Can F1 flip again from its heavyweight path?

Can F1 flip again from its heavyweight path?

I as soon as learn that aeroplanes are like individuals, they get fatter and larger with time. And you would say the identical about racing vehicles.

This 12 months’s Components 1 vehicles are the heaviest ever at 798kg, which is an enormous enhance on once I raced in F1 12 years in the past. Again then, the Virgin VR-01 was 620kg together with the motive force and even lighter earlier than that. Now, a number of groups are nonetheless working to get all the way down to that minimal weight restrict. This development has every thing to do with how the technical rules have been written by the motorsport governing physique.

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It’s not a pure path to go larger and heavier as F1 has performed. If it was left free for F1 groups to decide on, I’m certain they’d go for a lighter automotive with probably the most energy dense engines out there, opposite to what they’ve now. The lighter the automotive, the higher, for a lot of causes.

To elucidate this, first keep in mind that weight and mass aren’t the identical. Whereas mass is the sum of atoms that make up an entity, or its inertia, which stays the identical it doesn’t matter what power is performing upon it, weight is the product of gravitational power performing upon a mass. Why does this matter?

Common widespread sense tends to assume {that a} automobile mass will act most on the automotive in linear acceleration, the heavier the automotive the slower it accelerates. However truly, at excessive g, corners are the place the mass is de facto felt: a 4G high-speed nook can have the inertia 4 occasions stronger than its regular vertical power.

In a nutshell, the extra g-force a race automotive can generate in a nook, the extra the mass has a damaging impact. After all, that is oversimplified as centre of gravity, weight distribution and different components should even be considered.

One other vastly damaging impact of a heavier automotive is in a crash. The overall automotive power to be dissipated is a operate of the mass and the sq. of the pace. The heavier the automotive, the more severe the crash.

Can F1 flip again from its heavyweight path?

Right now’s F1 vehicles are simply the heaviest-ever

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Pictures

The impact weight has is most clearly demonstrated by the distinction in lap time between qualifying and the opening laps of a race on full gasoline, when the identical automotive is a number of seconds per lap slower. As quickly as you don’t have as a lot weight, the automotive corners higher, accelerates higher and brakes higher. It comes alive. The distinction for the motive force may be very clear.

When you’ve got understeer, this solely will increase with extra weight. It’s the identical with oversteer. Whenever you add weight, it’s all the time a damaging factor. That’s why you need the automotive to be as mild as doable and why groups design their vehicles with the intention of being beneath the minimal weight restrict to allow them to place the ballast in probably the most strategic means.

This precept doesn’t solely apply to F1, weight is essential throughout all classes. I keep in mind Alex Wurz and myself put a variety of stress on the Car Membership de l’Ouest to include the motive force weight into an LMP1 automotive’s minimal weight, in order that from 2015 any line-up with a mean weight beneath 80kg needed to carry ballast.

The LMP1 base weight again then was 870kg with out driver and gasoline, and by having a driver that was 20kg lighter you would go a second sooner per lap at Le Mans – typically far more than the steadiness of efficiency between the vehicles or the motive force expertise itself. Getting very mild drivers was an enormous benefit for any sportscar race.

You would need to change the whole philosophy of F1 to have efficiency by lightness, as a result of an enormous consider F1’s weight enhance is the advanced hybrid engines

Design legend Adrian Newey has mentioned that we ought to be trying to get vehicles as mild as doable and never the opposite means round, and I agree with him. I believe F1 ought to be the head for the highest-performance autos on the planet. They need to be excessive and the technical guidelines ought to facilitate some benefit for pursuing optimum lightness.

Up to now, with out simulation instruments and complex manufacturing strategies and even security guidelines, F1 designers who targeted on this usually had issues with the reliability of components, which resulted in accidents. However know-how has improved to some extent that we will completely reconcile having light-weight vehicles with out compromising security.

In Colin Chapman’s day, they needed to construct the half, go to the observe to see if it broke, then modify it and go once more. Now we have now the delicate modelling instruments and exams so you may guarantee it has equal energy properties and the protection that’s required. That’s additionally why vehicles are extra dependable and also you not often see suspension failures, even whether it is produced from light-weight supplies, as a result of know-how has advanced a lot.

