Formula One race cars may not have much in common with ordinary road cars, but they’re still bound by the same laws of physics. That means like all cars, F1 cars need suspension to keep their wheels in contact with the pavement, and to absorb bumps. This two-part video series from F1-centric YouTube channel Chain Bear shows how an F1 race car’s suspension works, and how the principles are roughly the same as in your road car.
The first part deals with the basics of suspension. Every car needs it because the alternative—mounting the axles directly to the chassis—would result in an uncomfortable ride for the driver, and inconsistent tire grip as the wheels deflect off of bumps or, in the case of F1, racetrack curbs. While drive comfort isn’t a primary concern in racing, suspension also helps ensure maximum grip by keeping the tires in contact with the pavement as much as possible.
While F1 suspension performs a similar function to road-car suspension, the hardware is different. Current F1 cars use pushrods, pull rods, and torsion bars—things you won’t find in most road cars.
Part two explains how these components work together. One end of the pushrod or pull rod is connected to the wheel, the other to a rocker on the chassis. As the wheel moves up and down, the rocker rotates. Torsion bars attached to the rocker resist that rotation, and are in turn connected to dampers to limit their movement. That’s how the suspension absorbs bumps.
However, the suspension also needs to absorb other forces acting on the wheels, such as weight shifts that occur when the driver brakes or takes a corner. If both sides of the suspension compress at once—known as heave—heave springs mounted between the rockers can counteract that. Similarly, anti-roll bars counteract body roll, when one side of the suspension compresses in corners.
It’s worth noting that these videos only cover the basics; teams will inevitably come up with their own variations, and try out completely different designs, to gain a competitive edge. F1’s next season also brings sweeping rule changes originally planned for the 2021 season, but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.