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Six Formula 1 innovations you’ll find in road cars

21/06/2018 by Lania Mason in Technology

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo really blitzed the field on his way to winning this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, making Aussie sports fans hearts beat faster as he drove that crippled Red Bull car across the line. It was an amazing piece of driving in a car with a failing power unit, making everyone wonder how he’d go in a faster, more reliable car like the Mercedes. He’d probably be unbeatable.

But even if you’d rather sit at home and watch paint dry than a Formula 1 race you can be thankful to this ultimate hi-tech sport for making your daily drive a lot safer, more reliable and just better all-round. That’s because a lot of technology developed for Formula 1 cars has found its way into the cars we all drive every day. Let’s take a look at six of them:

DSG Gearboxes

Direct Shift Gearboxes are now common on Audi and Volkswagens and allow gear changes without a clutch. They’re really like having two transmissions in one – one for the odd-numbered gears and one for the even gears. The gear the driver needs is always available, which means faster transmissions without messing around with the clutch. The technology was developed for Formula 1 in the 1980s and found its way into VWs in the early 2000s.

Paddle Shifters

Paddle shifters on the steering wheel go literally hand-in-hand with those DSG gearboxes in Formula 1 cars. They were initially developed by Ferrari in the late 80s, enabling their Formula 1 drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. That’s pretty important when you’re screaming down a track at over 300 km/h.

These days paddle shifters have found their way onto many road cars, giving everyday drivers a touch of that Formula 1 feeling while giving them more control and keeping them safer on the road.

Push button start

Push button ignitions are now quite common, with many cars coming with an electronic fob device that “talks” to the car and unlocks it ready for the driver. It’s all intended to make getting into your car and starting it quicker and easier. Rapid starts are vital in Formula 1, of course, which is why it was developed in the first place.

Lubricants

Lubricants in Formula 1 cars have to protect engines in extremes of temperatures and at very high revs, so it’s not surprising that lubricants designed for them are also protecting the motors in our everyday drives. After all, if they can work in Formula 1 cars, they’ll do an excellent job in our own. Fuel additives for keeping fuel injectors clean and working were also developed for Formula 1.

Aerodynamics

Those big wings on the front and back of Formula 1 cars act just like the wing of an aircraft, but upside down. On a plane they provide lift, enabling take-off and flight, given enough speed. On a Formula 1 car they push it down onto the track, providing so much down-force you could theoretically drive an F1 car upside down in a tunnel.

Today cars as mundane as sedans and SUVs are all sporting spoilers and wings, reducing drag, improving their performance and their fuel economy.

Adaptive suspension

If your car has different driving modes, such as sport and comfort you can thank Formula 1 for that innovation. First developed by Colin Chapman’s Lotus team in the 1980s, it maintained a Formula 1 car’s ride height at a constant level, maximising its downforce, grip and aerodynamic efficiency. It didn’t take long for other manufacturers to follow suit, but the technology was banned in Formula 1 in 1993 because of safety concerns and technical breaches of the rules.

Nevertheless adaptive suspension found its way into road cars and remains a feature in vehicles such as the Audi A3, BMW 3 Series and Range Rover Evoque.

What Formula 1 innovations would you like to see in your next new car? Let us know in the comments below.

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