What do you get if you tell the designers of McLaren Applied Technologies to let loose of their imaginations and be crazy when it comes to designing the next generation Formula One race car? The answer is, you get a radical but futuristic concept known as the McLaren MP4-X.
At first glance, the concept does ring a bell or two to fans of this classic anime series “Future GPX Cyber Formula“. Apart from its slick and silky smooth design, there’s a closed canopy cockpit, enforcing safety to the driver after the tragic accident that took Jules Bianchi’s life not too long ago.
According to McLaren, they have combined a number of F1’s key ingredients – speed, excitement and performance. The MP4-X ditches the internal combustion engine, instead it’s powered by an electrical powertrain (and no, not Honda’s), something McLaren has experienced with the P1 hypercar and its exploits in Formula E cars. When the car requires a boost, it uses solar energy to gain performance.
Apart from that, the car features active aerodynamics where electrodes fitted to the surface of the car’s wings would electronically control the bodywork. It may use engine power to channel energy in a form of plasma flow control to change the bodywork, allowing downforce to be adjusted according to conditions. Talk about rocket science…
Since the MP4-X throws away what is written in the current F1 regulations, it features huge venturi tunnels underneath the floor. This allows ground effect to take place, increasing the car’s traction at high speeds.
Remember the time you were playing driving video games like Gran Turismo, where information such as car status, map, timer, track conditions and other essentials get projected onto your TV screen? Well, you’ll get some sort of a similar experience while driving the MP4-X.
To start, the driver’s helmet is a helmet-mounted display system (HDMS) that allows the driver to check competitors and relay useful info to the team. As the car is fitted with cameras, the driver will have an unrestricted 360 degree view of his/her surroundings. Also, there’s a head-up display (HUD), alerting drivers of an imminent overtaking by fellow competitor, caution flags and obstacles on the track.
To complement this car, McLaren has also envisaged the racing suit of a future F1 driver and it will comprise of smart fabrics – a mix of conductive, energy-harvesting and energy-storage fibres; inbuilt bio-sensors and power management. The suit can monitor the health of the driver, and can relay the impact trauma or injury in the event of an accident. Think of Iron Man’s suit (minus the bulky armour) and you won’t be far off.
Bravery and fast motor skills may not be necessary the only skills the driver must have, as the MP4-X can be steered not by physical controls but through a holographic system that’s controlled by monitoring the electrical signals within the driver’s brain.
As ambitious as these things sound, many of these technologies are still in its infancy and may just not make it to see the light of day. Apart from meeting stringent FIA rules that’s stricter than a typical Asian tiger mum, it’ll be horribly expensive to develop as well. In the current era of F1 where many smaller teams are financially struggling, such an endeavour may dampen such advancements.
Despite that, we applaud McLaren’s vision of the future of F1, providing some of the craziest ideas that could inject the much-needed excitement in the pinnacle of motorsports. Now, if only they can do something magical for the Honda powertrain for next year…