1 industry.

Use CES package based on function of component to determine alternative material for the same purpose.

Evaluate materials against existing materials in terms of performance, cost and manufacturing feasibility, end of life issues and recycling.

To produce a report that can act as a reference for selection of materials for F1 applications.


Formula 1 is the only automotive sport which brings revolutionary changes to the field of automotive racing. Over a period of years Formula1 has provided numerous technologies and advances in the field. The use of light weight aluminium back in 1970's to use of Carbon fibre in mid 1980's in the field of automotive racing, all was introduced by Formula 1. Thus it can be said that Formula 1 has a big influence over the automotive industry in terms of technologies. But sometimes, certain advantages can be gained similarly at a fairly less cost or by using materials which causes less damage to the environment. Also there is further a scope for the designers to further improve their car based on the performance provided by the materials used to make the car.

Structure of report:

In this report we will be covering the topics finished by now and a brief discussion of the work to be done in near future. Every topic of the report shall cover the objectives in parts. The critical parts of the car, their function and the materials currently used have been finished till now. These topics will be further explained in details.

2.0. Literature Review:

2.1. Introduction:

F1 is developing rapidly, with increasing competition for higher performance and energy efficiency, new materials and processing techniques are required to underpin these developments. [5]. and also because of the industrial recession the competition has further intensified and the importance of selection of materials has grown even further more. The need for recognition of function of a component in order to provide the most technically advanced as well as economic means of meeting this functional requirements is becoming more vital, so that there can be a better communication between the design engineer and materials engineer. [4]. in today's world we have more materials then even before and thus the scope of innovation is immense. But in order to make this innovation a standard procedure is required which we are going to follow in this project. [2].

The references which exist on such a specific study tend to focus on individual material for a particular job. [1]. in this project I would like to count all the eligible materials for the various tasks and then compare them without limiting the factual data on each subject. Particularly in F1 there are mandatory rules and regulations which every racing team has to follow. Hence there is very little to choose from. [1]. But it is also very important to know how much of environmental effect this materials cause whilst in production. There are many materials which provide the optimum properties, but at a very high price. And there are many materials which provide less properties but at a very low price as compared. But as we know that in formula 1 cost is not the priority, performance is the main priority. [6]. Thus the materials selected should not sacrifice the performance in fact increase the performance at the same time trying to reduce the cost.

In the initial days the chassis were made of steel, later it was made of aluminium. But now they are made out of carbon fibre and honeycomb material. [6]. and thus, as the time progresses the overall weight of car is decreasing, and at the same time performance is increasing. Thus the need is to decrease the weight and increase the performance. And as the technology progresses this need for lighter and more efficient materials further increases. [3].

2.2. A brief overview of materials:

2.2.1. Aluminium and its alloys:

Aluminium is one of the most common materials to be used in the Automotive Industry, as some of aluminium alloys provide tensile strength superior to those of low carbon steels at same time weigh 1/3 the weight of steel.

2024 is the primary structural aluminium alloy and has exceptional strength and stability at high temperature. It was exclusively used for Disc brake top hats and for aluminium flywheels. At high operating temperatures in the disc and the flywheels, 2024 is the most suitable aluminium alloy.

6061-T6 extrusions are used for joining pieces and for corners, most of the brackets are fabricated from this aluminium alloy.

7075 is the strongest and the stiffest of the commonly available aluminium alloys. It is the most suitable aluminium alloy for machining and is very commonly used for bushings, spacers, and machined suspension components as steering arms, antiroll bar and any straight suspension links.

2.2.2. Magnesium:

For a low budget team Magnesium can be considered as the most common and strongest material. It has very good mechanical properties and stiffness. Magnesium alloys are considered to be the best suitable material for machining as compared to other metal materials. It possesses exceptional welding, forging and casting characteristic. It is also a very low density material. But Magnesium has a very high risk of fire. In the form of dust or powder, magnesium is a very dangerous material. Because of this the FIA has banned the use of Magnesium for particular uses. Magnesium also has a tendency to corrode form inside when exposed to salty air. Thus racing at the race tracks like monoco where the track is near the sea. Chances of corrosion are very high. With such high budgets, precision and accuracy, such a chance of using magnesium is avoided.

2.2.3. Titanium:

From the past couple of decades, titanium has been the ace of material for race car designers. It delivers the strength of high alloy steels and the weight of aluminium. Even though the price of titanium is very high, as discussed before in Formula1cost is not issue and hence titanium is highly suitable. Oxides of titanium comprise about 0.5% of the earth's crust thus making Titanium an exotic material. Titanium is exclusively used for making Forged hubs, brake disc top hats, tubular and sheet suspension linkage fabrications, threaded fasteners and Exhaust systems. Titanium is very resistant to Fatigue from vibration. Commercially pure titanium is probably the best bet for manufacturing F1 components. The exhaust made out of titanium are considerably lighter than 321 stainless steel and infinitely lighter than mild steel at the same time very much stronger at elevated temperatures and virtually fatigue proof.

