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JA on F1 Christmas interactive series – F1 in the Future
JA on F1 Christmas interactive series – F1 in the Future
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Dec 2009   |  1:10 pm GMT  |  81 comments

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.

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Four wheel drive, any one? Look what it did in Rallying – think of the Audi Quattro… Surely the weight/drivability ratio might make this a possibility.

Is it also possible for an innovative designer to look at wankel rotary as an alternative to the V8? These can theoretically run up to xxxxxx revolutions, and less power loss is consumed in converting vertical force into rotational. They also provide a better power to consumption and size ratio. Hmmm.

I think also that F1 should be on the cutting edge (or in front) of technology. Designers and engineers are being forced to squirm their way around, under and over an increasingly complex and restrictive set of rules. Is there a way of opening up the innovation side of things, without creating a one horse race for the most financially solvent?


Really, have none of you see the film ‘Back to the Future’ ❓

Hover cars are the future 😆 Just think of all the money saved on tyres and they’d be no need to gravel traps saving more of the earth’s resources ❗

Maybe too may sherry mince pies 😆


Firstly, well done on this great blog of yours James! It’s a magnificient idea.

Maybe you could also publish some statistics about this blog. Eg:- No. of articles to date, average no. of viewers per day, average no.of comments and maybe the most popular post!It would be a great for us fans of this blog!


1. Driver controlled aerodynamics as a strategic tool.

2. Automatic aerodynamics as a fuel saving tool.

3. A yearly decrease in fuel consumption.

4. I very much like to see some of Volkswagens UP concept making it to F1. It is a hybrid drive that enables electric driving. This could entice VW (Audi) into F1. And it could compensate the loss in fuel amount. F1 should make a gradual transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy if it is to celebrate its 100th birthday.

5. Regenerative braking. Anyway, all systems that recover energy should be encouraged.

6. No mirrors on the car, but cameras. Like the UP concept from VW. The images could be projected on the driver’s visor. This could be beneficial and relevant to all motor cyclists. … One could also use these images for broadcasting.

7. A third eye on the driver’s helmet. So we can get his view of the race. I know, it is going to be a shaken view. But I’d like to see Michael Schumacher from Hamiltons perspective. It’s also great to experience when Hamilton is looking at Schumacher. Something that is currently missing with the fixed cameras.

8. One way communication from the driver to the crew on the pitwall. Not vice versa. Something akin to the tour de France where the earphones have been banned.

One Fia voice to all drivers if there is something dangerous on track.


such a shame to see refueling gone. Although relatively safe, there was always a chance for a big show.

What about the revolution with the driver and the trainning techniques for the driver? No more JamesHunt style up-late boozing the night before the race! It’s ultra fitness, diets and simulators. The role of the race engineer as an ontrack coach and manager is something that is growing; the driver is being religated to a ‘just’ a driver.

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

Someone please tell (or link) more about this rule:

> It takes 45 days to build one carbon

> monocoque and each team builds five

> per season.

Per the rules? If an m-q takes a 10mph punch in to an Armco at Loews, is it a writeoff? If a team manages to crack all five on the Friday of the first weekend, is their season over, or would FOTA be convened to authorize another rebuild?


Looking forward to this peek into the future. I seem not to be interested in analyzing the past too much, so good to have something like this.


I think the need for cost savings will no doubt reduce the possibilities of technical revolution or great innovation in the coming future years.

The biggest mistake I think they made with next year’s rules (not official, FOTA’s) is abandoning KERS. I think KERS had great potential. If the FIA hadn’t imposed the 6.6s a lap rule, there would no doubt have been much more gains in KERS and more cars would have likely run the system.

I doubt hydrogen fuel cell F1 cars will ever come about. Electric motors that can deliver the level of performance of modern engines will need to be made first.

If the FIA relaxed the rules somewhat, I’m sure we would see strange and wonderful designs that we cant even imagine.


Why don’t they use active camber and tyre pressure?


How about setting a date say 2020 for the banning of the use of fossil fuels in F1 cars, then you’ll see some real innovation!

The overtaking problem has still to be properly fixed, I always think back to Hungary 1989 as an example of how F1 should be. Mansell’s Ferrari of course started 14th & won after numerous overtakes on the notoriously hard to pass circuit. Unfortunately the complexities of modern aerodynamics has really not helped with overtaking. I think aerodynamic regulations should be heavily simplified and more emphasis placed on the grip of the tyres and mechanics of the cars. Developments of this nature are also more useful in the automotive industry!


