Components One engineers are simply as aggressive because the drivers. They consistently seek for new know-how and improvements to outpace the competitors, what driver Mark Donohue famously referred to as “the unfair benefit.” However which means F1 groups typically push the envelope too far.
F1 claims to be the head of racing tech, however each intelligent new concept typically runs the danger of being banned. The historical past of F1 is suffering from examples of forbidden tech. Some concepts bent the principles, whereas others outright broke them. Some grew to become the victims of rival groups’ jealously. Others have been simply plain loopy. The tech listed right here is now not utilized in F1 for one cause or one other, however a few of it has transitioned to the highway, demonstrating potential for racing to affect on a regular basis automobiles.
Brabham BT46B “fan automotive”
Race automobiles depend on airflow pushing down on them to generate grip – a phenomenon often called downforce. There are two fundamental methods to generate downforce: stick wings to the highest of the automotive or create a low-pressure zone beneath to suck the automotive onto the monitor. The latter does the job with minimal added drag.
In 1978, British F1 group Brabham took the idea of suction to the intense with its BT46B. Designer Gordon Murray (who went on to design the McLaren F1 supercar) added a fan, which sucked air out from beneath the automotive by means of the engine bay. An analogous concept had beforehand been tried by American designer Jim Corridor on his Chaparral 2J, within the Can-Am Sequence.
The Brabham BT46B debuted on the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, and Niki Lauda drove it to victory after qualifying third. He and teammate John Watson had been instructed by the Brabham brass to take issues sluggish in qualifying, in order to not tip the group’s hand. That was in all probability a good suggestion. Murray had exploited a authorized loophole, claiming the fan was primarily for engine cooling. Different groups didn’t purchase it, and the anger grew after Lauda’s win. Ever the politician, Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone determined to retire the BT46B, quite than danger a combat over its legality.
Extra energy is at all times a great factor, however what about extra wheels? Designer Derek Gardner thought so. His Tyrrell P34 had a pair of normal-size tires on the again, however 4 10-inch tires on the entrance. Why? Gardner mentioned the 4 small entrance tires provided extra grip, however there could have been an aerodynamic benefit as effectively, because the smaller tires tucked neatly behind the entrance spoiler. At any fee, the P34 wasn’t profitable. Over two seasons of competitors (1976 and 1977) it solely gained one race. However the P34 stays certainly one of F1’s most iconic automobiles.
Tyrrell’s lack of success didn’t cease different groups from making an attempt the six-wheeler idea. March unveiled a automotive with 4 full-size rear wheels in 1977, however couldn’t discover the funding to complete it. Ferrari toyed with the concept of placing 4 wheels on a single rear axle – like a “dualie” pickup truck. Lastly, Williams constructed a prototype six-wheeler – the FW08B – in 1982. Just like the March, it had two wheels in entrance and 4 in again – all the identical dimension.
Williams believed the six-wheeler design would make it simpler to package deal aerodynamic aids, and obtained some promising preliminary leads to testing. However the FW08B by no means raced. Six-wheeled automobiles have been banned forward of the 1983 season.
Energetic suspension, which robotically adjusts settings in response to adjustments within the highway floor, is widespread in manufacturing automobiles as we speak. However you gained’t discover it in F1.
Lotus kicked issues off within the early 1980s with a computer-controlled hydraulic suspension system, however the identify most related to the know-how in F1 is Williams.
Whereas Lotus by no means had a lot success with lively suspension, Williams stormed to back-to-back world championships in 1992 and 1993 with its FW14B and FW15C, respectively. Williams’ suspension system made the automobiles come alive, in additional methods than one. Peek into the Williams storage forward of a race, and also you’d see the automobiles dancing round as technicians examined the suspension elements. Some drivers complained that it was onerous to foretell how a automotive would behave on monitor, requiring them to belief that the system knew what was greatest.
As is commonly the case with profitable improvements in F1, Williams drew the ire of different groups, and the flawed sort of consideration from rule makers. Critics claimed lively suspension made automobiles too simple to drive, and that the advanced know-how was out of attain for poorer groups. F1 in the end banned lively suspension, together with most digital driver aids, on the finish of the 1993 season.
