Is McLaren MP4-X the future of F1?

McLaren has revealed its vision for the future of Formula 1 cars, what they might look and the technology they could use.

Dubbed MP4-X, it is mostly the work of McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT), a division of the Woking-based group that develops advanced tech for a wide range of industries; much of that tech features in the MP4-X. Indeed, McLaren points out that all the technology that features in the MP4-X is real, though some of it is still in the very early stages of development.

Visually, the McLaren MP4-X is a radical departure from current F1 cars, featuring a cockpit canopy – which may well feature in the 2017 regulations – and aerodynamic ‘pontoons’ over the wheels. The bodywork consists of various active aero devices that can reduce downforce on straights, increasing top speed and making overtaking easier, then increase downforce for corners. Such devices are currently banned, but it could be a solution to the ongoing problem of turbulent air in the wake of current F1 cars making overtaking near-impossible on certain tracks. A ground effect chassis further increases speed and cornering ability.

The bodywork is also covered in solar cells that augment the next-generation hybrid powertrain. McLaren says the car could also use inductive charging built into the track alongside the on-board energy recovery systems. Electrical energy would then be stored in ‘thin batteries’ built into the car’s structure. According to MAT, such a system could be distributed around the chassis, rather than being a single bulky unit as is currently the case. That, in turn, would open up new packaging possibilities that would help aero.

On-board diagnostics monitor the condition of the chassis, while the monocoque can recover its shape and strength after an impact. Wheel-mounted sensors monitor tyre wear and an on-board tyre pressure regulator varies the pressure to optimise traction.

The driver becomes even more integral to the machine than is already the case. McLaren envisions a future where no physical controls are needed, the car instead reading the driver’s brain patterns to control the systems. Instead of the current digital dashboards, the driver receives information via a holographic display. An additional head-up display shows race data and on-track hazards, while an augmented vision headset provides a 360-degree view around the car. Even the driver’s race suit monitors his physical condition, harvests and stores energy and displays injured areas.

And because this is F1, where they never miss an opportunity to make money, rather than carry stickers, the MP4-X wears a digital display that can tailor which sponsors are displayed and where to each individual viewer. Weirdly enough, though, of all the technologies used here, that one seems the least likely. Not until everyone is wearing Google Glasses at any rate.

John Allert, McLaren Technology Group brand director, said: “With the futuristic McLaren MP4-X concept racecar, we wanted to peer into the future and imagine the art of the possible.

“We have combined a number of F1’s key ingredients – speed, excitement and performance, with the sport’s emerging narratives – such as enclosed cockpits to enhance driver safety, and hybrid power technologies.

“Formula 1 is the ultimate gladiatorial sport, and the future we envisage will be a high tech, high performance showcase that excites fans like no other sport.”

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By Only Motors

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