Sauber gives fascinating insight into how an F1 car is packaged
Innovation
Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 May 2012   |  4:09 pm GMT  |  76 comments

Every now and then an F1 team puts out a video that really gets you thinking.

Sauber has issued a video which gives a really good insight into how all the technology and components are packaged into an F1 car.

They’ve done something very innovative: cutting a car in half, so you see exactly how the engine, the fuel cell and even the driver fit in. Everything is about getting the weight low to the ground. The driver’s backside is only 10mm off the track surface, for example!

Sergio Perez lends a hand to show how unnatural the position of the driver is.

For a full selection of team videos and insights go to JA on F1 Connect

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76 Comments
  1. Andrew Carter says:

    Excellent video, I particualrly found the part detailing the fuel cell to be very interesting.

  2. Blade Runner says:

    Wow, that is really interesting, answered a lot of questions that I had. Really worthwhile exercise by Sauber and I suppose they will not be giving any secrets away as the car is at least 2 years old going on what was said. Thanks James.

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      The cars a 2008 BMW Sauber (nose horns give it away).

      I am surprised we didn’t see more of the engine since BMW no longer compete.

      1. Chris Chong says:

        It might be 4 years old and sawn into two, but it’s still probably faster than a couple of cars on the grid… :D

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        All the cars on the grid, it’s got more downforce.

  3. Davexxx says:

    THANK YOU, Sauber, for this fantastic exercise! MUCH appreciated! Is there anywhere one can download a large high-res side-view picture of the whole half car please? Would love to study it in detail! Thanks again guys, good job!

    1. root says:

      There is high definition 1080p resolution video on youtube.

      It’s very good quality and it’s rather easy to download it from youtube

  4. DB4Tim says:

    WAY COOL

    Then fans want more of this

  5. Phil says:

    Great find as always James and really interesting.

    I just wish the cameraman had a steadier hand (maybe it was YouTube) and the video was twice as long.

    1. Bob Smith says:

      It would also have been nice if the cameraman had spent most of the time facing the cutout of the car instead of looking along its nose.

      ie like a weather forecast

  6. Rich C says:

    Freaking awesome!

    And whoever had the idea should get a bonus!

  7. Alam Z says:

    Thats remarkable!

    What a great video. Thank you Sauber!!

    I was amazed at the drivers seating position and where his legs fit inside the car. Wierd and fascinating.

  8. Dave Aston says:

    Great idea… and may I be the first to say, I think they’re half a chance to win a race this year…

  9. FatherTed says:

    Interesting but would have liked to have seen more of the engine and gearbox. Hopefully they will take some high-res photos.

  10. puffing says:

    Most interesting video. I could guess this from the shape of the car, but now I fully realize how uncomfortable is the position of the driver. It is not only that he is laying on the car, is that the knees and feet are almost at the level of the eyes, well above of the buttock . I tried to reply this position and I felt my body & vision feedback fully distorted. A matter of habit, I suppose, but in any case unnatural. An added difficulty to take quick decisions!

    1. iceman says:

      Martin Brundle always says to get an idea of the seating position, try lying in the bath and putting your feet on the taps :)

      1. puffing says:

        A narrow tube as well!

    2. Hendo says:

      Awesome video. Thanks Sauber.

      Google “Nico Rosberg in F1 seat” for another good video of how the drivers sit/squeeze into the cars.

  11. Matt says:

    Judging by the nose it’s the 2008 BMW Sauber driven by Kubica & Heidfield. One of the best cars that season too. It really is an interesting video :-)

  12. andrew says:

    You really get the feeling that the F1 car is actually a type of exo-skeleton worn by the driver. It kind of turns him/her into a transformer of sorts. Once attached, then capable of incredible feats of speed and manueverability. It reminded me a bit of those spsce-age jet packs that zoom the operator about. It’s a new way to think about the sport; it’s less about the car itself and more about what the apparatus does to magnify the abilities of its occupant.

  13. Tristian Trigg says:

    No pun intended, but I thought the concept was a tad half-hearted. I mean for a start, they didn’t cut Perez in half.

