In two days the Formula 1 will return to Australia for its 25th year. Senior Lecturer from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and motor research expert, Dr Andrei Lozzi explains the history, engineering and influence of race cars.
Born in Rome and educated in Australia, Dr Lozzi previously worked for Qantas and the NSW Department of Motor Transport before joining the University of Sydney. He now supervises the University of Sydney Motorsport Team.
“Formula 1 (F1) vehicles are not only becoming faster and more stable but surprisingly they’re also becoming very efficient and safe," said Dr Andrei Lozzi.
“F1 makers use technologies that are so advanced and different from the average vehicle, that one may wonder why there’s so much interest in the competition. However, a little at a time, it is almost certain that advancements in F1 technology will find their way to road vehicles, much like how World War Two aircraft technology was eventually adopted by commercial aircraft manufacturers.
“Manufacturers would do well to incorporate active suspension into their road vehicles. This would mean having cars that lean into corners rather than away from them, like the Italian train Pendolino does, keeping passengers more comfortable.
“Autonomous and electric vehicles are even making their way to Formula 1, as well as the Formula SAE competition. Internal combustion (IC) cars may not be totally eliminated in the near future, because hydrogen power may be adapted.
“My crystal ball shows me that in the future we will have fast, comfortable, efficient and autonomous cars driving around our roads, close together as a chain, very safely."
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.”