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The Evolution of the Race Car

When racing cars flew around the track in the 1946 Turin Grand Prix, the first official Formula 1 (F1) race, spectators were just as enthralled by the spectacle as they are today. The cars of that era wouldn’t stand much of a chance against the beasts on the track today, but what they may have lacked in modern technology they certainly made up for in style and beauty. The Alfa Romeo 158, shaped like a crimson bullet and fitted with a supercharged 1.5 litre engine with eight cylinders, and the Mercedes-Benz W196 Silver Arrow, a car fit for James Bond, were a sight to behold.

The 1960s

In the 1960s, we saw race car designers follow in the footsteps of John Cooper. With the Cooper T51, Cooper moved the engine from the front of the car to the back. The move was greeted with scepticism, but the racing community soon changed its tune when the Cooper T51 won two F1 titles. And at the end of the decade, the Lotus 49B arrived on the scene bringing with it the introduction of aerodynamic car wings that were designed to create a more streamlined airflow and improve the car’s balance. The Lotus was also the first car to advertise a sponsor. Sponsorship deals, such as those with the newest online casinos 2021, are the bread and butter that allows racing teams to afford the astronomical costs associated with the racing game. Without sponsorship, the F1 wouldn’t be half as glamourous as it is today.

The 1970s

In the 70s, race car designers were forced to re-think the aerodynamic wings, in particular the rear wing which had caused a number or tragic accidents on the circuit. Cars in the 70s became wider and lower to the ground than their 60s counterparts, and the tyres had a smooth tread (they were known as racing slicks). The rear wing was lowered, side skirts were introduced that worked to help keep the car closer to the ground – known as ground effect, and a cooling system was fixed onto the side of the car.

The 1980s

Drivers in the 80s benefited from new electronic systems that helped with driving control at high speeds. The decade is remembered as the age of the turbocharged engine. The big name on campus during that time was McLaren. The McLaren MP4/4 was equipped with a 680 horsepower turbocharged engine and the car’s design featured a pointed nose and a low centre of gravity. During the 1988 championships, the MP4/4 went down in history by winning 15 of the 16 races. Turbocharged engines were eventually deemed too dangerous for F1 racing, and in 1989 they were officially banned. Extreme ground effect was also banned in the 80s, as was mid-race refuelling.

The 1990s

By the 90s, F1 racing cars were beginning to look like the cars that we see today. Vehicles were fitted with steering wheels that could be removed and large rear-view mirrors for safety purposes, and drivers were able to make use of semi-automatic gearboxes and traction control. In 1994, the F1 withdrew the ban on refuelling, but then took the somewhat more controversial move of banning electronic driving systems. During the San Marino Grand Prix of the same year, Austrian F1 racing driver, Roland Ratzenberger, and Brazilian F1 World Champion, Ayrton Senna, both lost their lives in tragic accidents. The accidents rocked the racing world, leading to the introduction of a slew of safety measures. These safety measures included new design rules that ensured better protection for the driver’s head, and the removal of airboxes from the engines (which were used to increase power).

The 2000s and Beyond

The 2000s and 2010s have seen F1 race cars steadily become more powerful and more streamlined. Designers were obsessed with using various wing-types for better aerodynamics, tyres became wider, and noses became longer. Turbocharged engines made a comeback in 2014, but with six-cylinder, 1.6 litre engines. The early 2000s will forever be associated with Michael Schumacher and the red Ferrari, but by 2007 it was clear that Lewis Hamilton, driving for McLaren, was the one to watch.

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