    1. James Allen says:

      Apparently it reads “Mexico” all the way through if you do – like a stick of rock

      1. terryshep says:

        Very droll, James!

  14. Pranav says:

    Pity they didn’t go anywhere near the engine/gearbox or even showed close shots of it.

    To me, that’s the most interesting part of the car.

    The fuel cell detail is a close second. Though they also have foam inside the fuel cell to stop fuel from splashing.

    1. Troy Prideaux says:

      Exactly my thoughts!!

  15. Gord says:

    Looking at that BMW f1.08 just reminded me of how much better F1 cars looked back then.

  16. Bhaskar Rac says:

    Thanks James, and Sauber ofcourse.
    This was extremely helpful.
    That was extremely crammed up future technology, may be we get to see in the road cars.
    I had never thought that kind of seating position to be precise, but somehow knew that they almost lie rather than sit. 10 mm above the ground is remarkable yet dreadful.
    Sadly fat people, they cant even dream of sitting in those cars. :D

    1. Joao Hornburg says:

      There is a Top Gear episode where Jeremy drives a F1 car (or another single-seater… maybe GP2… can’t remember exactly). Well, they had to remove the bench for him to fit in.

      1. Bhaskar Rac says:

        Lol! yeah, that can be the option. They can fit in Hammond also if they can remove the divisions in the fuel tank. :P

        But on the serious note, this reminds me Hammond has already got his hands on Renault F1 in one of top gear series.

  17. Lawrence says:

    Interesting video but I wish they had shown more of the gearbox, clutch and engine etc. Much more interesting.

  18. Ryan M says:

    Amazing! Ive been following F1 for around 10 seasons and been to many live gp as well,, and although you know how the drivers sit etc. that really intensifies the position and how uncomfortable it must be!

  19. Craeas says:

    Very interesting indeed. Loved the fuel cell bit too.

  20. Pete Watson says:

    Incredibly interesting, I’ve followed F1 for many years and in 5 mins I just learnt so much more! Can’t believe how close the driver is to both the fuel and the floor!

    Anybody else notice he eats the apple back to front at the end (with his bottom teeth?!) Maybe that’s the key to a job in F1 ;)

  21. Don Farrell says:

    Fantastic! Thanks Sauber

  22. Daniel MA says:

    What I don’t know is why they didn’t show more the back of the car, BMW shouldn’t mind much if they show the engine and transmission now that they left the sport right?

  23. Quercus says:

    I’d really like to study that car in greater detail but the video is cut so ridiculously fast that one’s eyes hardly have time to orientate before they move on to the next shot.

    Is there a hi-res still image of it available anywhere?

  24. spokes says:

    Very interesting! Imagine the work that went into this cutaway car. I’ll bet potential sponsors are fascinated with this presentation. Certainly not an ordinary sales pitch!

  25. David Selway-Hoskins says:

    Well done Sauber, what a fascinating insight.

    As an engineer, one of my frustrations is that the secrecy surrounding F1 does not allow us to understand how the cars work at such a high level.

    I would like to see, as part of the rules, a clause which only allows teams to preserve secrecy for, say, 2 years so that we may all see how a gearbox changes in milliseconds, how do you get 800hp from a 2.4 litre engine, etc. We need details, details!

    I shall never complain about being uncomfortable in our road cars again!

  26. Richard says:

    Thanks James… very interesting. I can appreciate why everyone (except Michael during quali) avoids the bump after Casino in Monaco.

  27. John tsoutis says:

    Most interesting piece on F1 I have seen in a long time, great marketing tool as I can see people flocking to see this at a race track. Sauber are really positioning themselves as pioneers and innovators. I was a fan in the Frentzen days, I am fast becoming a fan again… Well done to them and thanks James for posting this.

  28. Angus says:

    I too found that an amazing look at an F1 car. Being a Sauber fan it was especially good. I continually find it frustrating and the lack of coverage for the Sauber team when they are consistantly up there challenging the “big” teams, they seem to always be left out of discussions on the TV coverage we receive in Australia, which usually is fixated on the British teams – I know its the BBC but they should realise the coverage is global !!

