McLaren Talks Tech, Sustainability in Formula 1 Racing

The upcoming 2011 Formula Season promises to be one of the sport’s most competitive, with a renewed emphasis on KERS hybrid technology (which disappeared from the sport in 2010).  There’s more green-washing going on in motorsports’ highest echelon, however – including an overall reduction in carbon emissions by 12% (approx. 30,000 tons) by 2012.

Wired UK was able to sit down with McLaren‘s managing director, Jonathan Neale, and discuss a few other intriguing possibilities – including start/stop tech and driving Formula 1 cars down pit lane in EV-only modes.  I’ve posted an excerpt, below. Do you think Formula 1 is doing enough when it comes to sustainability?

Jonathan Neale: Between 2009 and 2012 we’ll be reducing CO2 by around 30,000 tonnes — which represents a 12 percent reduction. But fossil fuels aren’t the biggest thing, it’s the size of our supply chain. We’ve also seen the reintroduction of KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems) and there is huge room for innovation there. There’s also been a significant reduction in track testing [thanks to simulation]. I don’t think we do a good job of telling people about it though as it doesn’t make good headlines.

There’s a debate going on about running F1 cars as EVs in the pit lane. Some people say, “Isn’t that just a milk float in the pit lane?” But when you look at the technology required to make that happen and restart the engine at the end of the pit lane it’s exciting. Virgin Racing has taken a huge punt on computational fluid dynamics (CFD), having designed its 2010 and 2011 cars entirely in the digital domain. Can you win like that?

JN: The role of simulation is important to us, but with limited track testing you’ve still got the problem of correlation to test if your model is right. No matter how big your supercomputer, you have to reference something. I really admire the ambition, but there are lots of things that are hard to test off the track, such as cars bouncing around corners, on kerbs, sliding… It’s not easy to model all of those.

CLICK HERE to head over to Wired’s Autopia for the rest of McLaren’s Q&A.

SourceWired Autopia.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.