McLaren Applied Technologies has peered into its crystal ball and laid out what Formula One could look like three decades from now. It's no surprise that McLaren foresees race cars that will be entirely different machines compared to what we know today.
McLaren predicts the F1 car of 2050 will be a 300-mph electric racer with shape-shifting aerodynamic components complemented by onboard artificial intelligence. McLaren Applied Technologies consulted with engineers, drivers, fans, race strategists, and also analyzed technology and marketing trends to form its vision. The company still expects an open-wheeled race car with power sent to the rear wheels. Internal-combustion engines, however, will be long gone.
McLaren 2050 F1 grand prix concept
Instead, an electric motor and a choice of energy storage solutions will power the 2050 F1 racer. McLaren believes active aerodynamics will also play a major part in F1, though that's certainly not the case today. Aside from the current drag reduction systems, regulators have banned active aero. McLaren predicts that calls for more efficiency will open up active aero for F1 by 2050. Noting this, McLaren envisions shape-shifting aero elements in its 2050 F1 race car, which it calls the MCLExtreme, or MCLE for short.
The sidepods will expand and contract like the gills of a shark. This will help provide flat-out speeds of up to 300 mph in straights as well as grip and stability in braking zones for corners. The clean shape of the 2050 F1 race car is also due to the lack of aerodynamic shapes on top of the car. Instead, McLaren believes carefully sculpted floors and diffusers will handle downforce production.
McLaren 2050 F1 car concept
Like we've seen in Formula E, McLaren predicts future F1 battles will also come from how teams decide to store and manage energy. Thus, the 2050 F1 race car will be built around the energy storage solution of choice, likely something unknown today. The tracks and moreso the pits could recharge the cars, and McLaren even suggests that one car may be able to steal energy from another. The tires could feature inductive charging coils and the ability to repair themselves.
McLaren 2050 F1 car concept
McLaren envisions different colored lights to represent driver emotions. If a driver becomes angry and frustrated, the car may glow red, while an elated driver's car could glow green or blue. Should fans rejoice over a particlar overtake, the drivers will see this with a cheery-colored aura in the cockpit.
Drivers themselves likely won't need as much human expertise from their teams as AI will become part of the car. The system could learn and predict the driver's state of mind to provide real-time race strategy via a display on the driver's helmet rather than radio calls from the pitwall. Developing the right AI system could be a major differentiator in the future, though there could be times when the AI is shut off.
McLaren also sees tracks with steeper banking and that are brought closer to the fans in city centers. The steeper banking and higher speeds will mean greater G forces on the drivers, so the racing suits will have to be made out of high-tech materials and be able to inflate and compress to keep the blood pumping properly to the limbs.
We have a long way to go before we arrive at the year 2050, and only time will tell if McLaren's vision pans out, or if it's a big slice of pie in the sky.