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From hybrid drivetrains, adaptive suspension, and even the buttons on your steering wheel, Formula One technology has revolutionised how we drive.
The World Drivers' Championship officially kicked off with the British Grand Prix in 1950.
Factory racing teams and grands prix-titled events had, however, existed since the late 19th century and that era marked the start of a series of genius mechanical and technological advances that continue to this day.
Some were so far ahead of their time they were banned almost overnight and never evolved as a production technology.
The 1978 Brabham “fan car” is a case in point. It was a radical interpretation to generate “ground effects” where the car is sucked to the road at high speeds to improve downforce and therefore tyre grip.
The FIA regulations stated that moveable devices providing an aerodynamic advantage were not permitted.
Designer Gordon Murray got around the problem by mounting a fan on the rear of the engine. Ostensibly it was used to cool the engine, but it had a “fortuitous side effect” of generating downforce because the area around the cockpit and engine were effectively sealed areas, making the fan the only avenue for the air to flow.
Niki Lauda won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix using the device, but the other teams complained so much that Brabham abandoned the innovation despite it being deemed legal.
It was a similar story with Mercedes-AMG’s brilliant dual-axis steering system seen in the 2020 season.
It allowed the driver to push and pull on the steering wheel to change the alignment, or toe, of the front wheels. If the steering wheel was pushed forward, the front wheels adopted a toe-out attitude which improved cornering stability.
As the driver accelerated, G-forces naturally saw him pull the wheel back, which returned the front tyres to a more aerodynamic neutral profile. The FIA modified the regulations in 2021 to state the wheels could only be turned left and right, not adjusted for toe.
Many other innovations did make the track-to-road transfer.