We shouldn’t simply settle for that vehicles need to change into heavier as know-how evolves. We’ve a vital instance of this within the new Gen3 Components E automotive, the place the FIA did a implausible job to make it smaller (70mm width, 160mm size) and 80kg lighter than Gen1. It will have been simple to make the automotive heavier with extra energy, as is the overall development with electrical vehicles, so I used to be positively shocked and happy with the choice to reverse that with Gen3 and push sustainability in actual, measurable phrases.

The Gen3 Formula E car is smaller, and lighter than its predecessors - which shows the trend of increasing weight can be reversed

The Gen3 Components E automotive is smaller, and lighter than its predecessors – which exhibits the development of accelerating weight could be reversed

Picture by: NIO Components E Crew

This exhibits it’s doable to alter course, however you must create the correct surroundings and guidelines for it to work. The query with F1 is, what would a light-weight formulation appear like and wouldn’t it be possible?

You would need to change the whole philosophy of F1 to have efficiency by lightness, as a result of an enormous consider F1’s weight enhance is the advanced hybrid engines. And clearly, it wouldn’t be low-cost to make these excessive supplies, so F1 must determine the place probably the most worth lies inside its price cap. However happening a light-weight path would absolutely have a larger profit to the broader world than the F1 hybrids in use in the present day.

There’s not a single element in the present day in an F1 automotive that you will note in a road-going Toyota Corolla or comparable, and it’s not a shock that the MGU-H was dropped for the brand new 2026 rules. It was a flaw for the reason that inception of the foundations to have such a posh powertrain to chase effectivity, as it might have by no means reached regular street vehicles with hybrid applied sciences.

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For instance, the rationale planes aren’t electrical and even hybrid in the present day is as a result of the additional weight of the batteries is unnecessary to hold on a protracted flight for the power profit. And I imagine, if an F1 automotive can go as quick or sooner with out the weighty hybrid than it might by utilizing the hybrid to reap and to deploy energy, then the thought of getting the hybrid doesn’t make sense.

It wouldn’t be in style with key stakeholders who’ve invested closely within the hybrid engines, however for me motorsport ought to have a really clearly distinguished definition of what goal is served by the highest racing collection so that they don’t overlap. F1 ought to deal with most efficiency with out compromise, Components E ought to deal with effectivity, and different collection just like the World Endurance Championship on road-relevant applied sciences.

That will be in my opinion way more dramatic and way more in direction of the correct mentality of what F1 ought to be about. Additionally, for actual good points in sustainability, having a lighter automotive and gear would imply a lot much less emissions from logistics, for instance.

If there’s no clearly marketed sustainability angle to F1, then it will likely be much less engaging for sponsors and automotive producers to be related to it. Clearly, abandoning sustainability to construct probably the most unique vehicles ever isn’t reasonable. However there’s a case to argue {that a} renewed deal with lighter vehicles would fulfill sustainability standards and nonetheless be a testbed to be used in street vehicles – if F1 was keen for it to occur.

Reducing weight would have additional benefits in logistics

Decreasing weight would have further advantages in logistics

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Pictures

Operating lighter vehicles means fewer components being produced and fewer power used for making these components. A lighter automotive would want much less gasoline and it’s additionally a lot simpler to ship it world wide. Even when the precise automotive doesn’t account for a lot, it might ship the correct message.

As Europe will ban the sale of combustion vehicles by 2035, there’s a clear stress to deal with extra environment friendly hybrid powertrains if F1 wants to remain related to the automotive market. But it surely doesn’t essentially have to, as a result of it’s already not related in any respect for business vehicles.

Possibly F1 ought to deal with the trail of utmost applied sciences growth that may be related to aerospace, light-weight building or just pure excessive autos that can use one of the best know-how for this goal. Will probably be very attention-grabbing what the longer term will carry.

Would pursuing lightweight technology have greater relevance to the road than today's complex hybrid engines?

Would pursuing light-weight know-how have larger relevance to the street than in the present day’s advanced hybrid engines?

Picture by: Giorgio Piola