Over this Christmas holiday period I thought it would be good to have an interactive daily series looking at what F1 might be like in the future. I’ve prepared some content I hope you will find thought provoking.
Each day I will do a specific post relating to this futuristic theme. Tomorrow we will look at what F1 cars might look like in the future, there will be posts on the engines of the future, aerodynamics, simulation tools and how the racing might be.
Why is it interactive? Because I will post some thought starters and I would love it if you could send in your reactions and your own thoughts.
Formula 1 has been going now for sixty years. Thanks to television, it has a huge global following and the top drivers are among the best known and best paid sportsmen in the world.
The first 20 years saw some big changes on the cars; the engine moved from in front to behind the driver and the tyres became wider. In 1970 the basics of a Formula 1 car were pretty much as they are today. The car made contact with the road through four wheels and slick racing tyres. It was a single seater, with a petrol engine placed behind the driver and the gearbox was behind that. The driver sat reclined with his feet on the pedals more or less level with the front axle. The engine had a capacity of three litres, only 600cc more than today. Most were V8s as they are today. Engines then had around 300 horsepower compared with 750hp today. Engineers were just beginning to experiment with basic aerodynamics, inverting a wing placed at the front and rear of the car to produce downforce.
Since then there have been some evolutions and some breakthroughs in technology, such as turbos and active suspensions, but no revolutions. The biggest change is in the construction material and concept of the car. Back then the chassis was made up of tubular steel. It was a dangerous time as the cars were very fast and yet the steel frame with flimsy bodywork on top meant that cars were still relatively fragile. As a result there were a lot of fatalities around that time.
In the early 1980s with the arrival of composite technology, carbon fibre was introduced to F1, which was lighter and stronger than steel and the idea developed that the driver should sit in a carbon fibre shell, known as a monocoque. Overnight this improved the safety for the drivers enormously. It takes 45 days to build one carbon monocoque and each team builds five per season. They are subjected to stringent crash tests, front, side and top, to ensure structural integrity.
Aerodynamics developed quickly since 1969 and nowadays most teams have at least one if not two wind-tunnels of their own. They also have super computers running Computational Fluid Dynamics which does billions of complicated calculations on aerodynamics. This is because the largest gains in performance come from aerodynamics. From the start of the season to the end an F1 car will improve by around 2 seconds with over half of that coming from aerodynamics. These are being restricted under the new resource restriction agreement, but aero still rules in F1.
Electronics are another major area in which the cars have changed since 1969. Today all of the cars functions are controlled by and data is recorded on an electronic control unit. These are standard across the whole field, everyone uses the same unit. Data is fed in from over 2,000 sensors placed at various points giving temperature readings, motion readings and so on.
There are more technological innovations around the corner. But will there be any revolutions in the next few decades?
Tomorrow we will look at car design in the future.