Formula 1 is the premier racing competition in the world. However, many people don’t know that Formula 1 is the competition that is developing the technology that will eventually end up in road cars. With a new season of the pinnacle of motor racing just starting, let’s take a look into what type of impact the sport has had, and will have, in the motor industry for years to come.
This is where we see one of Formula 1’s biggest impacts. It started with the development of sequential gearboxes. This type of gearbox doesn’t allow the driver to choose any gear they want but rather the gears are ordered sequentially. This is closely linked with the flappy paddle gearbox that is now also increasingly being found in semi-automatic road cars. With the flappy paddle gearbox, the driver doesn’t need to remove their hands from the steering wheel, which increases safety. This leads perfectly into one area Formula 1 has had a big influence.
Formula 1 drivers fly around race tracks across the globe at incredible speeds, so race engineers have to make sure that their cars are able to keep the driver safe when they are trying to win every competitive inch. The introduction of steel disc brakes in Formula 1 was a big breakthrough in safety technology. Steel disc brakes, unlike other material breaks like carbon fibre, work at a much cooler temperature which means that brakes failing become a lot less likely to occur. This has already become a staple in road car technology.
Active suspension is another innovation brought to us by some of the best race engineers on the planet. Legendary F1 racer, Ayrton Senna, was the first driver to have this technology in his Lotus back in 1980. Active suspension controls the vertical movement of the wheels relative to the chassis or vehicle body with an onboard system, rather than in passive suspension where the movement is being determined entirely by the road surface. It allows for better cornering and control. Although it took it’s time to be perfected for road cars, it is as common as a radio in most of them today.
KERS (Kinetic Energy Reduction System) is something that is still relatively new when it comes to road cars. They have only recently started putting this in hyper cars. KERS is a system where your car’s kinetic energy is recovered under braking and then stored so that it may be used at a later stage. For racing cars and hyper cars, that energy is used for acceleration but this is something that is already being tested in hybrid and electric cars that can be bought within a couple of years.