Like lively suspension, traction management is a know-how that has turn into widespread in trendy highway automobiles, however is now not utilized in F1. Traction management makes use of electronics to observe for wheel slippage, and intervenes to cease the wheels from dropping grip utterly. It may be a lifesaver on a slippery highway, in addition to a helpful benefit on a racetrack.
Traction management was eradicated within the sweeping ban of digital aids on the finish of the 1993 season. Rule makers wished to make driving tougher, and reduce the benefit of essentially the most effectively funded groups. Paradoxically, traction management arguably had its greatest second in F1 whereas it was banned.
In 1994, the Benetton group was accused of utilizing traction management, prompting an investigation by F1’s governing physique, the FIA. Evaluation of the Benetton B194 race automotive’s computer systems confirmed suspicious software program, which the group claimed was inactive. With investigators unable to show that Benetton had really used the software program to allow traction management, the matter was dropped. Michael Schumacher went on to win the 1994 championship – the primary of seven for the German – however the traction-control caper continues to be a matter of debate to today.
The FIA in the end discovered the traction management ban too onerous to police, and the motive force help was reintroduced in 2001. It was banned once more in 2008, when the FIA instituted a standardized digital management unit to forestall groups from utilizing unlawful software program.
Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, you couldn’t have a successful F1 automotive with out floor impact. It’s a phenomenon first discover in plane design, wherein air flowing round a wing close to the bottom generates further carry. Starting with Lotus, F1 groups finally discovered that floor impact may additionally generate extra downforce with minimal drag.
Floor-effect F1 automobiles directed air into aspect pods with wing-shaped components. Sliding skirts sealed the underside of the automotive to the monitor floor, making a low-pressure space that successfully sucked the automotive onto the monitor (it was this impact that Gordon Murray tried to multiply with the Brabham BT46B “fan automotive”). The Lotus 78 was the primary automotive to make use of floor impact, however different groups shortly seized on the idea. By the early 1980s, floor impact, together with highly effective turbocharged engines, had taken F1 to new ranges of efficiency.
The nice instances wouldn’t final nevertheless. Starting in 1983, all F1 automobiles have been required to have flat flooring, successfully placing an finish to the ground-effect period. The ban was instituted over security issues, owing to the upper cornering speeds of the ground-effect automobiles, and the alleged chance of a catastrophic lack of downforce if the underbody seal was damaged.
F1 groups work onerous to maximise each side of the automotive – together with the gasoline that powers it. Oil firms have lengthy invested in F1, seeking to extract most efficiency from their merchandise in the identical vein as suppliers of engines, brakes, or tires. This all got here to a head within the 1980s, when lax guidelines led groups down a rabbit gap of unique fuels.
Even F1 groups worth gasoline effectivity. Extra gasoline means extra weight, and weight is the enemy of efficiency. Extracting extra power from a given quantity of gasoline means a automotive doesn’t have to hold as a lot of it. A cap on automotive gasoline capability and a ban on refueling added urgency to the search for stronger fuels. This led to some excessive measures. Honda and Shell created a gasoline that was nearly pure toluene – a recognized carcinogen. The 2 firms have been so happy with their poisonous concoction that they printed a technical paper on it, based on Autoblog.
Carcinogenic gasoline isn’t a great factor, and new guidelines have been finally instituted to curb these excesses. Starting in 1993, organizers mandated that F1 gasoline have to be just like common gasoline and put an finish to most shenanigans. Groups nonetheless attempt to tweak their formulations to achieve a efficiency benefit, nevertheless. Some have even tried burning engine oil with a view to extract extra efficiency.
McLaren “brake steer”
Towards the tip of the 1990s, McLaren determined that two brake pedals have been higher than one. The 1997 McLaren MP4/12 had a second brake pedal, which managed braking for the rear wheels solely. This “brake steer” system was designed to assist automobiles flip into corners extra simply.
Particularly, McLaren engineers have been seeking to dial down understeer. Because the identify implies, it’s the feeling that a automotive is constant to plow straight forward at the same time as the motive force steers right into a nook. Actuating the brakes on one of many rear wheels halfway by means of a nook was designed to counteract this. McLaren has claimed the brake steer system minimize half a second per lap in preliminary testing, and drivers appreciated it.
