Thanks to Formula One engineers, our cars are a lot more safe and a lot less boring.
As redundant as competitive sports may seem compared to the more crucial facets of society, the spirit of competition, which breeds a never-ending need to improve, can trickle into every day life and change things for the better. Formula One cars are no exception to this rule, and it’s the tireless work of engineers looking to shave time off a lap one tenth at a time that has improved everyday passenger cars for the better. One such invention is the disc brake.
Previously cars used drum brakes, which disintegrated faster, retained heat, and made stopping distances considerably longer. With the advent of disc brakes, first seen on the Jaguar C-Type race car, countless lives have been saved thanks to the reduced distances needed to come to a stop. Now, it seems that carbon fiber will be the next F1 technology to go mainstream.
Not only does it save weight, making cars more fuel efficient and easier to handle, but it makes for a fairly safe crash structure that absorbs an impact and, at least in the case of John Watson’s crash at the 1981 Monza Gran Prix, harms the driver less than cars made of metal. With investment on the part of mainstream automakers, the price of carbon fiber could be dropped far enough to make it viable for profit-generating cars. All of these innovations may pale in comparison to aerodynamics research, which has been distilled from F1 racing to the modern passenger car. Thanks to these engineers and the crazy drivers that pilot their cars, our own rides have gotten and will get better.