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How Have F1 Cars Helped Development of Road Cars?



For some people, F1 cars are seen as a testing ground for improvements to road cars. The idea being that if something works well on cars doing speeds of 200 mph or more, they will be great for drivers on our roads. Just some of the advances that were first used on racetracks include disc brakes, active suspension, steering wheel functions, single wheel nut and aerodynamics.

Metal disc brakes, for instance, had been used on planes and tanks in the 1930s, but the F1 Fansite explains that the first car to have them was in the 1951 Formula 1 season. It was two more years before Austin-Healy fitted them to the first road car, which was also the first car to have a disc brake on all four wheels. Metal disc brakes are not used any longer. They are now made from reinforced carbon and even this change was tried out on F1 cars before putting them onto road cars.


‘1951 Ferrari 375F1’ – Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Rear-View Mirror

Just imagine driving your car without a rear-view mirror.  For most drivers, it is one of the first things they check when they are about to set off but Red Bull tell us that these originated in motor racing in the 1950s. F1 engineers realised how useful it could be for the drivers to be able to see other cars approaching them from behind. This meant they were able to make more effective blocking moves and brake checking on corners.  This small gadget is one of the most important safety features on road cars.

Back in 1950, there were more teams taking part in F1 and some of them had three or four drivers on the grid. This would have been a much more crowded racetrack than today, which made the introduction of rear-view mirrors even more vital. The F1 betting odds were also harder to gauge as the winners of the races varied more often. These days, motorsports pages are more able to provide accurate predictions after just a few of the races, although shocks still happen sometimes when a driver exceeds the expectations.


‘Nice memory’ – Mingo Hagen via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Active Suspension

Active suspension is one of the things that evolved from F1 that many drivers will not even be aware they have. Ordinary suspension cannot deal with uneven road surfaces in the way that active suspension does in creating improved handling and traction as well as a more comfortable ride for the driver and passengers.

Early versions of active suspension simply adjusted the stiffness of the shock but once F1 engineers started to develop it further, it became the best type of suspension for road cars.  Toyota was the first manufacturer to include in on some of their road cars in 1983, and the use of it has continued to rise ever since

Annual Changes

Each new F1 season brings new rules and regulation that the teams have to comply with. Of course, all they want to do is make their car the fastest, no matter what these changes are. Millions of pounds are spent every year on trying to achieve this aim, much of it on advanced technology that gives them feedback on every little bit of the car.

As some of the teams are owned by manufacturers, this information is passed back to the road car part of their businesses and is used to make the road cars of today perform faster, more fuel efficient and to be safer for drivers and their passengers.

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