Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Quinn. Quinn Wonders, “what are Formula one cars” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Quinn!

If you’ve been WONDERing with us for a while, you already know about the Indianapolis 500. You may have also learned about the Cannonball Run and the Pinewood Derby. Yes, we’ve learned a lot about fast cars here in Wonderopolis. And the topic today’s Wonder of the Day can race along with the best of them. What are we talking about? Formula One cars!

What do Formula One (F1) cars look like? They’re open-wheeled, meaning their wheels sit outside the body of the car. This is different from most other vehicles, whose wheels are normally below the fenders. F1 cars also contain only a single seat—no passengers can ride along in these race cars!

Have you ever seen an F1 race? If so, you know these cars are built for speed. On average, they can reach 185 miles per hour (m.p.h.). The fastest speed recorded so far for an F1 is 223.5 m.p.h. They are also known for their quick acceleration. Formula One cars can start at 0 m.p.h., reach 100 m.p.h., and come to a complete stop again in less than five seconds.

What makes Formula One cars so fast? Much of it has to do with the way they’re built. Each F1 car has a front and back wing. These make the cars more aerodynamic. The back wing also contains a drag reduction system (DRS). The DRS has the potential to give the car’s speed quite a boost. Its use is only allowed at certain points during an F1 race.

Additionally, the lightweight nature of F1 cars helps them race around a track at impressive speeds. They were once built of solid aluminum, but today’s F1 cars use much lighter materials, like carbon fiber. Weight is also strictly controlled by F1 racing regulations—including the driver, each car must weigh at least 1,631 pounds (740 kg).

Formula One races are called grands prix. A grand prix ends when a driver reaches the 189.5 miles (305 km) mark. Most races are held on special tracks, but there’s one that takes place on public streets. Called the Monaco Grand Prix, it’s one of the biggest yearly events in the racing world. 

Each year, Formula One racing awards two championships. One is the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship. This is given to the driver who performs best during the racing season. The second is awarded for the performance of an individual car and is called the Formula One Constructors’ Championship. Each is based on points earned in each grand prix.

Teams pour a good deal of time and money into building the fastest F1 cars they can. For example, large companies like Ferrari and Mercedes have been known to spend over $400 million on their cars in a single year. Starting in 2021, though, regulations will cap the amount of money teams can spend building F1 cars at $175 million.

Have you ever watched a Formula One race? Would you like to build or drive an F1 car yourself in the future? As some of the fastest cars in the world, they’re popular with driving enthusiasts and racing fans alike. Maybe you can even attend the Monaco Grand Prix one day!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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Learn about an ancient society in tomorrow's Wonder of the Day!