“A racing car has only one objective: to win motor races. If it does not do this it is nothing but a waste of time, money and effort,” said legendary F1 designer, Colin Chapman, pointing out the importance of design and technology to racing success. The ultimate goal for an F1 car may be breakneck velocity, but stability, aerodynamics, top suspension, wing and ground effect aerodynamics, and stressed monocoques are all features that make a big difference to a driver’s success and safety. These are just a few top technologies inspired by F1 that are making driving more pleasurable, safer, and more aesthetically pleasing for everyone. The Sports Techie community blog is excited to share the breaking news that engineers at Mercedes F1 and University College London (UCL) together with clinicians at UCL Hospital all helped to develop a much-needed coronavirus breathing respiratory device, named the ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ (CPAP). Bravo, F1, let’s hope people with serious lung infections caused by COVID-19 are helped as soon as possible by this medical game-changer. The world is a better place thanks to Formula One ingenuity.
In order to provide optimal stability when an F1 car goes through extreme twists and turns, independent suspension is key. Independent suspension systems – which allow all four tyres to move independently without affecting one of the other wheels – is present in both F1 and road cars, with some of the latter using multi-link suspensions and others MacPherson studs (as is the case for NASCAR cars). The difference between F1 and everyday cars is suspension adjustment. F1 cars face far riskier situations and push suspension technology to the limit. For everyday cars, manufacturers aim to strike a balance between stability and comfort.
Energy Recovery Systems
Sustainability is a big consideration for modern car purchasers. Electric and hybrid cars in particular are striking a chord and receiving rave reviews from millennial buyers, for whom sustainability is a big priority. Consumers are also sharing content and opinions discussing the reliability of cars boasting fully electric or hybrid functions. F1 has shown the industry the optimal level at which hybrid engine systems can function. As far back as 2014, Honda replaced its V8 engines with 1.6-liter V6 turbos that worked alongside energy recovery systems. The result is a true feat of hybrid technology. Two electric generators rework power generated by the car, bringing this energy back to the engine. Kinetic energy is recycled from the braking system, while heat energy is obtained from the exhaust.
The first-ever semi-automatic gearbox (which married the performance of manual transmissions with the practicality of automatic shifting) was made for the Porsche 962 in 1984. Enabling drivers to shift gears without using the clutch, it became the inspiration for current F1 paddle gears. The practicality of a vehicle being able to shift gears when required by the terrain or the driver’s actions was a clear winner for road cars. Today, semi-automatic gears are the ideal marriage of independence and ease that drivers crave.
This handy braking system first saw the light of day when Porsche developed it for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1980s. Disc brakes enable drivers to brake more speedily, without locking the steering. Road car manufacturers are emulating F1 again, using heat-resistant ceramic versions of classic steel disc rotors. If they continue heading in the direction of F1, rotors could eventually be made of carbon fiber.
Sports Techie, it is logical that F1 – the ultimate exponent of motoring excellence – should be the harbinger of technologies that are making road cars faster, safer, and more pleasurable to drive. F1 is indeed the originator of many systems we take for granted – including semi-automatic systems. Of course, there are many more technologies inspired by F1 – including the use of carbon fiber, rear view mirrors and all-wheel drives.
If you want a good movie to watch while your holed up because of government issued, COVID-19 stay at home recommendations or requirements, watch Rush on HBO. This epic Grand Prix racetrack film directed by Ron Howard is set in the 1970s and depicts the racing rivalry between James Hunt from the UK and Austrian Daniel Brühl, facing off in an epic motorsport showdown for the F1 racing crown.
Once again I need to give a huge shout out to Mercedes F1 for reverse-engineering a CPAP device relied upon in Italian and Chinese hospitals, for mass-production.
Andy Cowell, Mercedes HPP’s Managing Director, said, “The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the ‘Project Pitlane’ collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects.”
The beginning of the 2020 F1 racing season has been postponed because of the global COVID-19 outbreak causing issues with production, supply chain, in addition to driver, crew and fan health concerns, but it has not stopped the trickle-down effect to once again reach other industries.
Keep up the good work for all, F1.
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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