The final stage in producing Renault's next Formula One car has arrived, as the team prepares to assemble the chassis. It is often called a monocoque, but that is one of the most common misnomers in F1, as the 'monocoque': not quite what it seems.

In common parlance, people call an F1 chassis a 'monocoque', the first F1 example of which appeared in the 1960s with Colin Chapman's Lotus 25. Since then, production has been common practice in order to get maximum strength and stiffness for the lightest possible weight but, when produced in carbon fibre, the literal meaning of the word - a 'single shell' - doesn't quite give the full picture. These days, the finished chassis is actually two halves - the upper and lower - bonded together and then tested by the FIA as a single, whole piece.

Once final machining has taken place, the two halves of the chassis are taken for assembly. The different bulkheads that fit into the chassis - behind the steering wheel, for example - have meanwhile been produced by the composites department. Initially, these are dry-fitted into the lower half of the chassis then bonded into place. Once the bulkheads are correctly positioned, the top half is bonded to the pre-assembled lower to make the 'shell', and the whole assembly is then cured to ensure the bonds are sound. This process - apparently as simple as putting the two halves together - actually takes a whole working week...

Following assembly, the chassis is load tested by the FIA and, as and when it passes, granted homologation. Painting is then the next stage, with, firstly, a primer coat being applied and the livery 'lined out' before any paint is applied.

The chassis then makes its way to a former farm in deepest rural Oxfordshire for the real process to begin. Colour is applied in very thin coats, and sealed with a clear top coat. The paint scheme, overall, can represent up to five kilos of the car's weight. Once painted, the chassis is ready for the car build to begin.

With 3000 parts featuring on an average F1 car, there are now just 2,999 to go....

 

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