Wednesday 13th May 2020 marked the 70th anniversary of the first ever Formula 1 race. Since the start of the British Grand Prix back in 1950, the Formula 1 World Championship has visited 37 countries, waved the checkered flag 1,018 times, crowned 32 champions and, in the process, transformed itself into a multi-billion-pound business.
Whilst there are constant question marks over the sport’s environmental footprint and it’s escalating costs, Formula 1’s contribution to technology, day to day road safety and its influence on the global sports industry is not something that should be underestimated.
Technology for the road
Major motor manufacturers have had a presence in the sport from its very beginning. The likes of Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Honda are part of the sport’s DNA and have all expected a tangible return on their investment. The ‘trickle-down’ effect is something which the sport has always sought to promote, however, in reality it’s a little more complex than just the teams’ adoption and creation of technology which eventually translates to our road cars. Win on Sunday sell on Monday.
Instead, F1 often takes existing technology, and then pushes it to its very limit. The ‘perfected’ technology then feeds back into the real world.
Take the introduction of carbon fibre; in 1981 McLaren introduced the MP4/1. This was the first Formula 1 car to make extensive use of carbon fibre, which is not only lighter, but is also stronger than aluminium (the common material used in F1 up to this point). In the name of performance and safety, carbon fibre is used by all F1 teams now. Fast forward almost 40 years and the trickle-down effect is in action: carbon fibre is commonplace in sportscar manufacturing and is now even seen in everyday hatchbacks too.