Insight into what happened to Narain Karthikeyan's HRT in Abu Dhabi
In modern F1 cars, the cornering loads are so massive that without power steering, a driver cannot turn properly.
Below is the diagram of simple steering system without hydraulics.
Parts of Hydraulic Steering (Power Steering system):
The first part is the reservoir where the hydraulic fluid is stored. The pump mechanism transports this hydraulic fluid to the power cylinder. The control valve regulates the amount of fluid that is being transported to the power cylinder. Here, the control valve acts like the brain of the unit and is the most important component of the system.
Hydraulic Steering was earlier used mostly in ATV’s and rallycross machines but now it has become a common feature in road cars as well. So, let’s take a look at the functioning.
The process starts with the turn of the steering wheel. The ECU (electronic control unit) sends the signal to the control valve which converts it into a numerical value. The signal is about how much the steering wheel has been rotated. According to how much the steering wheel has been rotated, the control valve then selects the amount of fluid that has to be pumped into the power cylinder. The pump sends the fluid into one of the cylinder arms, depending on which way the wheel was turned, which extends the arm and turns the wheels.
As Narain entered the last sequence of corners, his car encountered a hydraulic leakage and if you see the replay of the accident, you could see spray being expelled from the back of his HRT. The hydraulic system is one of the main systems of an F1 car and it controls the power steering, gearbox, clutch, brake and throttle pedals.
In this context, we will be talking about power steering. Due to the hydraulic failure on Narain’s HRT, the steering became rock solid and as he tried to turn for the last corner, the load on the steering felt very high and as so he jammed on the brakes. Nico Rosberg, on the other hand, was unaware of the failure in Narain’s car and so he didn’t back out of the corner and ended up tailgating the HRT.