If you’ve ever seen a modern Formula 1 race, chances are you’ve seen sparks shoot out from under a vehicle as it runs on a straight line or traverses a high-speed bend. As it turns out, this spark is not normal, and has a very interesting history behind it.
YouTube channel video “WTF1” explains why Formula 1 racing cars spark behind
The “WTF1” YouTube channel made a fun, informative video about the evolution of sparks in speed sport. In fact, sparks have been becoming a common thing in F1 since the late 1980s, when racing teams tried to lower their cars to the surface of the road to create the most pressure. With a full tank of fuel, the cars will often rub down the road surface, creating eye-catching sparks for all audiences.
When WTF1 points out, former Nigel Mansell driver will even actively find the bump on the track to create sparks from his car, causing the rear racers to lose focus.
In 1994, the FIA commissioned the installation of a 10 mm protective plate beneath each F1 car to limit sparks caused by extremely low ground clearance. If the protective plate is worn more than 1 mm at the end of a race, that team will be disqualified. That’s what happened to the legendary Schumacher at Spa, Belgium in 1994.
The sight of such an ignition car is not uncommon on an F1 race track
Racing teams quickly came up with a solution. By attaching metal plates to the bottom of each racing car’s shield, it will wear them first. As a result, racing teams are still able to apply the strategy of extremely low ground clearance without worrying about being eliminated at the end of the race. However, the metal pieces will shatter into large pieces when rubbing the surface of the track, causing dangerous situations and puncturing tires.
In 2015, FIA asked to replace those metal pieces with titanium material, although it wears out faster, increases safety. Best of all, the titanium pieces cause the most eye-catching sparks we see today.