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“A hypothetical question”

July 2, 2013

A hypothetical question:

“Imagine for a moment an engineering discovery and philosophy is made; one that is applicable to motorsport and most importantly (due to its massive audience size), Formula One.

“As more and more becomes known about this new discovery and philosophy, it is understood that it will do much to improve car performance, increase competition and safety, as well as driving the ecological elements of the sport forward.

“Now imagine if you will that this new discovery and philosophy also mean that front and rear wings, as well as sidepods would be consigned to history, as they are suddenly rendered irrelevant.

“Could Formula One adapt to such a sweeping change in basic appearance or is the look of Formula One (with its wings, sidepods, etc) so cemented in modern media, business and in the minds of fans (etc) that an alteration of the visual brand has become an impossibility?”

Discuss at will, if you will.

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10 Comments
  1. The problem is the rules so rigidly define the shape of the car that it would be hard for wings and sidepods to disappear. I think for the foreseeable future we are going to get invisble major developments that exist under the skin but unlike turbos, ground effect or fan cars are not visible to the fans even if they know what to look for.

    I have argued for the past few years that it is time for the FIA to define a totally new F1 that changes the shape of the cars. One way to thoroughly screw up efficient aerodynamics would be to move the engine to the front for example

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      Front engined F1. You’ll have people on the streets celebrating the return of the 1950s. ;)

      To be honest, I was thinking more from a visual branding perspective rather than anything to do with engineering, but do agree with your points about restrictive rules.

  2. I suppose it depends what the wings and sidepod were replaced by – I doubt many would be too upset by a return to cigars on wheels with the performance and safety of a modern car. Visually, outside having a wheel on each corner (and Tyrrell even messed with that idea) the F1 car has evolved anyway.

    However, they’ve always been noisy. There has been enough grumbling about the noise the new turbos will make – imagine if they were switching to electric? I can easily visualise F1 in the future featuring some exotic body plan but still burning up the last remnants of the World’s oil supply.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      With the introduction of Formula E, I can’t – for now – see F1 going electric. The FIA can easily claim that it is an engineering box ticked.

  3. One only has to look at the reaction to the Nissan Deltawing to see how people would react to a change in the appearance of F1 cars.
    Unless the alterations are gradual, reaction will be poor in my opinion. However, if a whole new series came into force, it could certainly be a game-changer.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      Agree completely. I still hear people talk about how the DeltaWing wasn’t a racing car, but an abomination, mostly because it didn’t look like everything else. And I suppose, therein lies the crux of my question.

      • True, but motorsport fans, like all sports fans, like to moan about the sport they love. It doesn’t mean they stop watching. To hear it, you’d think motorsport has gone continuously downhill since the 1894 Paris-Rouen!

        • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

          Not at all, but the question isn’t really about motorsport as such or its ability to engineer, but rather the perception from the media through to its fans and everyone else in between.

  4. Leigh O'Gorman permalink

    Cheers for the replies folks – very much appreciated as always.

  5. Very interesting question, Leigh. I feel like I might be the wrong person to comment, since I adapt very, very quickly to new ideas in motorsport (for a few instances, I was used to the new-era F1 cars about halfway through the 2009 Australian GP, whereas I still occasionally see people complaining about the looks of the current cars; I have no issue whatsoever with the DW12 IndyCar, whereas I see people bitching and bitching endlessly about the looks of that car in certain venues; and the Delta Wing…well, I’ll touch more on that in a minute), but I’d be 100% in favor of a 75-80% slashing of aerodynamic aids in F1. Other people, though…? I’m not sure a lot of folks would be able to get over the cars suddenly going much slower in the turns over the course of a single off-season (though the spectacle of the requisite increase in straightaway speeds and increased ability of the cars to pass without having to fall back on the DRS crutch would, you would hope, more than offset the dismay over the cornering speeds). There would have to be a massive public re-education process so that people would still understand that what they’re watching was Formula 1.

    On the note of the Delta Wing being a possible analog, I think a lot of people within racing get too up their own rear ends with what they perceive as a “racing car”. While reaction within the racing community was, to put it most politely, “mixed”, the reaction of the very, very casual racing fan and the folks outside of the normal racing sphere was much, much more positive. I was following the public reaction among automotive media and the tech media quite closely, and the reaction was more “look at this new, innovative thing that looks kind of weird/funny, but could revolutionize the auto racing world if it were universally adopted”. For instance:

    Chris Harris on Drive:

    Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New 2012″:
    http://www.popsci.com/bown/2012/product/delta-wing

    Wired Magazine’s Delta Wing feature:
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/03/nissan-deltawing/

    And that’s just three of the multiple such things I read or watched over the course of 2012. There is a HUGE opportunity that is being missed by the racing industry by not doing a better job of embracing what the auto and tech industries can offer. My hope is that F1 (who is going down this road a bit with the 2014 regs) and that racing as a whole can widen their scope a bit and adopt more of these things in the coming years. We’ll all be better off in the long run, any way you look at it.

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