I like big, noisy, powerful engines that run on polluting petrol! Millions of F1 fans agree. That’s what Formula 1 is all about! Right?

Or perhaps “WAS about” may be more a more accurate statement sometime soon. The world is moving towards more eco-friendly technologies, both on and off the race track. While Mosley’s attempts to implement more of these technologies may have been ham-fisted, I think few would argue this is the direction the sport will continue to go. But to what extent?

Hydrogen sounds like a nice idea, but as far as I know, it still hasn’t been proven to be much if any more eco-friendly than petrol, nor have bio-fuels.

So what’s left? Electric motors? That seems to be where the winds of change are blowing elsewhere, so why not F1? Changing to electric motors would surely satisfy criteria that fit with David Richard’s recent statements that F1 should make some big changes and concentrate on technologies that could be transferred to road-cars. Electric motors would also be a revolutionary change, something that hasn’t happened for a long time as James pointed out.

Electric motors are simpler and far more efficient than combustion engines, (are usually) more reliable, and don’t (always) require a complicated gearbox, all of which may also satisfy F1’s need to cut costs. Having F1 pushing the development of electric motors and battery technology would also surely benefit the average motorist. (We’ll leave aside the cons of using electricity for now).

But even if they could somehow implement this massive change, will people watch F1 cars with electric motors? Would pit stops be exciting if the crews were seen changing out batteries? It sure wouldn’t sound the same. Instead of the scream of V8’s the sounds at the track would be the whoosh of the cars piercing the air and of the tires squealing on pavement.

I’m not sold on it, but it certainly is an interesting prospect that no doubt will be getting more and more debate in the near future.


Hi James

I strongly agree with everyone above that todays cars are too fragile to the aero of the cars in front. This is a big problem, and has no easy answers. But I believe that F1 cars should always be the forefront of road technology, and in a day of age of speed restrictions, F1 should try to minimise areo effect, and push the teams into maximising the mechanical grip of the cars. This would have the greatest benefit to all road users and allow for more overtaking (look at Formula Ford races all over the world!). Teams would still be able to play with the areo on the body of the car, and the suspension components (and tyres!), but would not have the huge wings which creates the fragility.

I would also like to see more than one tyre manufacture in F1. This drives more innovation. They should also push F1 to adpot some type of recycled rubber tyre. This again would benefit the road users.

In terms of TV coverage, i still think there is a long way to go. In a digital age, why can’t i choose what camera angle i view. I should be able to be able to sit in Mark Webbers cockpit with him, then flick to the car behind him (Vettle of course)…and watch the race from there. Also i want more information from race control and the teams. Also i should have a choice in commentators!!! Wouldn’t that be good James!!!

Thanks for the opportunity James to shape F1. Cause i am sure plenty of F1 decision makers will read or be made aware of all these suggestions.



I’m still excited/nervous to see how the no refuelling rule plays out and what the new cars will all look like with their larger fuel tanks. I really hope in the future more emphasis is put towards overtaking and keeping on top of it so that teams can’t tweak the cars to negate the changes, sort of like what happened this season.

I’d also like to congratulate James on his wonderful book. I got it as a present today and I’ve really enjoyed reading it. The format is brilliant and I’d go so far as saying its the best F1 season review book I’ve ever had. Well done James and I’m looking forward to more of your insight as the 2010 approaches.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Two things that must obviously remain

1) Open cockpit

2) Open wheeled chassis

I guess that with the increasing environmental guilt trip that will be given to F1 over the next few years that the sport will have to justify its existence through “real world” application…as opposed to pushing the boundaries of out-and-out performance.

Some initial ideas:

1) Smaller engines with forced induction: turbo or superchargers

2) Four wheel drive / four wheel steering

3) Alternative fueled engines

4) Obligation for cars to made from recyclable materials

5) Clutchless automated gearboxes

Given the advances in technology in terms of engine and tyre performance I would expect F1 cars to look more primitive as aerodynamics are paired back to rein in speed.


I think not only looking at the technology of the cars in the next 20 years but also the sport in general.

