Last night an old convent in Barcelona played host to the premiere of a new F1 innovation film, produced by Lotus F1 Team sponsors Burn: Human Ignition.
After Burn’s street art and skateboard affairs last season I was half expecting the picture to portray Hipster F1: A team based in Brooklyn, with beards de rigueur for the pitcrew, engineers on the pitwall hunched over 80s arcade machines, skinny shiny race suits and cars with wooden sidepods that run on a mixture of artisanal jam and Pabst Blue Ribbon. But no, this was serious. It tasked creative minds on both sides of the Atlantic with imagining grand prix racing in the year 2030.
Director Bryan Gregg commented: “We wanted to create a story that took some of the most creative minds in the fields of design and conceptualization, and have them apply their thinking to F1 to create a portrayal of the sport which hasn’t been seen before.”
Imagine a ‘breathable’ car made of shape-shifting alloys to aid cooling and aero performance, and visual technology for drivers that will allow them to see the slipstreams from the cars ahead. This is the vision of Harald Belker, the celebrated designer behind the vehicles from Batman, Minority Report at Tron, and London-based art-meets-tech studio Marshmallow Laser Feast.
At the event was a device called the Oculus Rift. Most of us have seen CFD flow on a computer screen but by donning this set of virtual reality goggles you can walk around an F1 car and see the airflow from every angle in, out and over the car. This could potentially be the driver’s view in 2030. At the very least, it would be a useful tool for Adrian Newey right now.
There was even talk of changing the concept of what a track is, having them suspended above cities on columns, with loop-the-loop and upside-down sections, perhaps using Maglev technology, and track surfaces that are kinetic. How about using cars not just to power up their own hybrid systems but to also supply the track floodlights and paddock electricity with their wind energy?
“We look at technology as just a palette, and some things flow in naturally and work with your brush,” explains architect and urban designer Mitchel Joachim. “When we approach Formula One design, anything that crosses our path, anything in that palette of technology, we’ll start saying ‘what if’.”
Keeping the film grounded were interviews with members of the Lotus technical squad, Lotus F1 drivers, Mario Andretti (officially the Coolest Man Alive), and ten-year-old karters who may get the chance one day to race these cars and tracks of the future. But will we need drivers in the future? Will the pilots be A:I robots? Will the cars be drones? As the title suggests, the film agrees that the human angle is a key element to the appeal of F1.
The movie is set to tour film festivals this summer, but you can view it episodically on YouTube. Click below.