For each rendition of the Formula One World Championships, teams create a new car from the ground up. While the end results may be similar to the cars from the year prior, the little tweaks and adjustments to rule changes all make a tremendous difference. In trying to find a competitive edge within standing guidelines, and there being so much money on the line, F1 teams have evolved tech very quickly.

In the current space of technology, much of the heavily publicised and emphasised technological breakthroughs pertain to green tech. Aspects like carbon capture, hydrogen fuelling, and renewable energies are all the focus, which has shone a somewhat dim light on the seemingly wasteful sport of racing high-powered vehicles around the world. Still, the tech implemented by F1 tends to have an impact on everyday life somewhere down the line.

Solving the Ground Effect

In the 1960s, Jim Hall attempted to generate downforce, or “ground effect,” by shaping the underside of his vehicles and then by using a very high wing. In 1970, the American’s Chaparral 2J would prove revolutionary, with skirts leaving only a tiny space between the ground and the car, but it never managed to win a race. Over in Britain, at the same time, Team Lotus was toying with similar ideas and finally cracked the puzzle in the late 70s.  

The Lotus 79 proved to be a tremendous success because the underside was curved, which created a low-pressure pocket to suck the car down to the ground. While the competition now mandates a flat base due to accidents that ensued at the colossal speeds allowed by the engineering, Lotus’ success kick-started the hunt for aerodynamic supremacy in racing.

Battling for the Most Efficient Engines

As stated above, Formula One is often noted as one of the least green sports in the world. However, the battle to develop the most efficient engines might just propel the global effort. Thermal efficiency is of tremendous importance to engine performance, describing the percentage of energy that contributes to moving a vehicle as opposed to being lost as heat. Only gaining speed since, the F1 engines currently stand at a massive 50 per cent efficiency – improving by some ten per cent in a mere six years.

Now, while these revelations contribute to a team’s competitiveness, they’re also being used in the public space too. Red Bull are well-known for their power, with Max Verstappen still a favourite in the F1 betting to win the Drivers’ Championship outright at 1/1. So, it’s not surprising that Aston Martin turned to chief technical officer Adrian Newey to implement an energy recovery system in their immaculate Valkyrie.

The Material That Everyone Craves
It’s rare that you see car shoppers not become intrigued when someone mentions that a car is built, at least in part, from carbon fibre. In the early 80s, F1 helped to popularise this as well. Having reached the limits of aluminium and continuing to strive for further gains, McLaren turned to carbon fibre to craft a safety cell around their drivers. Eventually, this would evolve to teams crafting their entire chassis out of carbon fibre.

Formula One has been a tremendous driver of innovations in the vehicle sector, much of which eventually surpasses the pits of each Grand Prix and into general circulation.