Tech You Can Find in Your Road Car
Posted on Mar 22 2023 9:19 AM
"Formula One represents the pinnacle of automotive sport – the fastest cars, the most skilled drivers and the widest array of tracks from around the globe come together to make F1 a spectacle like no other. "
Formula One represents the pinnacle of automotive sport – the fastest cars, the most skilled drivers and the widest array of tracks from around the globe come together to make F1 a spectacle like no other. Now heading into the closing stages of its 73rd season, fans new and old will be making use of free bet offers, such as those provided by comparison platforms like OddsChecker, to back their favorites on the road to Abu Dhabi. Yet, with Red Bull and their number one driver, Max Verstappen, currently enjoying a dominant run of form since returning from the calendar’s summer recess, all hopes of a meaningful title challenge from Ferrari appear to be evaporating fast.
While the sportsmanship on display in F1 is, understandably, the key focus for fans – the phenomenal engineering underlying the cars is also a major draw. Unlike many motorsport competitions, such as Indycar, F1 is not a spec-series. This means that, rather than each team having to make-do with the same cars, each designs and builds a vehicle each year in an arms-race to squeeze out the maximum performance possible under the current rule-set.
This means that F1, unlike other sports, is as much an engineering competition as an athletic one. In pushing the limits of automotive design in the name of victory, F1 has become a fountainhead for innovative vehicle design, much of which has eventually trickled down into our road-going vehicles.
Here we’re going to take a look at just a few of the novel technologies and design concepts that got their start in this sport, and that now can be found in your road car in 2023.
Energy Recovery Electronic Motors
Since 2014, F1 has made its first step towards making the sport more environmentally sustainable and efficient. To do this, a new hybrid engine was unveiled, doing away with the screaming V12s and V10s of former eras.
These new engines would instead feature a turbo-charged V6 engine, coupled with several electric motors – known respectively as the MGU-K and MGU-H. While the latter has little meaningful application for ordinary road cars, being a motor designed to capture energy from excess heat produced by the turbochargers, the MGU-K has found its way into most hybrid and electric vehicles on the road today.
This is because this motor captures excess kinetic energy, such as that produced under braking, and feeds it back into the powertrain. Known as KERS, or the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, it is perhaps the most significant recent example of how F1 innovation has directly fed into mass produced car design.
Suspension is important for a number of reasons – for one, good suspension ensures a stable, smooth ride for passengers. But suspension can also have an enormous impact on performance by enabling a car to extract greater grip from its tires, and benefit from higher cornering speeds.
While active suspension, that is, computer-assisted dampening that actively adjusts ride height and stiffness to present road conditions is now ubiquitous in ordinary cars, back in the early 90s it was virtually unheard of.
In the 1992 season, Williams unveiled the FW15B, a car that proved to be so dominant across the course of the calendar – bagging 15 qualifying pole positions, 10 fastest laps and 10 wins over the course of 16 races – that its innovative new active suspension system was banned from the sport.
Yet that didn’t stop keen-eyed designers from the wider automotive industry eagerly seeking to adopt the technology in their mass produced cars.
For much of automotive history, there was only one way to operate a manual gearbox – with a so-called stick shift. This system, while reliable, was relatively slow, heavy and took up a lot of space.
In an attempt to cut weight and improve performance, F1 designer John Barnard developed the first electronic paddle gearbox, which placed two shifting buttons on the steering wheel of the car. After initially seeking to get this design adopted by McLaren, Barnard jumped ship and brought his innovation to Ferrari, which they used to great effect in the 1989 season.
Now, paddle shifting has become commonplace, as its intuitive design and high-speed tactile feedback makes it a superior choice for performance cars on the road.
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