From real-time telemetry data to hybrid engines and improved tyres, Formula 1 is changing the world we live in. It’s a given that innovations from the track eventually filter down to road cars, but F1’s influence goes way beyond the highways, as Jonathan Neale, CEO of McLaren Racing explained to a news broadcasting team in 2017. From children’s hospitals to drilling tech in the depths of the earth, the influence of F1 is everywhere.
The fact that these advances aren’t all obvious is in part because many of them are incremental and behind-the-scenes, so the technology powering your everyday life is constantly and invisibly improving. One area where this is happening is, unsurprisingly, tyres: “Tyre technology is constantly changing through pushing in sports,” explains Neale. “The metals and materials we use, and some of the processes there, are aiding the proliferation of more affordable composite technology, e.g. carbon fibre. It’s starting to make its way into, I wouldn’t say everyday cars, but certainly into sports cars and premium-end models.”
Carbon fibre has a range of advantages for our everyday vehicles as it’s strong, yet extremely lightweight, which in turn improves performance, stiffness, fuel efficiency and longevity.It’s not just the metals and materials which are changing motor racing and our cars on the road. There’s also a surprisingly large amount of R&D poured into oils and fuels. McLaren works closely with Esso as the companies look to get the most from the liquids used in cars. “The development of synthetic oils and fuels is hugely performance enhancing, so what scarce fossil resources we have, we have to get the most from it,” says Neale. “There’s less waste and the fuel emissions from it are much cleaner because we don’t want partial combustion. In our search for performance we’re looking for really clean, full combustion and maximum energy from it. There’s an efficiency gain in that which is directly relevant to the engine manufacturers, and to Esso for anyone who’s putting Esso fuels in their tanks.”
Formula 1 racing cars are equipped with over 200 telemetry sensors collecting thousands of data points, generating astronomical amounts of data every racing weekend and at the factory. Data collected during the race allows teams back in the factory and at the racetrack to make split-second decisions to assess the car’s performance and adjust the driver’s strategy accordingly.
This capacity to visualize and access real-time information has also benefited many other industries that have nothing to do with racing. McLaren Applied Technologies, the company behind the Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System (ATLAS) used for processing real-time F1 telemetry data, is also helping hospitals to improve their response time in dealing with critically sick patients. Collecting telemetry data on patients helps to provide immediate medical help in the most efficient way.