Physics VS Skills
Aktualisiert: 15. Nov. 2022
Through the complete speed range, a F1 car has some crucial differences in grip than a normal road car. This is due to the special aerodynamics of the F1 car (higher downforce) and the much higher speeds. An average road car normally won't be driven over 130 kph. Except in Germany on the german Autobahn. But that’s a big exception.
On the graph on top, you can see the impact of the improved aerodynamics of a F1 car, as a much higher grip level at higher speeds (for example @ speed value = 250 kph). That means, the driver has to be very skilled and trained to treat the brake pedal precisely, to dose the brake pressure as exactly as possible. As the graph shows, the F1 car has a much more dynamic grip curve, than a daily drivers car: Here the Mazda MX-5.
At higher speeds, the F1 driver has to first put a lot more pressure on the brake pedal. Then with slowing down, he can release the brake pedal slowly to prevent the tyres from locking up. But to brake as efficient as possible, he has to stay as near as he can at the grip limit. And simultaneously look after other cars in traffic and turn into a curve with perfect timing! The same for 21 turns and 44 laps, if you are on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium right now! 😏😅
You see, that it takes a lot of concentration into many things at the same time, to master a curve perfectly.
To hold the brake performance from lap to lap, the F1 drivers memorize a bunch of reference points on the track before the turns (posts, boards, marks etc.), to hit the brake in the right time and keep the lap times as consistent as possible. In the trainings before the qualifying, the drivers are able to approach their cars latest braking points in each turn.
The skill here is, to have a great feel for the grip level of the car and to dose the brake pedal according to it. You can gain a bunch of seconds with a trained foot. Remember? 21 turns multiplied with 44 laps in a race. Theoretically spoken: If you are able to maintain a perfect brake behavior through the course and therefore are 0.5 s faster through every lap (just with perfect brake-feel), after 44 laps you will be 22 s faster than your opponent, who was in average 0.5 s slower through the course. Of course, your tyres will age every lap, and the performance of the brakes and the engine will decrease with time (and with the change of the tyres, which set your now putting on (hard/medium/soft), you have to rethink everything again). But if you have a good feel on the brakes and develop a sense for the grip of the car, it will help you immensely, to keep up your pace and hold your performance consistent through the race!
The same applies, when it comes to reaccelerating the car after the turn in into a curve. To be as fast as possible back again on the gas pedal, is significant for better lap times. In some turns, it is possible to be already on the accelerator again in the apex of a curve. But in the most cases, you should be gentle with the gas at first, because with all the lateral forces, you could come off the track, if you lose grip by exceeding the grip limit.
Here you see, it's the same topic: The skill is to get as close as possible to the grip limit while accelerating, without loosing any grip or skidding away. Any kind of skid or loss of traction in general, means the loss of precious seconds.