F1: Window to auto technology

Written by Debabrata Das | Updated: Oct 27 2013, 07:10am hrs
F1, Formula OneFor automakers, it's also a showcase event to display the technology that will be incorporated in road cars tomorrow.
Formula One is more than just a sport. For automakers, it's also a showcase event to display the technology that will be incorporated in road cars tomorrow.

High-end sports cars are the first beneficiaries of F1's technology. The use of carbon-fibre and drag reduction system (DRS)-modelled rear spoilers are becoming integral to high-end sports cars like Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo and McLaren P1.

But along the years, the premier motorsport competition of the world has also improved road cars for a more common customer. Volkswagen and Audi drivers will be familiar with the Direct Shift Gearbox or the DSG automatic transmission. The gearbox's ideology of up-shifting only sequentially comes from F1's semi-automatic gearboxes, which reduce the chances of driver error.

One of the foremost technologies that road cars inherited from F1 was the anti-lock braking system (ABS). Now standard in almost every segment of the car market, ABS technology improves safety, but has seen its way out of F1 to make the sport more human.

Similarly, traction control, which led to better safety at high-speed corners is now standard in executive sedans. But the technology made driving too easy for F1 drivers and is now banned in the sport.

Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, which was introduced in F1 in 2010 in a bid to become more energy-efficient, is now used in hybrid cars. The technology harvests lost energy from braking to charge a battery, which powers an electric motor to provide an additional power boost to a car. The technology can also be used by road cars to supplement the diesel/petrol motor and reduce fuel consumption. Volvo used a KERS version very similar to the F1 cars in its S60 model to cut down on fuel consumption by 25%. BMW is using its own version of brake energy regeneration systems to power its hybrid cars.

As a reverse, F1 has looked to the trends in the automotive market to tweak its rules. To become greener, F1 cars from 2014 will run on 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid V6 engines. Currently, they use 2.4-litre V8 engines, which consume more fuel.

Turbo-charging small-sized engines to derive maximum power has become a trend in the commercial automotive market. From the Ford's EcoSport to Volkswagen's Polo GT, cars are increasingly using turbo-chargers to power smaller-sized fuel-efficient engines.

With the technology now being adopted in F1, expect quicker and better engines in your road car soon. Honda, one of the more popular brands in India, is already banking on its experience in making similar-sized engines for its road cars and will re-enter F1 in 2015. Does this mean your Honda City will run as fast as Jenson Button's 2015 McLaren Maybe not, but at least you can say that your cars engine has picked up a tip from its cousin in F1.