Does Formula 1 Tech Trickle Down?

From the F1 track to the road Source: Pixabay ‘Trickle-down’ is a phrase that we often hear in relation to all kinds of things, and when it comes to the technology used in Formula 1 cars making its way to road based vehicles, it’s clear that the trickle down effect is in full force. These days, there are plenty of standard features in modern road cars that first saw the light of day as expensive new luxuries in F1 cars. Once the technology was debugged and made affordable, they went into general manufacture and became standard on the roads. This has played a major role in making cars safer, easier and more enjoyable to drive, and more reliable in all weather conditions. F1’s influence can be felt in many sectors, and aside from the tech trickle down it’s spurred, it has also inspired plenty of racing themed casino games, created entire video game franchises and built a brand that is instantly recognisable. Let’s take a look at what F1 tech has made the leap to road cars, and how its cutting edge advancements have been adapted to work on our every day sedans and SUV’s.

Better Brakes

Disc brakes are better and safer than drum brakes, and we have F1 to thank for inventing disc brakes. The first reliable steel disc brakes were perfected on the F1 circuit, and are now standard in most cars. Currently, the best disc brakes in F1 are made from carbon-fibre, but once manufacturers figure out a way to make them affordable for general use, cars on the road will be undergoing another braking revolution. And on the subject of carbon-fibre...

Carbon Fire Body Shells

The big goal in F1 has always been to get the power up and the weight down, and carbon-fibre was a game-changer. Lighter and stronger than steel or aluminium, it can also be shaped into highly aerodynamic forms, and can now be found in the chassis and bodywork of many road vehicles.

Back to Braking

Tech trickle – How road cars have benefited from F1 Source: Pixabay The disc brake isn’t F1’s only gift to stopping power. Both anti-lock braking systems and traction control first saw the light of day in F1, as did the four-wheel drive. And the computer that controls all three functions is descended from a F1 car’s ECU, which regulates braking, traction and power to all the wheels in millisecond adjustments to combine maximum power with maximum safety. A modern roadster has the same computer, braking and drive technologies to deliver the same combination.

Aerodynamic Adjustments

F1 has been involved in improving general road holding from the top to the bottom for years. The spoiler, along with other fins and body enhancements to provide more downforce at high speeds and keep the car on the road, was invented by Lotus and originally found only on F1 vehicles.

Discovering How Tyres Really Feel

A F1 car contains between 150 and 300 sensors, all of which collect massive amounts of information during a race. This is all collected and analysed by computers to give engineers and designers the info they need to improve cars. For example, information collected by Pirelli that detailed the different temperatures on different parts of the tyres during F1 racing allowed the company to develop new rubber polymers, and adjust the composition of their tyres to perform more efficiently when hot. Similar analysis of water sensors when F1 cars are driving in the wet allows tread patterns to be reconfigured for optimum grip - both these innovations have made it from the F1 circuit to the road.

Greening the Environment

This one is a surprise – but should it be? F1 has always been about wringing every ounce of speed out of every millilitre of fuel, so the fact that F1 designers are obsessed with fuel efficiency shouldn’t surprise anyone. More than that, their obsession with not letting any possible power source go to waste was also what led to turbochargers, the development Kinetic Energy Recovers Systems (KERS), and other innovations that repurpose power from exhaust heat. All of these upgrades, invented for F1, can now be found in the most eco-friendly hybrids, where they do exactly what they do on the racing circuit; capture energy that would otherwise be wasted, and turn it into power for the car. What could be greener than that?


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