Why is there a shelf under an F1 car? And why does it spark like that?

Looks cool, but apparently drivers are having trouble with it

Fireworks under F1 cars are a thing of the past. Nigel Mansell once tried to use sparks to his advantage. Before the race, the British driver looked for imperfections in the track to create sparks during the race to distract a competitor behind him. But where do the sparks come from under modern F1 cars?

In an F1 video , F1 expert Albert Fabrega explains where the sparks come from. The FIA wants all F1 cars to be approximately the same height off the ground. That is why teams must install a plank running the length of the underside under each F1 car. This plank prevents the teams from putting the belly of the car on the ground.

By the way, it is not a thick cutting block that is underneath the cars. This plank is 30 centimeters wide and 10 millimeters thick. This used to be a wooden plank, but nowadays the plank is made of a synthetic resin called phenolic resin. But that is also not a material that produces violent sparks when it rubs against the asphalt.

The shelf is protected by titanium

There are protective parts on the shelf to minimize wear and tear. These parts are made of titanium alloy. This material was chosen because it is light and cannot be tampered with heavier weights to adjust the balance of the car. These titanium parts give off beautiful sparks when they hit the asphalt.

An F1 team may install a new plank under the car per session. The thickness of the plank may wear by one millimeter. Is the board thinner? Then the car is disqualified. As a team you cannot set the car too low, because then it will be eaten by the asphalt.

Also in Eau Rouge there are sometimes sparks coming from under the cars | Photo: © Red Bull Content Pool

F1 teams want the car as close to the ground as possible for as much downforce as possible. Every now and then there is a bump in the road or drivers hit curbs with the middle of the car. This causes the protective parts to scrape across the ground. The friction between the skid plates and the surface causes sparks under F1 cars.

Why drivers aren't fans of the sparks among F1 cars

Carlos Sainz said of the sparks after the Bahrain GP: "It looks great on television, but for the drivers it is not pleasant at all." The low shelf is also located under the driver. For example, if the center of the car also touches the ground due to porpoising, the bottom becomes very hot due to the friction. And the drivers feel that in their behinds.

The engine is located just behind the cockpit. The drivetrain also receives some of the heat. This in turn can cause overheating of the engine parts. The moral of the whole story: nothing happens in F1 without a reason. And now you can explain to your friends where those sparks come from under F1 cars.