McLaren stored the system a secret in order to not tip off rivals. However a photographer finally observed that the brake discs on McLaren’s automobiles have been glowing mid nook – a spot the place drivers wouldn’t usually be braking. The key was out, and stress from different groups led to the system being banned early within the 1998 season. It wasn’t all dangerous, although: McLaren gained that yr’s championship utilizing a automotive with typical brakes. The corporate has additionally used a model of brake steer on a few of its highway automobiles.
Trendy F1 automobiles are all about aerodynamics. However with many of the low hanging fruit both banned or totally exploited, it’s all about incremental enhancements. That’s why present F1 automobiles are festooned with add-ons that appear like carbon fiber Chihuly sculptures, and why they briefly grew fins.
Shark fins have been launched as a part of a significant overhaul of F1 car-design guidelines for the 2017 season. The engine-cover fins have been designed to work with smaller rear wings, altering the aerodynamic equation considerably. Some groups tried to seek out efficiency features with the brand new setup. Others discovered the fins to be a helpful place to place automotive numbers.
Nonetheless, shark fins have been nixed after only one season. They only didn’t show in style with groups, a few of which felt they made the automobiles look ugly. In what ended up being the deciding vote on the matter, McLaren boss Zak Brown complained that shark fins didn’t depart sufficient house on the automotive for sponsor logos.
It’s onerous to think about a constantly variable transmission (CVT) being utilized in a race automotive. CVTs use belts as a substitute of gears, which improves gasoline financial system and gives smoother acceleration. However, in highway automobiles a minimum of, CVTs are often a efficiency buzz kill. But, within the 1990s, certainly one of F1’s greatest groups tried to make a CVT its secret weapon.
In 1993, Williams fitted a prototype CVT to its FW15C. The automotive, which might go on to win that yr’s championship, already featured a then-revolutionary semi-automatic gearbox, in addition to lively suspension. Williams hoped a CVT would take it to the following degree. The transmission did provide some potential benefits. Eliminating gear adjustments may shave fractions of a second from lap instances, and the shortage of mounted gear ratios could have made it simpler to maintain the engine in its energy band.
Williams by no means obtained the prospect to seek out out although. New guidelines for 1994 stipulated that transmissions should have a selected variety of mounted gear ratios. It was a part of a sweeping change meant to curb use of high-tech devices in F1. The shift had an outsize impact on Williams, which was the largest consumer of digital driver aids. Nonetheless, CVTs at the moment are generally utilized in highway automobiles from automakers like Nissan, Subaru, and Honda.
Lotus 88 “twin chassis”
Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s most well-known line was “simplify, and add lightness,” but Chapman appeared to do the other of that when he designed the Lotus 88. The automotive had not one, however two chassis – one inside the opposite.
The “twin chassis” design was an try to harness floor impact, an idea Lotus first launched into F1. By the point the 88 was launched in 1981, rule makers have been already beginning to push again towards floor impact. They banned the sliding skirts that dropped all the way down to seal the underside of a automotive to the monitor, and mandated a spot between the underside of the automotive and the monitor. The brand new guidelines made an underbody seal – the very important ingredient of a ground-effect automotive – unimaginable.
Chapman’s answer was to create a secondary, outer chassis, which the entire bodywork was mounted on. The outer chassis may transfer independently of the internal chassis, which served as the principle construction of the automotive. Aerodynamic forces would push the outer chassis down onto the monitor, creating that all-important seal.
The Lotus 88 by no means raced. It was shortly banned after protests from different groups. In 1983, new guidelines put an finish to ground-effect automobiles for good.
Trendy Components One doesn’t provide as many examples of unorthodox tech because the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Many followers argue that the racing has turn into boring and predictable; the identical may be mentioned of the tech. Many years of coping with anomalies like Brabham’s fan automotive or McLaren’s brake steer have created extremely pedantic guidelines, and a degree of technological homogeneity by no means earlier than seen. However groups are at all times in search of that unfair benefit, and regularly scan the principles for loopholes like high-octane legal professionals. With an entire overhaul of the principles set to take impact in 2021, possibly one thing new and thrilling will lastly arrive to spice issues up.