Does Formula One Technology Improve Road Cars?


Efficiency equals performance - as the F1 race car (W05 Hybrid) is about 35 percent more efficient as its predecessor, so is the upcoming S 500 PLUG IN HYBRID: it offers 325 kW of power and 650 Nm of torque. It, has an electric drive range of 33 kilometres and  a certified fuel consumption of 2,8 litres for 100 kilometres

Formula One has introduced a rules package for 2014, saying that it makes the race cars much more relevant to road cars than in the past. But is that connection public relations spin or is it real? Let’s let Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) of Mercedes’ Formula One team, answer that question.

We are often asked the question of whether there is actually any technology transfer between race and road car engineering. The answer is resoundingly ‘yes’ – but it’s a more subtle process than bolting bits from one car onto another. There are examples of direct transfer – for instance the NANOSLIDE technology used to coat cylinder bore surfaces. And then there is indirect transfer, where F1 serves as a research laboratory for developing new solutions and showing the world what is possible.  We have been guided by an equation that applies to racing and to the road: ‘Efficiency = Performance’”.

Lowe identifies several areas where racing improves Mercedes road cars:

  • hybrid technology
  • computer modeling
  • aerodynamics
  • turbocharging
  • lubrication
  • lightweight construction

Professor Thomas Weber, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, points to the new 2015 Mercedes S 500 Plug-In Hybrid as a car that has benefited directly from Mercedes’ involvement in Formula One.

Today, the challenges and complexities faced by F1 are quite similar to those faced by us in designing and developing advanced road cars like the S 500 Plug In Hybrid: To translate efficiency into superior performance.

Adds Dr Joachim Schommers, head of engine development:

We are witnessing a paradigm change in car design today. The time proven method of trial and error is very much over for various reasons, and it is replaced by computer based simulation techniques.

It precisely in the area of computer based simulations that the art of building race cars and the business of building road cars most closely converge. Mercedes even renamed its Formula One racing team to better reflect the ties between its motorsports and production car divisions. So in a way, we all have a little Formula One in our cars.



Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.