For instance how we will view our beloved sport. I think F1 will become more interactive. Computers and game consoles are always connected to the internet. What I would love to see is F1 becoming linked with digital media, with telemetry of the cars being broadcast straight to your console and into your F1 game. So you can not only watch the race on TV, but have the ability to step inside the cars on the grid, and watch the race from the drivers perspective. With the growing development of real 3D in games you would get the feeling of really being there.

Once you have that data, use it to rerun the race. Imagine watching some of the close wheel to wheel battles we’ve seen over the years from the drivers eye?


Might be the only really revolutionary idea I’ve read out of this 20 and something comments.

Congrats. That could increase number of viewers (might not be appropriate name any more 🙂 ) by few hundred percent!

Sadly, I don’t see the technically most advanced sport leading the way in pioneering new technologies. 🙁

…at least not with Bernie on the head of it.

F1 potential is so undeveloped and that’s why Bernie needs 50%. You know, because he’s such a bad manager he takes even more. Doesn’t make sense, but I guess I got used to it with F1. 🙁


Great idea for a series, James.

I believe in the next few-ish decades we will see the single biggest revolution in motorsport history.

We are now at the beginning of a massive change in public perception which will see all elements of the cars and F1 in general under scrutiny for its ‘green’ credentials. (I hate that term, but this is the world in which we live.)

Cars will need to become more socially acceptble, with huge changes in engine design and emissions, genuine energy-recovery systems, fuel, and various other technical innovations _driven_ by the road car market, rather than (supposedly) _leading_ the road car market.

But none of the above are the change to which I am referring. In the same way that the sport must be seen as responsible to the environment, in time I believe that F1 will be forced to reevaluate its impact on humans.

One day Formula 1 cars will be driven by remote control.

It won’t be soon, but it will happen. Simulators and CFD are progressing at an incomprehensible rate, whilst still being extremely young technologies. Who can imagine the technology we will have when F1 reaches twice its current age? Or three times?

The time will come where it’s not possible, not acceptable or simply not necessary for a man or woman to sit in the car. Will this still be the sport which we all know and love? Probaly not, other than (possibly) in name. But it won’t be weird, because very few humans will drive cars at any time anyway, so this will be the norm.

Is that revolutionary enough for ya?



gone too far!

Would you watch it? Where would be a difference between cars from same team? What if something that you cant control or foresee happens, like some crazy Scottish guy in a kilt running around Silverstone or some dogs going around in Turkey?


I didn’t say I liked it, but this is my view of futuristic prohibition, probably garnered from reading too many science fiction novels.

I guess I’m imagining the competition being carried out in simulators, possibly with the aid of real-world cars. Possibly not.

Would I watch it? Yes, if that’s all we had left.


Hi James,

thanks for giving your readers the chance to use the comments in a constructive way and responding yourself.

making F1 racing more interesting by encouraging overtaking seems to be a recurring theme… but as long as there is such a heavy emphasis on aerodynamic downforce, we will never get anywhere close to Moto GP style overtaking scenarios.

IMO, F1 should encourage with all it’s technological might to increase mechanical grip and restrict aero downforce. make close following on the track easy and overtaking will come naturally. maybe even make the cars a bit more sturdy so a slight touch doesn’t rip it apart when wheel to wheel racing.

use technology like active suspension and computer controlled mechanics to achieve this mechanical grip. let the engineers imagination play with tyre technology and so on.

i’m looking forward to an exciting F1 season 2010.




If F1 is to remain as a technological show piece then lets have tech that is relevant to road cars, at least at some level. Aero, I would suggest, isn’t really relevant in the real world on the road, at least not in the basic terms of shapes and slots and stuff. But engine tech. and safety certainly are relevant. So restrict fuel and derestrict engine design. And why is it that in 2009 the mirrors are so useless?

Tyres need changing fundamentally as well. “Marbles” turn racetracks into one lane

with one line. And lets have drivers making some decisions during races and not a roomfull of geeks with too many laptops to look at. So no racing the clock but racing the guy in the next car.

Technology is perfectly capable of doing away with the driver all together at the moment, I am sure simulators have already sorted this. I think F1 is in danger of dissappearing up its own exhaust at the moment Two windtunnels working in shifts around the clock? Get real!



