Shape of things to come

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Racing in the real world is changing fast. New concept images give a glimpse at Formula 1’s future, and we predict what could happen in other disciplines

The revolution won’t be televised. It will be leaked on social media first. On the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix, images began circulating on Twitter that gave F1 fans the clearest view yet of the radical future being planned. The images had been snapped from a private pre-race event hosted by Ross Brawn, the director of motor sports, and appeared genuine. But with no official word from F1 or Liberty Media, the owner of the commercial rights to the sport, it wasn’t clear how seriously to take the pictures.

The answer came hours later when F1 released official images which it said showed that it was “working on a design for a future car that will increase the chances of great fights, all the way down the field, every year.”

The aim of the project was to start working on new designs ahead of the regulation overhaul in 2021. On the evidence of what we can see, that overhaul is set to be far more radical than the technical changes in 2017. He also spelled out some of the guiding principles of the changes. “When we started looking at the 2021 car, the primary objective was to enable the cars to race well together. What we established early on in our research is the cars we have now are very bad in following each other. Once the cars get within a few lengths of each other, they lose 50 per cent of their downforce. That’s a substantial amount of performance. So we set about understanding why that was and how we can improve it. I’m pleased to say we’re at about 80 per cent.

“Another of the primary objectives was to make great looking cars. We want cars that look better than what you see in a video game, cars that kids want to have up on their walls.”

These are clearly laudable aims. But how successful have Brawn and his team been?

We asked two of Britain’s leading racing car designers to cast their eyes over the designs and give their verdict.

JOHN BARNARD AT first appeared nonplussed: “They talk about making it easier to overtake, but my first thought is, ‘Where is the ground effect?’ Why can’t we have a bit of that back? Why can’t we get rid of these ridiculous front wings?

“Whichever of the three concepts they adopt, by the time the aero teams get stuck in the front wings will be sprouting flaps and all kinds of things. How many times at starts do we see bits of someone’s front wing spread all over the track? It screws up their race straight away. If they want to improve overtaking, they need to reduce all the silly stuff around the front wings, allow a little underbody ground-effect – maybe limit the width of the tunnel so you don’t get too much downforce. That’s an easy fix. I recall the days when we ran without any front wing and balanced the cars using only ground effect and the rear wing. That must be better for overtaking.”

He was more complementary about the look of the cars: “The drawings look great and the cars look very racy. Bigger wheels and lower-profile tyres, great – put those on tomorrow as far as I’m concerned. The things they’re running at the moment look ridiculous, like oversized rubber doughnuts.”

He noted the better integration of the halo and the aero development around the wheels: “If I were in charge I’d probably cover the wheels completely, although I suppose we are looking at open-wheel racing cars so that probably wouldn’t be allowed. I would like to see more aero development around the wheels, though, front and rear. We used to run front-wing extensions that ran inside the front wheel to direct airflow – they made a huge difference to performance, but is that going to improve overtaking? I don’t think so. They talk about losing performance when the cars get close, but a big part of that is surely governed by these horribly complex front wings.”

STEVE NICHOLS, WHO succeeded Barnard as head of design at McLaren, echoes the theory that F1 should consider closed wheels: “I’d fair in the wheels completely. All of these complex front wings and bargeboards are there to direct air around those terribly disruptive wheels – and a lot of that helps the car in front but disturbs the air for the one behind. If you had a car that was more slippery, with less drag, it would reduce the wake and enable drivers to get closer. People might say, ‘Oh, but F1 cars have always had open wheels’, but I don’t think that’s as important as having modern, aero-efficient cars. And besides, GP cars haven’t always been the way they are now – remember the Mercedes W196 streamliner in the mid-1950s?

He’s unconvinced by the proposed designs. “I think they’ve missed the boat. A few years ago they did what Ross [Brawn] called a minor study and now they’ve done something more intensive. The minor study reached several conclusions, one was that a narrower, taller rear wing would be less disruptive to the car behind – so for a few years that’s what they had, but now they’ve gone in the opposite direction and that doesn’t make any sense.”

He is also disappointed that the new designs don’t address the problem of excess wings: “I’d want smaller wings and a little bit of a shaped underbody. People seem to panic at the idea of ground-effect cars, but they are effectively generating ground effect anyway, whether the bottom of the car is flat or shaped. I’d like to see more downforce generated from the body of the car rather than the wings, because that wouldn’t be as badly affected by the disturbed air. With smaller wings and more underbody downforce, cars would be able to run together more closely.”

And – like all good engineers – he is suspicious of any attempt to hem in the design with layers of regulation. “I’d like to give engineers more freedom to do their jobs properly – and if they did that I’m sure they’d come up with cars that were more raceable.”

It is a problem of which Brawn is aware. Despite the furore around the images, he stressed they were illustrative only: “It’s critical this development achieves its objectives, but why shouldn’t we have great-looking cars as we’re evolving? F1 is the pinnacle and the car should look sensational.”