In order to do this, we decided to start from the basis of the four elements found in nature and they will be our “guides” through the in-depth technical explanations found in our Tech Tuesday. We’re starting with water, one of the most important and powerful elements on our planet. When channelled and used properly, the power of water has allowed man to achieve great things. That also applies to our race car, where many of the systems are run by hydraulics, as Alessandro Amadei, Assembly Manager in our Test Department now tells us:

 

 

 

Alessandro, in our Tech Tuesday today, we have compared the force of water in nature with that inside the hydraulic circuits of our car. Can you give us some details about the systems that are hydraulically operated on the AT02?
I’d like to start by saying that without hydraulics, the F1 car as we know it today would not exist. Obviously, in order to operate properly, the hydraulic element has to be managed by electronic controls that are equally important for the car to function properly. The AT02 uses hydraulic actuators for various applications, such as engaging and releasing the clutch: on a road car this is achieved by pressing hard on a clutch pedal, whereas in F1, the driver operates a paddle on the steering wheel, so that an electric controller activates an hydraulic actuator which operates the clutch. Gear changes are also done hydraulically at great speed so that a driver can change from one gear to another in less than one hundredth of a second.

The steering, as in a road car, is hydraulically assisted. This is a very important aspect for the driver, as it allows him to tackle the corners at over 200 km/h with relative ease and without which getting through a whole race distance would be very tiring at these speeds. In addition to these examples, hydraulic pressure is also used to operate all the mechanical control devices on the car, such as the variable inlet trumpets and the turbine blades.

 

Locking the differential is another task controlled hydraulically, as is the opening of the DRS on the rear wing, which facilitates overtaking in certain permitted sections of the track. When the hybrid power unit was introduced seven years ago, so too was a regulation requiring hydraulically activated braking on the car’s rear axle. The result of this is simple in that managing rear braking effort for the drivers for the rear end of the car is down to a control unit which decides, based on various maps, how to carry out the braking function, either using engine braking, the recharging of the MGU-K electric motor or using the brakes themselves and of course a combination of all three of these procedures is often used. Then finally there are the components that exploit hydraulic properties without actually being controlled by hydraulic pressure and these are the front and rear suspension dampers that compensate for uneven track surfaces and keep the car glued to the road at all times.

What is the main benefit of using hydraulics?
Thanks to the use of hydraulic pressure, we now have a technology that allows one to handle or move heavy objects at great speed. In F1 there are two reasons for using this technology: the miniaturisation of the actuators and the ease of controlling the movement. This technology can move components that weigh over 2000 kg with a piston slightly smaller than a can of Red Bull. This is a big advantage when it comes to controlling movement: it means that the hydraulically controlled valves of our engine can now be produced to a very small size and of course in Formula 1 that is very important.


How important are hydraulics in F1 today and how has its use changed over the past decade?
Since I’ve been working in F1, the use of hydraulics has not changed much. What has changed is the size of the actuators and other components that function through hydraulic pressure. The components have, with time, got smaller and smaller and as weight reduction is the order of the day for everything when it comes to the mechanical components of the car, that is the area where we try and make progress from year to year. In the past few years, F1 has spent much more on pushing the boundaries of aerodynamics on the car than on its operation. A lot of effort has gone into suspension and every year there are new ways of modifying the car’s set-up for each corner.


What is the specific role of your department?
In our department we are responsible for assembling and testing all the components that then go into assembling the car for the race weekends. Clearly, reliability is almost as important as performance for an F1 car, because a very fast car that does not finish a race cannot win a championship. Therefore, each component is assembled following specific procedures that have been established through years of experience. Once each part is assembled it undergoes tests to check it is working properly. Of course, everything does not always work perfectly, which is why mechanical problems can arise during a race weekend and then it is the role of our department to analyse the problem and solve it before the next race.


When and how did you end up in our team? What did you study?
I joined the team in 2009 (when it was Scuderia Toro Rosso,) immediately after getting my masters degree in mechanical engineering. I come from Modena so engines have always been part of my life since childhood. When I got offered an interview at Toro Rosso, I didn’t have to be asked twice and I got the job and moved from Emilia to Faenza in Romagna. My father is a mechanical designer and from when I was very young, he passed on his enthusiasm for mechanical things. Of course at the time I never dreamed of joining an F1 team, but after almost 12 years I am very happy to be part of this family.

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