2.2.4. Honeycomb material:

Honey comb material is a fairly old material to be used in Motorsport industry. It was first used in 1950's. Honeycomb sandwich materials are generally composed of aluminium face skins bonded to a core of Hexagonal - shaped formed from aluminium foil. It forms continuous shear webs between the face skins, resulting in light panels of exceptional stiffness which are capable of carrying extreme loads with very little deflection. The importance of honey comb was realised after 1966 when Ford used it in historic victory at the Le Mans in its 'MARK IV' which was later called as Ford GT. Aluminium honeycomb installed with the cells longitudinally oriented makes the most efficient energy absorbing structure.

But as time has progressed, aluminium honeycomb is replaced by fibreglass honeycomb. The advantages of this new hybrid honeycomb over aluminium honey comb are as follows. Composite face skins of honeycomb structure tend to localize the impact damage and also are very easy to repair. Hybrid honey comb has good characteristics for machining. Hybrid honeycomb material is corrosion proof, non flammable and nontoxic. Hence even by health and safety standards along with high strength and stiffness, they have replaced the traditional aluminium honeycomb material.

2.2.5. Composite materials:

The use of high strength lightweight composite materials has brought a revolution in use of materials in industry. The era of composite materials in F1 was started by the McLarens team. They had formed the first formula 1 tub from a composite sandwich composed of face skins of aluminium sheet bonded to the core of edge grained BALSA wood called MALLITE. This resulted in a tub structure with high torsional stiffness. Composite materials are not new to the field of engineering. They were discovered way before the time. It is nothing but a combination of two or materials to form a third material with desired characteristics. Composite materials consist of fibres or filaments of an element whose fibres exhibit high tensile strength and lack rigidity. For instance, even wood is a composite material. The most common used composite material in today's world of Formula 1 is Carbon fibre. More than 95% of the McLarens F1 car is constructed in high performance advanced carbon epoxy composite material. A formula 1 car consists of many components whose duty ranges. The bodywork required a very low mass and moderate stiffness material to the survival cell which requires an extremely high stiffness structure. This requirement is best fulfilled by the composite material.

The composites used in F1 are supplied in prepreg form and they need to be vacuum bagged and then cured in an autoclave. This product then needs manual trimming and machining, and boding in order to form the final product. Thus we can say that the process is rather a labour intensive, time consuming and very expensive process. F1 is an industry where low volume and extremely high quality product is desired with huge budgets. Composite materials just fit right in the situation for a F1 car designer.

Fibreglass is an example of a composite material which is not exactly expensive as compared to other composite materials. But it has a disadvantage of brittleness and is comparatively heavy.

2.3. Factors governing the Selection of materials in future:

In a high end motorsport such as formula 1 there are numerous factors which need to be addressed while selecting a material. The sport as always is at the pinnacle of performance, but not environmentally. There are certain environmental factors which needs special attention and are briefly discussed in this topic.

2.3.1. Life cycle analysis. (LCA).

Life cycle analysis is basically evaluation of a material throughout its life span. Life cycle analysis evaluates the material right from its manufacture to the recycling of the material. Evaluation is made on the basis of CO2 emissions, energy and cost of materials. Life cycle analysis will be a main consideration for all the materials to be selected in the future [1]. Because we are aiming at the F1 industry, where mass production is not the main concern, life cycle analysis will help us in comparing the materials which cost the minimum and would be low on energy and emissions throughout its life. The figure below shows the whole life cycle analysis process.

Figure 1: life cycle analysis process.

Figure 2: total life cycle assessment.

Composite materials are very effective in terms of weight reduction [9]. But in terms of life cycle analysis more research is to be carried out about the effect of manufacturing and recycling composite materials [6]. We have some data regarding it. Some research papers conclude that materials like Balsa core and PVC foam sandwich has far better life cycle results as compared to super steel.

2.3.2. Recycling:

When we consider composites in terms of recycling, the composite waste is a very interesting and in some ways very difficult. Composite waste consists of polymer with high performance, but it contains only 50-80% of recoverable energy of the polymer. Hence we can say that composite materials are better as recovered material rather than recovered energy. Also as per the research, long fibre waste has more useful characteristics when compared to short fibre composite waste. The most important factor for recycling of composite materials is the orientation of the fibre after it has been used.

