McLaren MP4-X Prototype Could Change the Face of Formula One

McLaren MP4-X

Look at this magnificent beast! It’s sinister and aggressive — like the Batmobile on steroids. It’s the MP4-X and it’s McLaren’s latest design exercise. Packed with innovative features, it breaks with Formula One tradition by having an enclosed cockpit with a canopy made of photochromic, hydrophobic, high-impact material. That means it actively repels water and reacts to changing light conditions, according to The Verge. McLaren driver Jenson Button says, “We’ve got to get a canopy on the car of some sort, because we can’t have these sorts of accidents happening as much as they have over the last few years. It’s not the 1970s anymore; we should know better. Canopies are probably the way to go, but obviously that takes time.”


McLaren Concept | Future of F1 | Enclosed Cockpit

McLaren MP4-X

Inside the cockpit, the driver has a virtual reality screen similar to those found in modern fighter planes. McLaren even envisions a day when the car will have no steering wheel; all of its movements will be controlled by hand gestures.

Peering even further into the future, McLaren imagines a car that responds to the neurological impulses buried deep in the driver’s brain. “A vehicle with no physical controls at all is a theoretical possibility, one equipped with visual gesture control systems or holographic instrument panels,” says McLaren. “The tech for this sort of thing is still in its earliest stages — but it could be possible.”

The MP4-X chassis will be made of “negative-stiffness material structures,” according to AutoBlog. These materials deform to absorb the force of an impact and then bounce back into their original shape. If you are familiar with Formula One racing, you will notice that the front wing is much less complex than the ones we see on today’s race cars.

That’s important. Today’s drivers complain that it is impossible to follow another car closely enough to be able to pass. The MP4-X depends on aerodynamic tunnels molded into the floor of the car to generate downforce, instead of multiple cascading elements on the front wing. It also encloses all four wheels in aerodynamic enclosures to further reduce drag.


McLaren Concept | Future of F1 Underbody Aero

McLaren MP4-X

McLaren isn’t done yet. It proposes to fit electrodes to the bodywork that will turn the surrounding air into plasma. They can be switched on for extra downforce on corners and then switched off for less drag on the straights. That stuff is straight out of science fiction. “Plasma flow control would require quite a lot of power, but, in the future, we could take power from the engine and divert it to charge the system,” said Geoff McGrath, chief innovation officer at McLaren Applied Technologies.

Such a car would probably have about 900 horsepower, but McLaren isn’t saying whether that would come from an internal combustion engine, an electric powertrain or a combination of the two. It does think future race tracks will have inductive wireless charging equipment buried in the racing surface, so some type of electric motor is contemplated.

The MP4-X is bold, innovative and daring. It would inject excitement into a racing series that has seen more than its share of boring racing of late. The real question is whether Formula One can survive long enough for cars like this to ever see the light of day.


McLaren Concept | Future of F1 | Sikk

McLaren MP4-X


Source | Images: McLaren-Honda.

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.