McLaren reveals vision for grand prix racing in 2050

McLaren has released its vision for the future of F1. McLaren Applied Technologies

McLaren has released its vision for the future of grand prix racing, from fully-electric, shape-shifting cars to circuits that include banked corners and zones for inductive charging.

Formula One's current focus is on a new set of regulations for 2021, but the study carried out by McLaren Applied Technologies projects a vision for top-level motorsport 30 years in the future. Rather than just look at the car as previous concepts have done, the latest vision from the technology arm of the McLaren Group hopes to predict how the whole sport will change in the future. Its research included talking to fans and MA and PhD students to understand which future technologies could contribute to the show and enhance the spectacle of grand prix racing.

The press release is careful not to mention Formula One as a brand and instead refers to "grand prix racing". In some respects the concept seems closer to Formula E, which McLaren Applied Technologies supplies the batteries for, but the speeds predicted are well in excess of modern F1 cars, with 500km/h predicted on the straights. Cornering speeds would also be significantly higher, not least because of a move towards banked circuits and away from the 90-degree corners on street circuits.

That sort of performance would be achieved from an electric powertrain, which McLaren believes is inevitable as emission laws become tighter and petrol and diesel cars are phased out. Key to the design is energy storage and recharging, with the cars absorbing power from the circuit via inductive resonant coupling.

Active aerodynamics are also a key feature to improve efficiency on the straights while retaining grip in the corners. More emphasis is put on underfloor aerodynamics but the skin of the car would be able to shape-shift to suit the the drag/downforce trade off required. However, in keeping with the traditions of the sport, the cars would remain open wheeled and rear-wheel drive.

McLaren predicts Artificial Intelligence will also play a big part in the future of grand prix racing. It envisions an on-board AI systems that would aid the driver and become a major technological battle ground between teams. However, to ensure there is still a human element to the racing, black-out zones will be introduced when the driver has to operate on their own without help from AI or team communications.

The AI would also be used to reflect the drivers emotion through lights on the car, including around the inductive charging coils built into the wheel and tyre design. The tyres themselves would be self-healing, eliminating the need for pit stops as we now know them.

The latest MCLExtreme concept car is the second McLaren has released in recent years, following on from the MP4-X in 2016.