There are several techniques already invented for recycling of materials such as, Mechanical processing, thermal processing, fluidised bed process, pyrolysis processes etc [4]. It is therefore estimated that in the future there will be many more processes that shall be invented in order to reduce the landfill and the material wasted.

These are the two main environmental issues which needs attention when selecting materials. Even thought they are not an essential part while selecting the material, as performance is the most important need in F1, it needs some attention to make the sport environmental friendly.

2.3.3. Safety Factors:

It is very important that the material which is selected for the use in F1 cars is 100% a safe material and should not possess any danger even in the event of a high speed accident. The materials should not be poisonous in any form and also should not react with other materials. Because F1 is a high speed sport, it is very necessary that the material selected should be complied with high strength requirements of F1.

2.4. The critical components of Formula 1 car to be assessed in this project.

2.4.1. Engine:

The FIA has many rules and regulations specifying the use of materials in the construction of an engine. The following the regulations.

1]. Minimum weight of 95 kg should be there for each 2.4 litre v8 engine.

2]. Engine blocks should be constructed from Forged aluminium alloys for weight reduction in comparison to steel.

3]. to limit the costs, FIA has banned the use of non ferrous materials in Engine block.

4]. Magnesium based alloys, Metal Matrix Composites (MMC's) and Intermetallic materials may not be used anywhere in an engine.

5]. Coatings are free provided the total coating thickness does not exceed 25% of the section thickness of the underlying base material in all axes.

6]. in all cases the relevant coating must not exceed 0.8mm.

7]. Pistons must be manufactured from an aluminium alloy which is either Al-Si; Al-Cu; Al-Mg or Al-Zn based.

8]. Piston pins, crankshafts and camshafts must be manufactured from an iron based alloy and must be machined from a single piece of material.

Thus selecting a material for the engine has relatively less choices. In 1998 Mercedes Benz tried to use Berillium alloys in their engines. This gave them an additional advantage of weight loss and drastic performance gain. This also led Mikka Hakkinen to win the world title 2 times consecutively. But later FIA decided that Berillium alloys were too poisonous in large quantities and thus banned the use of it.

Thus using the right materials at the very right place is what makes F1 engines so interesting for the designers. As Senior General Manager Engine Luca Marmorini of the Toyota Panasonic team said, "In the engine we use almost every kind of material you can on a Formula 1 car, for example you can see aluminium made with complex casting techniques but you also see carbon material. It is very important to keep the centre of gravity of the engine very low so we tend to put the very light parts on the upper part and the heavy parts on the bottom."

The exact materials used by the formula1 teams for year 2010 are given in the results and discussion section.


Figure 3: F1 Engine block.

2.4.2. Bodywork:

This is a very important part of an F1 car. The materials used for bodywork basically define the weight of the car. Over the years numerous materials have been tried on the bodywork of the F1 car. All the light and ultra strong materials are basically revolutionized after they have been used on an F1 car. The materials to be used here should possess the property of being very strong, light in weight and ability to transform in to the required shape which shall give the aerodynamic edge. In the 1960 light weight aluminium was the solution to bodywork. But then Aluminium honeycomb material was developed which was effectively used for another decade along ultra light aluminium sheets. But then in the mid 1980's carbon fibre was discovered. Initially it was only used by the high budget teams as the cost was too high at that time. But then as the time progressed, the price of carbon fibre has decreased considerably and thus used for about 80% of the construction of the car by almost every team. Honey comb structures are still used to meet the safety requirements.


Figure 4: F1 2010 Bodywork.

2.4.3. Fuel tanks:

Fuel tank is a component of the car which needs exclusive safety features. They should weigh as less as possible, just like any other F1 component, but at the same time should be very strong and 100% leak proof. FIA has strong regulations on the manufacture of fuel tanks. They need to leak proof even in the case of accidents and designer need it to strategically placed, as it carries the weight of the fuel which can disturb the weight distribution of the car. Nowadays the fuel tanks are manufactured from a composite of Kevlar and rubber in F1, unlike aluminium welded fuel tanks in other low end motor racing. The combination of Kevlar and rubber provides an ultra light weight fuel tank which is very strong as well as puncture proof. The detail of manufacturer and composition is given in the results and discussion section.


Figure 5: ATL Fuel tank of 2010 F1 car.

2.4.4. Brakes:

As we know this is one component of the formula 1 car where absolutely no compromise are allowed. A good braking car can result in 10% lap time savings. Thus the materials needed for brakes also need to be light, strong, withstand high temperatures and provide as much as friction possibly allowable for maximum braking.

