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F1 Steering Wheel Diagram

Many consider F1 to be the pinnacle of motorsports. The sport has evolved, making use of engineering innovations light-years ahead of NASCAR and the mainstream automotive industry. One of those innovations was the elimination of the traditional clutch pedal, switching to paddle shifters. So, to directly answer your question, no F1 cars do not have a clutch pedal.

That is not to say that there is no clutch at all, however. AP racing and Sachs produce specialty Carbon F1 clutches that are able to withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees F. The clutch is less than 100 mm in diameter, weighs about 3.3 lbs, and is electro-hydraulically operated. The clutch is only manually operated when moving from a standstill. After that, drivers use two paddle shifters behind the steering wheel that shift to another gear ratio as needed. When a driver presses a paddle the on-board computer automatically cuts the engine, engages the clutch, and changes ratios in the blink of an eye.

An F1 clutch is tortured at every turn. This tiny component is tasked with transferring 800+ horsepower from the powertrain through the gearbox each time a driver leaves a pit. It consists of very few parts: the basket, the inner and outer clutch plates, springs, the hub and the closing plate. The job at hand is gargantuan for a component that is less than half the size of the clutch used in the cars on the road.

The clutch is rarely used because its usage is not required during upshifts and downshifts due to modern Seamless shift techniques. As stated earlier, it is only used from a standstill. That is not to say the driver does not directly control clutch movement through the shift paddles. F1 paddles use a rotary sensor to detect the paddle movement instead of the Hall Effect or Micro switches used in other vehicles. F1 rules decree that paddle movement must be directly proportional to the clutch movement. Two clutch paddles are used so that drivers have easy control during spin and the dual release stages when launching at the start of a race.

The only time the driver does not have direct control of the clutch is if the on-board computer detects a stall. When revs fall below the clutch release threshold or during a spin the anti-stall system takes over, disengaging the clutch and raising the throttle speed. The driver then must reset the system to regain control of the clutch.

 

About the author: Jerry Coffey

 

Jerry Coffey is the financial expert here at AutoFoundry.com. A recovered "debtaholic," he now preaches frugal-living and sound money management here and at Repaid.org, where he is the chief contributor. He works for a major automaker.

 

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