Formula Student is essentially the student version of Formula 1 – a bit scruffier and a lot tighter on budgets. That said, there’s much about it that is just like F1 – all the teams from different universities build and develop their own cars, have to take on the task of managing their finance, marketing and comms, just like an F1 team does.

They also have a designated driver; unfortunately for them they’re not paid millions of pounds and instantly gain celebrity girlfriends (or boyfriends), but they do have the huge weight on their shoulders of delivering results to the rest of the team – pretty exciting stuff.

What’s even more amazing, and to further cement the fact that Formula Student is so close to F1, is that Zircotec – a company that produce ceramic coatings as used by F1 teams, also supplied 10 Formula Student teams. These ceramic coatings are one of many space-age technologies used in F1.

One example use for them is with the drive shafts and suspension arms at the rear of the modern F1 car. As you’d expect these components are made of carbon fibre – the lightest and strongest material for the job. Over the course of a race distance and with hot exhaust gases being blown in their direction, there would be concern over the longevity of the material and it’s inevitable that we’d see failures. Thanks to Zircotec’s coatings, this doesn’t happen.

The ceramics are heated up to insane temperatures and effectively blasted onto the carbon fibre – of course the temperature control is paramount – too hot and you’d risk damaging the carbon fibre, too cold and the process would work. Once coated, the carbon fibre is far more heat resistant and virtually guaranteed to withstand race distance, even with hot gases blown over them. Clever stuff.

To go one step further, these coatings have been fine tuned and now come in various grades, each grade being ever so slightly smoother than the other (like comparing different grades of sand paper at B&Q) – F1 is so cutting edge that this tiny change can make all the difference…

…and it’s great to know that Formula Student is benefitting in similar ways.

Badger would also like to give a shout out to Marussia Virgin Racing whose mechanics volunteered to head back to Silverstone last weekend to help out the student teams – top stuff!

More info – Formula StudentZircotec’s website

For more info on Zircotec, have a read of the press release:

Coatings specialist Zircotec lent its technical and commercial support to 10 teams at Formula Student 2011 held at Silverstone last weekend. The firm’s ceramic coatings were used by a number of the participants including University of Hertfordshire, Coventry University and Cambridge, the latter adopting Zircotec’s patented carbon composite coating to protect a composite bulkhead. “Zircotec believes that Formula Student is an extremely worthwhile activity, helping participants to understand and implement the technologies of today’s contemporary race cars,” says Zircotec’s managing director Terry Graham. “We now offer a growing number of teams our coating service as a component part of a formal sponsorship package. Teams have access to our coatings and other products and in return we require them to provide a technical report of the results achieved. This way we can both learn from the use of the coating on the car.”

Zircotec’s coatings are appreciated by many of the teams using motorbike engines that tend to run hot in the Formula Student installation. “We are coating exhausts that keep heat inside the exhaust to prevent damage to surrounding components as well as supplying heat resistant foils to protect fuel lines, batteries and the driver,” says Graham. “This year we also coated a composite bulkhead and we expect to see more of these lightweight materials requiring protection in future Formula Student cars.”

Zircotec is equally keen to expand links with International universities and used this year’s event at Silverstone to meet teams from Italy, Australia, Germany, France and Holland. “We visited most of the teams during the week and provided samples of our ZircoFlex foil for them to solve last minute heat issues,” adds Graham. “The level of engineering on these cars is often outstanding and we welcome further co-operation with universities outside of the UK in the coming years.”