Cooling is a very important factor to be considered when selecting the brakes. There are certain materials which can withstand high temperatures but then struggle to cool down. This can prove to be very costly at end laps of the race.

To avoid the problem of cooling, brake ducts are introduced on the cars. This allows simultaneous cooling of the brakes. Carbon fibre shield is used all round the brakes to avoid the heat transfer from brakes to wheel rims.

Team like Red bull use the advanced technique of rapid prototyping materials. The big advantage of rapid prototyping is to eliminate the labour of making mould and thus saving time. From the olden days where steel brakes where used, to recent times where Carbon ceramic brake pads are used as the main force for braking. These are very high friction materials and provide the desired braking.

Toro Rosso STR3 brake system

Figure 6: Ferrari 2009 F1 Brakes of front right.

2.4.5. Wheel rims:

Wheel rims rotate at a very high speed. Also high temperatures are achieved within the wheel rim. Thus the material to be selected needs to fulfil both the requirements as well as weigh minimum. The material selected which comes in contact with the tyre also influences the contact patch area between the tyre and the road surface. The FIA regulations state that the wheel rims should be made from single metal flow. This is very necessary and critical from strength point of view. Also there are no regulations on specific materials to be used.

Wheel rims are basically manufactured by a company and then supplied to the individual F1 teams. In the recent times, Magnesium alloy is the best suitable material for the construction wheel rims.

click to zoom

Figure 7: Ferrari 2010 F1 Front right Wheel Rim.

2.4.6. Gear box:

The gear box in a F1 car is similar to that of the road car in terms of functions and basic operations. But in an F1 car the gear box has to transfer nearly about 900 BHP to the rear wheels. These needs very strong clutch and Gearbox. Also the weight of the gearbox is very critical. The clutch of an F1 gear box just weighs close to 1.5 kgs, which is like 2-3 times lighter of that of a road car. Also the cover of the gear box casing is made from carbon fibre. Since the gear box is such a critical component of the car, special and exotic materials needs to be used which can satisfy the high demand of speed and temperatures achieved in the gear box. Gear box is a complex component in terms of construction and hence the materials to be used for it needs special ability of machining to the fine tolerance and shapes required. The figure below illustrated the complexity of shape and tolerance to be achieved in a gear box.


Figure 8: BMW SAUBER 2005 F1 Gearbox.

2.4.7. Suspension:

Formula 1 suspension requires incredibly high stiffness at the same time high strength to withstand the bumps overcome by the car at speed of 200 mph. It is a very important component of the car as it directs the car understeer and oversteer characteristics. Also some high end formula team consider the aerodynamic forces due to the suspension linkage. Thus the materials to be selected for a Formula 1 car's suspension also need to fulfil the characteristics of machinability to the required aerodynamic shape along with very high stiffness and strength. Carbon fibre is proven to be a material with extremely high stiffness with very little weight and thus is used in the suspension of a F1 car. In the past times light weight aluminium was used for the suspension but did not prove to be as effective. Some designers have also tried using titanium for the suspension. But use titanium mainly depends on the budget of the team as it is a very exotic material as discovered before. The materials used by the F1 teams for 2010 season for suspension are further discussed in the results and discussion topic. The figure below demonstrates the suspension on a F1 car.


Figure 9: F1 suspension model.

2.5. Summary:

Thus we have discussed the possible materials with their characteristics and past relevance to F1. The materials discussed are Aluminium, Magnesium, Titanium, Honeycomb material and Composite materials.

We have also discussed the environmental factors such as Life cycle analysis and recycling to the safety factors required for the materials in order to be used in a high speed sport such as F1.

Then finally we have discussed the components of the car which shall be taken into consideration for this project. They are Engine, bodywork, Fuel tank, Brakes, Wheel rims, Gearbox and suspension. The function and the criteria for the materials to be selected in this topic have been discussed briefly.


A brief description of all the materials that can be considered for using in a Formula 1 car along with their structural properties is explained in the table exhibited below. The values of these structural properties of the materials are used to determine the materials to be used for the specified part. Also the cost of the materials is provided to check if the material is within the budget.











Yield Stress











(² ,Mg/m )

(E , GPa)

(G , GPa)

Ratio (® )

(³ Y , Mpa)

(³ f ,Mpa)

(¥ f , %)

(K c ,MN m


(¡ ,10 /C)

Alumina (Al2O3)












Aluminium alloy (7075-T6)












Beryllium alloy












Bone (compact)












Brass (70Cu30Zn, annealed)












Cermets (Co/WC)












CFRP Laminate (graphite)












Copper alloys
























Epoxy thermoset












GFRP Laminate (glass)












Glass (soda)
























Ice (H2O)












Lead alloys





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