Formula ONE: Driving Innovation

Formula One racing conjures up images of whining engines, and brightly colored, low-to-the-ground expensive cars. We watch as sophisticated body suits, physically fit drivers in form-fitting crash helmets take on hairpin bends at terrifying speeds with pit crews milling around as every micro-second is under constant scrutiny.

It seems it takes a village to raise one driver and one car to these intense, complicated, and high-tech conditions that comprise a single race. Formula One racing is truly built on a team of experts, engineers, chemists, scientists, and a plethora of devoted to the cause, car enthusiasts.

The precision, the laser focus, the discipline, and the relentless pursuit of excellence is extraordinary and captivating. Every second saved, every turn tighter, every intake of air or expulsion of exhaust leads the inexorable hunt for the crew that supports each driver on the track.

Pit crews change 4 tires in less than 3 seconds. STOP! Think about that – for a second – excuse the pun! 1 - 2 - 3, and the car is back on the track! It is both mind-blowing to watch and astonishing to contemplate.

NOTE TO SELF: Remind me to mention this fact to my local mechanic next time I wander into my friendly tire joint and sit with a bad cup of coffee, waiting the hour it takes to rotate my tires!  

But seriously, the techniques employed; the processes followed; the protocols developed; the continuous improvement; the quest for better, faster, stronger, more stable, more of just about everything you can think of – this is the world of never believing ever, that any ceiling is present or that any record cannot be broken!

"F1 is the world of excellence, of constant progress towards perfection, and, in so doing, gave us, the ordinary driver's gifts that many of us do not fully appreciate."

A track record of driving innovation

A double overhead camshaft ensures proper intake of fresh air and expels exhaust was introduced in the 1912 French Grand Prix and is now prevalent in most road cars even today.

Carbon Fiber, introduced in 1981, is now used in so many high ends brand cars, including BMW, Porsche, and many more.

Paddle shifters, and steering wheel buttons, diamond-like coatings, and adaptive suspensions all made their way from the racetrack to the humble family car.

Tire treads and heat tolerant coatings improved the safety of tires, and they too found their way to us, the ordinary driver carrying our precious cargo to the finish line; our families, children, grandchildren, furry friends, and, let’s be honest ourselves.

Radial slicks developed in 1972 revolutionized racing and saved countless lives on regular roads. Grooves, treads, sizes, and robust tire walls were all developed, tested, and assessed on the most demanding road of all – the Formula One Racetrack.

Did you know that Anti-lock Braking Systems, or ABS, so well known to most of us today, are easily one of the most significant safety features that came out of Formula One racing? This brilliant design improves braking effectiveness and is now a lifesaving feature on most cars today, even though for Formula One, the feature was not well suited.

"How marvelous that even when these talented F1 inventors cannot fully use their own brilliance on the track, their creations trickle down to us so we can drive safer cars with this braking system which in turn saves lives around the world."

Testing function, features, innovation, and brilliance under the most grueling of conditions, the F1 race, means these new developments are put through their paces in ways most laboratories cannot even begin to emulate. Suffice it to say; if it can perform here, it can perform anywhere.

Formula One is not just expensive car racing; it is not just noisy, madcap adrenaline junkies screaming around hairpin bends at breakneck speeds to the delight of audiences around the world but, in fact, the most extraordinary living laboratory to help make all driving safer, more efficient, more reliable, and dependable.

Next time you see a race on television, hear the whine of an engine in the distance, and wonder what the point of it all is? – take a moment to reflect – for it is here in the world of F1 that some of the greatest safety inventions were born that may indeed save your life or someone yo