No no no, road cars implement F1 technology and F1 designers design for F1 racing and NOT for what might be used on road cars in the future 👿


I agree. I was not suggesting otherwise. But I see little point in extreme aero development which relies on thousands of hours of wind tunnel work (they need more than a 13amp plug to run I can tell you) when it is of absolutely no relevance to anything other than trying to make an F1 car go a bit quicker, and as an unfortunate side effect means that cars can’t race each other. Engine development has a knock on effect potentially to all engines. Likewise cost effective light weight construction etc etc.


Not every idea is a good one. You need to have room to make a few mistakes for every fantastic step forward. This applies to F1 cars, road cars, green technology, everything.

I’d like to see rules with enough flexibility for the odd mistake, without the punitive financial impact currently delivered.

For me, it’s too early to tell if KERS was a good idea badly implemented, or just a bad idea.

Also, I’d like to see rules with room for engineers to experiment. Why restrict fuel to petrol? Allow diesel, hydrogen, water(!), anything. Restrict the amount of fuel, or the engine BHP, but leave space to innovate. At the moment the rules are to closed.

Do I expect to see radically different cars soon? No. Not until we get a composite step like carbon fiber that allows different shapes to be strong enough, or we get something like hydrogen fuel.



Totally agree, Sterling engines are coming of age finally in the micro generation field. (often in CHP units)

The type of engine and fuel should be opened up.



“…. to tell if KERS was a good idea badly implemented, or just a bad idea.”

I’m not an engineer but I’m goiong for the ‘badly implemented’ option.

The idea that you implement an expensive new idea that has race-winning potential, eg Raikkonen at Spa, and then propose every team uses the same system in future seasons, MM when in power, is just potty. Especially when most/several teams have spent a fortune on their own systems.

Surely the way to maximise the benefits of such a system is to remove any limits in terms of stored energy or the number of seconds of boost available. Let the engineers off the leash.


Kers – humbug 😕


The idea that F1 might result in “amazing” developments which could be transferred to road cars is a romantic fantasy

at best. I had hoped that sort of marketing bs

( KERS ) would be gone with the departure of Mr. Mosley,

who seemed to be prone to entertaining more than a few fantasies.

Of course the sad truth is that, as P.T. Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute”. As such, F1 is bound to cater to the pipe dream that racing single-seat cars might contribute to the creation of more efficient cars for road use. The truth is, car companies don’t need F1 to accomplish such goals. Car companies are in fact carefully rationing the solutions they are already aware of, and the gullibility of the consumer allows them to continue to do this with impunity.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going for a drive in my B4 Passat Variant TDi, the fuel economy of which equals or

betters that of a Smart car, despite the fact that the Passat

carries four people + luggage and the Smart carries only two ( plus Prada handbag if you’re lucky ).


The concept of KERS is not new. The NSU Prinz used it in rudimentary and grossly unreliable form way back in my twenties (40 plus years ago) . In China the flywheel type of KERS has been used for deccades on goods vehicles. Audi are now using it and calling it “Recuperation”

When I retired 7 years ago most of the major car manufacturers were looking at 36Volt (nominal) systems with combined alternator/starters.

KERS offers the biggest dynamic energy saving scheme the planet could have on a motor vehicle. However if the object is to save the planet then just stop making new cars altogether, we need to look at potential energy. The carbon released by making a new “green” pious car would take very many years of driving it very slowly to bring it back to an equivalent level of just carrying on driving an old banger. Cuba is far far greener than the USA in this respect.The manufacture of even the cleanest most greenly efficient eco hand knitted car is an ecological disaster in respect of the carbon released during it’s manufacture, the pious being far worse than it’s conventional competitors.

Only the Williams flywheel type of KERS is eco sound, but it is also incredibly dangerous as we may see at some time in the future. Even though all teams agreed not to use it in 2010, KERS is not banned, so the teams can continue development this year.


Just wanted to add…why does it seem like there’s only one bloke in the world who ever designs new circuits? Herman Tilker? Why can’t someone else have a go? I’d like to see an loop added. Is that going too far?

And…Merry Christmas everyone.


What do you mean by a loop? I hope its not that boring American thing where they go round and round like a cheap Scalextric set. Though some banked curves which could be taken flat would be an idea. We dont want another Millbrook, or even another Brooklands.


