Start your engines! Formula 1’s engineering influence

An early, more tube-like competition Ferrari at the Enzo Ferrari Museum, Modena,

An early, more tube-like competition Ferrari at the Enzo Ferrari Museum, Modena, Italy. Credit: Luisa Low, University of Sydney

This weekend the Formula 1 will celebrate 25 years of racing in Australia. Sydney Motorsport supervisor and motor research engineer Dr Andrei Lozzi explains the history, engineering and influence of race cars.

According to Dr Lozzi, many of the gadgets and design features we see in today’s street cars began as radical advancements in race car technology.  

"Ferrari has always made it a principle to incorporate racing developments into their road cars, where they can, to help to distinguish their cars. One example of this is the spoiler; they are now used as a fashion statement but spoilers do reduce aerodynamic drag," said Dr Lozzi.

"Ferrari introduced controls and instruments installed on the steering wheel, making it easier to be informed and make adjustments. Nearly every car has them now.

"They were also instrumental in the broad installation of semi-automatic gear boxes with gear selection on steering wheel, buttons or paddles.

"One of the principal contributors to the Ferrari Sigma was Dr Michael Henderson who later came to Australia to set up the what is now called the ’Crash Lab’. NSW was one of the first places worldwide to mandate the use of seat belts for car occupants. He developed an expertise in vehicle safety after working with race cars.

"Prior to 1965, cars were narrow and tube-like, and racing drivers were easily trapped in their cars when they crashed. When Lotus introduced the ground-effect - low pressure which pulls a car down - cars became wider and fatalities dropped off very significantly."

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