Engineers at McLaren teamed up with their designers and technologists to conceptualise what a Formula One car would be like in future and what they have come up with is not just stunning to look at but quite mindboggling. The McLaren MP4-X Concept takes cues from the way the sport is progressing, the scope of real-world technology and driver safety to keep the concept feasible.
The plinth of any new concept is technology and McLaren claims that all technologies proposed to be applied to the MP4-X, exist, but are still in the early stages of conceptualisation. A new approach towards the powertrain could radically redistribute the chassis layout with learnings from the existing technology used in McLaren Honda Formula One car. McLaren says that rather than having a big centralised storage for electricity, if thin battery cells are created to integrate into the chassis or the body then they can be aesthetically packaged for aerodynamics
Energy management is the gist for modern formula racing and McLaren has explored all options under the sun – yes – solar panels embedded in the body panels. The solar energy will supplement the energy recovery systems to use even less amount of fuel than ever before. And if that is too mainstream, McLaren believes the car could receive additional electric recharging by using inductive coupling built into the racetrack – something like wireless charging for smartphones.
Formula One cars have been traditionally open-cockpit, open-wheel racers but there have been calls of better driver safety from drivers as well as from the organisers. McLaren has responded with a closed-cockpit design with a transparent and hydrophobic high-strength canopy. To ensure peripheral vision for the driver, McLaren wants to bring in the fighter-jet technology that uses helmet integrated HUD fed by external cameras to create a see-through wall.
With cars going faster than ever before, aerodynamics are playing a huge part in keeping the cars on course. Take a look at the 2016 Audi Le Mans race car to see how designers are rethinking body panels as aero-props. McLaren goes a step further with the concept of Active Aero. Like the Drag Reduction System (DRS) deployed in F1 cars, McLaren suggests the use of active aerodynamic body components that will sense the amount of downforce needed in any situation to provide maximum grip and speed. McLaren also talks about adaptive shape-memory alloys that can change form when an electric charge is passed through.
McLaren has gone a step ahead in ensuring driver safety. Along with active real-time bio-telemetry to check vitals and fatigue levels, McLaren also suggests use of advanced fabric for racing overalls that can indicate the exact areas of trauma in case of mishaps. The chassis structure can be built of components that should be able not only to absorb impact but also have enough resilience to regain its original form to ease extrication of driver in case of crash.
McLaren has thought beyond the Formula One rule book, or any rule book for that matter, to come up with a concept that excites us with a futuristic vision of the sport and probably occupant safety for future cars as well. It will be interesting to see how these proposed technologies pan out.