Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport racing and the cars are very advanced when compared to regular road cars. However, the modern F1 car lacks a few basic assists which are road car is equipped with. The current F1 cars lack features such as airbags, ABS and traction control. Airbags simply aren’t feasible and applicable on an F1 car but TC and ABS aren’t used because of the rules.
Traction control first appeared on an F1 car back in 1990. Teams used it for a few seasons before the FIA banned the driver assist from 1994.
However, the ban didn’t last for long as the governing body lifted the restriction in 2001. The period of Ferrari and Renault’s dominance saw the use of traction control before the FIA banned it again. But what difference did traction control make in the first place and how have drivers adapted?
Traction control in F1: Before and after
To explain traction control in a simple manner, it’s the innovation that stops a car from losing its stability at corner exits. The assist prevents slow speed spins and stops drivers’ from losing the rear of the car. The mechanism works by detecting excessive power in one set of wheels and regulates even power distribution to the rest of the wheels. Traction control achieves this by effectively slowing the car down when the throttle input is too much.
Back in the early 2000s drivers could attack corner exits a lot more aggressively thanks to TC. A driver could fearlessly gun the throttle knowing he’s unlikely to lose control. Traction control had two benefits – reducing wheelspin and controlling tire degradation. However, it had one major drawback – reduced power.
Today’s F1 drivers need to be very careful when it comes to throttle input. Carelessly pinning the accelerator will result in a spin but being accurate is a rewarding experience. Better corner exits and a faster getaway makes up for the lack of traction control. More importantly, the lack of TC tests a driver’s ability and expertise.
A video posted on Youtube by Andrew – shows how differently drivers approach corner exits today. Comparing fast lap times from 2007 and the modern F1 car, it is apparent how much more aggressive drivers were with the accelerator. The TC ban is justified as drivers can showcase their skills as hardcore racers.