Technological advances in Formula 1 are just as important as who is behind the wheel. Learn about the key advances that have changed the championship over the years.
Formula 1, in which the world’s best drivers demonstrate their driving skills, has been the pinnacle of motorsport since its inception and the unofficial basis for research and development in the world of cars. Formula 1 cars have become real laboratories in which new technologies in the racing world are invented and perfected. And 2021 F1 calendar won’t be an exception. Many of these innovations are short-lived as Formula 1 rules are constantly updated to maintain a balance between efficiency and confidence in the driver’s abilities, as well as reliability and spectacle. Even so, racing technology is just as important in Formula 1 as black and white checkered flags and champagne splashes. Now we learn which inventions changed the famous championship the most.
The engine in front of the rear axle of the car
At the beginning of motorsport, the setting of where the engine should be has stayed the same since the car was invented: all horsepower was in the front center. That made sense, but the racers soon found that understeer occurred at high speeds. In 1957, the Cooper team changed the existing paradigm by placing the engine behind the driver but in front of the rear axle for more even weight distribution. The new architecture seemed suspicious and even radical at the time, but after Jack Brabham won two consecutive championships in 1959 and 1960, all manufacturers switched to the new layout by the 1961 season.
If you send enough road data to the vehicle’s suspension and then tie it to a system that adjusts the shock absorber response accordingly, you get the all-important contact system. Williams used active suspension systems for the first time in Formula 1, building on a concept previously introduced by Lotus. But they were banned in the mid-1990s because of the dangerous increase in speed in the corners.
The FIA is considering the use of active suspension systems in the near future. However, that doesn’t stop the technology from being used in dozens of sports cars, SUVs, and luxury sedans. This development for racing cars has established itself well on the road.
When an F1 car hits the brakes at 320 km / h, a significant amount of kinetic energy is released. But what if it were possible to capture that momentum and keep it for later use? This is exactly what the KERS kinetic energy saving system did. It was introduced in 2009 and initially enabled the teams to store up to 60 kW of energy from the rear axle.
This potential was consumed by either the electrical system or a rotating mechanical flywheel. The power was then drained through the gearbox. So, for a certain number of seconds per lap, a hybrid racing car was effectively created.
In racing, KERS has been replaced (or reinforced) by several new systems. They convert heat or kinetic energy into electricity, which is used by the powerful actuators that generate twice as much electricity as the original KERS. Mazda experimented with the i-Eloop flywheel feedback system on the Mazda 6 sedan.
Many innovations in motorsport make races faster, but also more dangerous. It is therefore an additional challenge for designers to develop systems that ensure the safety of racing drivers, e.g. B. fire fighting or a safety cage. The latest of these technologies is the Halo cockpit protection system, introduced in 2018, which protects the driver from flying foreign objects thanks to a deformation zone at eye level. The teams are now installing this system in their cars, which has become a requirement of the rules, but also has complex indirect effects on aerodynamics and load distribution. While the Halo system wasn’t for everyone, it has already proven its need and saved a life when Roman Grosjean had a terrible accident at the end of the 2020 season …