    1. AussieTimmeh says:

      We actually get Sky sports feed this year in Australia, not the BBC feed, but your sentiment remains the same.

  29. gggggggg says:

    James, I cant believe how good that was. Are you able to get more of these typres of insights. Not all countries get the exrta footage that you get on the tv outside of the 2 hours of the race.

    thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      That was Sauber produced. Other teams post nice vids as do drivers, which is why we brought them all together along with the news sites on the JA on F1 Connect site, so you can dip into all this stuff in one place and get links etc.

  30. Pete says:

    Phenomenal! That’ll be one for the archives—it’ll take more than a few times through to get a handle on everything that’s going on there.

    Back in the early 80′s, when ground effect was banned, there was a video featuring Williams F1 entitled “Gentlemen Lift Your Skirts” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KeulWo9JSQ). While not the same as a cut-away of an F1 car, this video has stuck in my mind for years as something that was (and still is) similarly fascinating from a technical perspective.

    Renault or Cosworth, again involving Willaims F1, did one on engine construction at one point too, but I can’t quickly locate that one on YouTube.

    I could never get too much of this sort of stuff. It adds so much more to the experience of watching an F1 race.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks for the youtube link.

      I’ve just whiled away a very enjoyable hour watching all about the williams team circa 1980. Great to see the rapport between Frank Williams, Alan Jones, Neil Oatley and insight from a very youthful looking Patrick Head and Peter Windsor.

      Alan: Can you put suspension on the seat?
      Frank: You could sit on your wallet.
      Alan: You’d have to give me something to put in it first

      A nostalgic look back on a much simpler time.

      Thank you.

  31. Darren says:

    Awesome. It gives a new realisation when you can actually see things that you’ve heard of e.g. the seating position, just 10mm off the tarmac. Wow, some of those kerbs and chicanes must really hurt.

  32. Nick Ward says:

    Great video

  33. Pat Guillon says:

    This is why Sauber are so loved by F1 fans. I’m sure most F1 followers no matter how deep their passion is for thier team have a soft spot for Peter Sauber & his team. They are like the modern day Minardi team but much more competitive.

  34. MrNed says:

    Absolutely astonishing! I knew things were tight and low in an F1 car, but actually seeing HOW tight and HOW low is amazing. And what a great way to show it, to cut a car in half – what a great idea (I wonder if they took their inspiration from Damien Hurst!). Thanks Sauber and thanks James.

  35. Kay says:

    Excellent video and nice to bring that to us James. Do the drivers feel any numbness in their legs for having them in that position for 2 hours straight? Coz I’d imagine blood don’t flow to the legs very well like that! o_O

    1. James Allen says:

      Irvine had problems with lower back pains I remember. Others have too

      1. TheGreatTeflonso says:

        Actually James Fernando Alonso has mentioned back pain on his blog I believe, including sciatic nerve issues particularly last year. As a mere mortal with similar issues while driving my Mazda much slower, it did make me feel at least I was in good company :P

      2. Dave Aston says:

        I believe Irvine’s physical workouts focused primarily on the lower front.

      3. Glennb says:

        I recall Mansell being in great pain at the end of grand prix. McLaren days I think. I remember Barry Sheene interviewed him as he got out of the car in Australia I think. Nige could barely talk let alone walk.

  36. Chris George says:

    Amazing
    I couldn’t believe how tiny the engine looked
    It boggles the mind
    Thanks James

    1. Dan says:

      +1

      I too was amazed by that!

    2. MrNed says:

      Don’t forget that it’s a V-8 engine, and so the cylinders are moving away and into the body of the car. This makes for an engine block that’s lower and wider than what you are used to seeing under the bonnet of most road cars. It’s still tiny, especially given the power it generates, but bare in mind that there’ll be a lot more engine in there that can’t be seen on this video.

