F1 teams use carbon fibres, a pre-impregnated epoxy resin and an aluminium honeycomb layer, which is sandwiched between two layers of carbon fibre.
The chassis is usually the first part of the car to be built, due to the amount of time required. The main chassis usually comprises of about 8 parts (panels). The first stage of the manufacturing process is to build a solid (computercut) pattern, from which a mold for the panel is produced. The molds are constructed by laying a total of 10 layers of pre-impregnated (with resin) carbon fibre on top of each pattern to produce the mold. The production of the mold takes place in several stages, involving vacuum treatments, debulking and heating processes. The mold then has to be thoughroughly cleaned and prepared for use.
The next phase is the actual fabrication of a car part, made from sheets of pre-cut, pre-impregnated carbon fibre, which are carefully laid inside the molds. It is thereby vital orientate the carbon fibre sheets in pre determined directions in order to achieve the desired strength. A total of 5 layers of carbon fibre are laid, forming the outer skin of the chassis (to achieve a final, cured thickness of 1mm, a total of 3-4 layers of carbon fibre must be laid down).
The next stage of the process is to cure the carbon fibre in an autoclave. This exposes the carbon fibre to a number of temperature / pressure cycles according to the specific requirements of the materials and components being processed. During this treatment, the resin impregnated in the carbon fibre flows into the surrounding fibres and is activated, thereby curing the carbon fibre. Once the outer skin has been cured and cooled down, a honeyomb layer of aluminium is fixed onto the outer skin by a sheet of resin to ensure the materials stick stongly together. The chassis panel then returns to the autoclave for curing. After having cooled down again, one more layer, consisting of a number of pre-impregnated carbon fibre sheet is placed on top the existing skin, and again treated in the autoclave for a final time.
When the part is completely produced, it is sent to an evaluation department, and when proven good, it can be used for racing.