5 March 2020
5 March 2020
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing. Not just because it attracts the best drivers and the biggest teams, but because it also fosters the sharpest minds in design and engineering.
That makes F1 a hotbed of technological development. Every aspect of a modern F1 racer is honed to as-close-to-perfection as the regulations allow. Engineers and designers at each team work together to look for any possible advantage over their rivals, resulting in hi-tech automotive works of art.
To celebrate the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season, we’re looking back at some of the greatest technological innovations from recent teams.
Aerodynamics are not new to Formula 1. Ever since Colin Chapman added wings to the Lotus 49 in 1967 to help it corner faster, aerodynamics have been critical for generating lap speed. But in 2020 aerodynamics are a lot more complicated than just putting wings on the front and back of the car.
In the last decade, teams have found success because of their focus on aerodynamics. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours are dedicated to shaping every element of the car; from the front wing, to the suspension arms, rear-view mirrors, sidepods, floor and, of course, the rear wing itself.
Look closely at a modern F1 machine and you’ll see the level of detail the teams delve into in order to flow air across the car in the optimum way. And that’s the key – channeling the air as it gets distributed over the bodywork, so that it’s cleaner and more stable across the rear wing and diffuser in order to generate the most downforce.
EQ Power+ Hybrid technology
Aerodynamics dictate everything about an F1 car – even the way the engine is designed. Mercedes-AMG has been the most successful team since the introduction of the current regulations because the aerodynamics team and the engineers at AMG High Performance Powertrains work closely together.
Mercedes-AMG gained an advantage over rivals when new 2014 engine regulations introduced 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engines with hybrid assistance. The team developed a unique powertrain in response.
Instead of having the turbocharger’s turbine and compressor close together in one unit, as is conventional, Mercedes-AMG’s engine experts split the two. So the turbine was at one end of the engine block and the compressor was at the other, linked by a long shaft that ran through the vee of the engine.
The benefit of this EQ Power+ Hybrid design was a more compact engine, which made the vehicle more aerodynamically efficient without sacrificing engine performance.
It was so advantageous it helped Mercedes-AMG win all but three grand prix in 2014 – and the team has continued to dominate the hybrid era of F1 racing ever since.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)
Formula 1 doesn’t only push the boundaries of speed and performance; it also pushes the boundaries of efficiency. That may sound counter-intuitive but getting maximum energy from the smallest amount of fuel is a critical part of the sport today.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is a modern invention that allows racers to increase their performance without relying on fuel. In simple terms KERS is able to harvest kinetic energy, such as heat from the brakes, that would otherwise be lost and store it in a capacitor before deploying it for an extra burst of speed when needed.
Dual Axis Steering (DAS)
Mercedes-AMG may be unbeaten in recent years but that hasn’t stopped the team from pushing hard for the next innovation to keep itself ahead of the pack. For the 2020 season they’ve come up with a groundbreaking new system called Dual Axis Steering (DAS).
It’s designed to combat a seemingly impossible problem of motor racing – having the car work at its best both on the straights and in the corners. F1 cars ‘toe-in’, which means the top of the wheels is angled inwards to help generate more grip when cornering. However, that also means that the wheels heat unevenly on the long straights.
What DAS does is alter the suspension on the move so that the front wheels stand more upright down the straight, but still ‘toe-in’ when cornering for better response and handling.
During pre-season testing in Barcelona at the end of February, drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were spotted pulling back on the steering wheel as they hit the main straight and then pushing it forward when they reached the corners, suggesting Mercedes-AMG has developed a seemingly simple solution to a very complex problem.
Further proof that Formula 1 is the pinnacle of all technology on wheels.
To celebrate the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020, we're hosting some very special guests from the Mercedes-AMG team at Mercedes me Store Melbourne on Thursday March 12. For your chance to win tickets to the event, head over to the Mercedes me Store website.
By Stephen Ottley