Formula One technology in your car

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What Car? Staff
20 Aug 2012 10:17 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

Despite the fact that your car probably spends most of its time crawling through rush-hour traffic, its highly likely that it shares technology with the latest multi-million pound Formula One cars driven by the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

The high-speed world of F1 racing is where much of the technology used in todays road cars was conceived, developed and refined.

The probability is that without being aware of it you're likely to be using F1 developments designed to improve performance and safety on the racetrack. These range from regenerative braking systems to on-board computers, not to mention highly efficient and effective engines.

Here, we highlight some of the ways F1 racing cars have influenced the vehicles we drive today.

Transmission
In 1989, Ferraris F1 team developed the semi-automatic gearbox, which dispenses with the clutch pedal, but still requires the driver to instigate gearchanges. Today, even relatively low-spec models such as the Citroen C2 come with the technology installed as standard.

High-performance vehicles, meanwhile, often have gearboxes that can change gears in as little as 8.0 milliseconds allowing their drivers to make the most of their acceleration capabilities.

Choosing suspension settings
On-board computers have been used to change the suspension settings on F1 cars, so that they could take more speed through corners.

As this technology has become more affordable, it has fed through to road cars. Most performance cars and executive models now have adjustable suspension systems that allow drivers to choose between settings such as comfort and sport.

Some of the most technologically advanced models even adjust their suspension automatically.

Filling-up with fuel
Because F1 drivers are banned from refuelling during races, one of the keys to success is avoid carrying more fuel than is needed to complete the race cutting excess weight and improving performance.

F1 research has shown that one of the best ways to ensure the cars run on as little fuel as possible is to minimise friction within the engine and transmission.

Fuel and oil company Total has used the findings of the F1 world to develop forecourt products that help reduce friction in your cars engine, too.

Motorists will be glad, however, to learn their road cars are considerably more economical than F1 racing cars. A typical passenger vehicle uses around 8 litres of fuel for every 100km (62 miles) driven, while an F1 car would burn in excess of 80 litres.

Green machines
Given the phenomenal amount of fuel required to power their cars and the importance of carrying as little as possible to reduce weight, it is not surprising to learn F1 teams spend a lot of time researching ways to cut consumption.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which collects energy wasted during braking and stores it in a mechanical flywheel or battery pack for later use, is one of the ways they have developed to cut fuel consumption.

KERS can boost acceleration without using any extra fuel, making F1 cars more efficient and less damaging to the environment. Similar systems have already started making their way in the latest passenger cars.

The new Mazda 6, for example, uses a capacitor-based system called i-ELOOP to achieve the same effect as KERS. Jaguar is also rumoured to be using similar technology for its next XJ.

Tyres
With an accent on speed rather than safety, the tyres used on F1 cars are very different to those on the average road car. However, the lessons F1 teams learn by trial and error are used to shape the evolution of road tyres too.

The shape and style of construction used on tyres today known as the carcass design is a direct result of F1 research and testing.

So when you're crawling through another suburban rush-hour, just think about how your car shares some of its DNA with the F1 thoroughbreds.

This article has been researched and written by whatcar.com's car insurance partner, MoneySupermarket