Not thinking of the American thing at all. More like a roller coaster loop (probably wouldn’t be so high). Designers need to be far more creative and lay down the gauntlet for designers, engineers and drivers. As spectators and fans…we can only win.


I’d bet my house that if Sir Norman Foster was given the brief to design an F1 track to ensure best entertainment etc he’d deliver first time and every time ❗

He is the man and this this bloke that for reasons that are beyond me designs so many duds……

James, why hasn’t he been approached :?::?


I think the loop would be awesome! I have been wondering about that for years. In theory the cars could certainly do it…


There is – John Rhodes at Populous. He’s doing the new Silverstone


I’d like to see an F1 track that had a section that split in two and met again along a straight.

If this had existed when Button was following Webber he could have chosen to take the slit track (with a slightly different layout) and maybe have come back on the track in front, this would be great entertainment for the viewers 8)


Ah you’ve been watching the Dukes of Hazzard:-)


Unfortunately innovation is normally stamped upon swiftly in F1, the rules and rule makers look monolithic whilst the team designers are like rebels finding ways round under, past the rules.

However we need to see:

KERS developed fully on all wheels with free electronics.

Smart micro grooved,tuned surfaces as mentioned by Nicola can reduce drag whilst still creating downforce.

A change in the aero rules to limit the total surface area of wings to much less than now say a very max of half.

The floor basis changed with the reference datum being the skid rails instead of the reference plane. Other than the skid rails then the floor to be free.

Fuel to be hydrogen; propulsion by internal combustion reciprocating (as now)rotary (as Wankel type) OR via fuel cell and induction motors, including direct drive.

Current rules prevent much innovation of any kind, except maybe in KERS where superconductors could be used to great effect.

A place where the full rules are available would be of interest to some of us as the tech regs on the FIA site are only a summary.


Seems to peple don’t understand how kers if developed and fitted to all cars will damage and not improve F1.

Button in a much faster Brawn could not get passed Webber in a fading RedBull because Webber was driving defend his position, if both had kers it would have made overtaking even more impossible.

Kers is only any good when one driver has a huge advantage over another as McLaren showed this year.

No, kers if F1 (other than economy) is no good and I’d suggest a blind avenue and a black hole where money is concerned 🙂


I think you are missing the point of KERS which is to recover, then re-use, energy. It is in it’s infancy now, but eventually a significant proportion of the total energy/fuel mass required for a race will be recovered under braking (in fact doing the braking) thus reducing the amount of fuel needed.

Less fuel=less weight=less momentum/inertia. Ok at present KERS adds weight, but when they start using the correct materials and near superconductors then KERS will provide and advantage. Obviously the limit on energy storage and release rate will have to be changed in order for any proper advancement. It was scheduled to be much freer in 2010 with 4 wheel drive and collection allowed, but the regs were held back to last year’s levels.

Yes it will take money but energy conservation and re-use will be a huge factor in the future, all teams will be required to have it.


i would like the rules to take aero out step by step, until the performance gains are from somewhere else, this would make f1 more transferable to road cars.. im thinking suspension revolutions or stuff like that…

on the “green” side i would like the rules let them use any source of energy they want.. electricity, diesel, etc.. and instead of a fixed amount per race… a fixed cost of that energy per race… so they have the callenge “you have to run that race spending $XXX on energy” if they spend it in gasoline, diesel, electricty, let them decide… THAT WOULD BE A REAL SEARCH FOR COST EFFECTIVE


It’s impossible to un-invent what’s been invented 😕


dont get what you mean..


I honestly don’t think car design will change that much from now on, because the FOM have a vested interest in the cars staying the same. The current classic shape of an F1 car is instantly recognisable to the man on the street, so to go tampering that beyond what we saw this year and altering internal components may have an adverse effect. Plus the FIA will control any new developments on the cars to keep the speed down so we have an optimum package now – it won’t get any faster because this is as much as the human body can take both in racing and crashing

The main area of change in the future will probably be in the engine department to make cars more road relevant – the key word there being ‘more’, as it’s futile because road cars are nothing like F1 cars. I don’t see why they’re really bothering to go in that direction, especially as now we only have 2 proper manufacturers in F1

PS Got your book today, JA (signed copy too). Great read so far


Thanks. A very welcome [informative] diversion from Christmas!

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