You may remember having glimpsed a vision for the future of Formula 1 earlier this year in the form of the Ferrari Design F1 Concept. By no means the first visionary F1 project of its type in recent years – think Adrian Newey’s fan-powered Red Bull X1 concept form 2010 – Maranello’s digital creation represented a two-fingered salute as much to the boundaries of reality as it did to current restrictive development regulations in F1.
Now, another cab has joined the rank of space-age concept Formula 1 racers and it could well be the most unhinged one yet.
McLaren may have endured a rough ride on the track this season but that small detail hasn’t been allowed to inhibit the British stable’s ability to flex its imaginative muscle. The new MP4-X F1 concept released by the Woking-based team this week is arguably even more farsighted than its aforementioned Ferrari counterpart and foreshadows an entirely new era of Formula 1 racing.
The brainchild of McLaren’s Applied Technologies arm, the MP4-X draws the lion’s share of its power from sidepod-mounted solar panels which combine with more traditional forms of energy recovery such as that harnessed from regenerative braking, to charge a plant of thin batteries integrated into the bodywork. If this weren’t revolutionary enough should it ever come to fruition, McLaren is also envisaging that future F1 circuits would be equipped with built in inductive charging ‘trams lines’ not too dissimilar to your old Scalextric set.
‘Active aerodynamics’, whereby the chassis itself moulds and shifts position according to the exact G loads being placed on the car at any given moment would accordingly enable the MP4-X to operate under optimum downforce levels throughout an entire GP.
Another glaring detail is the addition of an enclosed photochromic cockpit which changes colour to maximise driver vision. The inclusion of a sealed cabin is perhaps one of the more realistic ideas floated by McLaren here, especially in the wake of recent tragic deaths caused by flying debris in open-cockpit racing. However, any such installation would still have to allow the driver an instant and simple escape route from the car in the event of an emergency.
Alternatively, McLaren designers claim that an array of exterior-mounted cameras, whose feeds are pipped into the driver’s helmet, could conceivably be used to provide him with an uninhibited 360° view of the outside world from within the confines of the enclosed cockpit.
After a brief sojourn somewhere near the realms of reality, the MP4-X once again goes space-age with its proposal to make the steering wheel redundant by allowing the driver to control the car by hand gestures, and even thoughts, alone. In fact, even this notion is not quite as outlandish an idea as it might first seem. Motion detection technology has already made it in to many of our living rooms in the latest generation of video games and already exists in some consumer cars. Even the ability to harness and direct the brain’s electrical signals is not necessarily restricted to the realms of science fiction, although applying this to a bona-fide racing car is clearly a long way off.
Whilst not quite as innovative as some of the other features and tech, the MP4-X’s fully enclosed wheels would be monitored by “wear sensors” built into to bodywork that automatically detect when tires are approaching their sell-by date.
Whilst the visionary MP4-X’s visionary conception cannot be called into question, the twin pillars of stiff F1 regulations and technological limitations mean that this concept will of course remain just a figment of design imagination. However, with a rumoured loosening of development rules already mooted for 2017, plus McLaren’s affirmation that “all the technology applied to the MP4-X is real, albeit in the earliest stages of conception”, our dreams of a fantasy F1 future won’t necessarily be consigned to the pages of a designer’s notepad for good.