      1. Chris G says:

        Good point
        Forgot about the 112 degree (?) angle
        Still mighty powerful for the size though
        I’m actually quite excited by the new spec engines
        Difficult to comprehend the power, efficiency, size
        And reliability engineers are able to achieve in modern F1

  37. stuart briggs says:

    Exellent insight!

  38. SK Anand says:

    Brilliant.

  39. Arshad Altaf says:

    Thanks for putting this up James. Really fascinating and as expected cutting edge. Sauber should be congratulated and thanked for doing this for the benefit of all those interested in F1.

  40. Paul Kirk says:

    I found that extremely interesting! It’s amazing how everything is packaged so well! In the old days we’d just keep putting stuf in the chassis, but these days I can see that every single component is designed on the computor with an eye to where it fits, what shape it is, what it weighs/what effect it has on c of g/aerodynamics, etc., not to mention such things as suspension design/handling/safty etc.
    Talking about steering, does anybody know what Kimi was wanting/modifying/having trouble with that caused him to lose so much time in FP1 at Monaco? Was it a problem with the steering or did he want something modified to suit him better?
    PK.

  41. Bring Back Murray says:

    Maybe we should all go and cut our own cars in half, and James gives us a prize for the best video.

  42. CartRider says:

    And can you now imagine a 43 year old sitting in this acrobatic position for more than 1 hour and 30 minutes during race days while driving the car to its limit? With Sergio, it looked more or less natural to be able to do this – I am not sure I will be able to do this kind of torture to myself in my 40s for an extended period of time. Kudos to Michael.

  43. Alex Gant says:

    Fascinating. Been an F1 fan for nearly 20 years but learnt lots from this video – that says something about the sport and the teams’ level of secrecy.

    Fuel cell detail was remarkable – how can something as expensive as kevlar look so much like a simple padded envelope! Also, seeing just how close the driver is to the floor makes it hard to believe that more drivers don’t get spine and back problems in later life.

    Kudos to Sauber for this. A great insight. Like others have said, I think no F1 fan is agreived when Sauber succeed. Great to see them on form this year with two clearly talented and very likable drivers.

  44. Elie says:

    Thanks for that James. I didnt know the fuel cell had that many layers.I wonder if the current higher noses increases the tilt of the driver position even further. Drivers must feel like their back in their mothers womb ! Lol

  45. Ben says:

    Does anyone know why it took 2 years to make? Surely they could have just borrowed one of those lazers from a bond villan and cut it in half in a couple of minutes! I imagine there are a few bond villains already working in f1

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      Bernie Ecclestone?

  46. Chris says:

    This is great, fair play to Sauber for taking the time to do this.

    The one thing that surprised me was the elevated drivers leg position, I always assumed this to be similar to karting with legs straight out, not elevated in this way.

    Very insightful stuff James, cheers for sharing.

  47. Paul H says:

    That is fascinating, would love a high res side on shot for the desktop. I’ve seen lots of virtual representations of the drivers position before but nothing that truly shows the extreme that this demonstrates. Thank you Sauber for such insight. Would love to know how long it took to create though!

  48. Richard says:

    Well engineers have been sectioning engines and other assemblies for donkeys years so nothing new there, but applied to a whole car is perhaps not so common. As an engineer from the automotive industry it’s fascinating to see a quick glimpse of the packaging, and what strikes me is just how flimsy everything is. Of course everything is paired down to the absolute minimum with use of exotic materials where strength for weight is important which is just about everywhere. The fuel cell is interesting! – very flimsy, but adequate to do the job. I think the drivers back side is a little more than 10mm off the track as there is the gap to the plank, plank thickness, and seat thickness and so on, but certainly not very far away. A little too quick for me as I’d like to see it in much greater detail, but a tantalising glimpse nonetheless.

  49. Davexxx says:

    As I said above, great video! Sorry to sound picky but, surely the ‘Legality Plank’ is at least 10mm thick, so technically, is it really correct that the driver’s bum is 10mm from the ground?

  50. Rich Green says:

    Amazing insight. I’m just surprised how small the major components looked inside the car and how little there was. A refreshing video. Well done Sauber. Thanks James for posting it.

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