Technology Ban in F1 – The Battle of Engineering Explained.

Technology Ban in F1 – The Battle of Engineering Explained.

Technology Ban in Formula One is because of a struggle between car designers striving for every last hundredth of a second of performance and the governing body struggling to keep costs in check and guarantee the drivers’ safety. In this section, we look into the details of why the technology ban exists.

70’s and 80’s

Some of these developments were outlandish such as the six-wheeled cars of the seventies and eighties. Some threatened to unleash new extremes of performance if they weren’t kept in checks, such as ground effects and active suspension. Sometimes innovations spread throughout the entire field, while on other occasions only one team had mastered a new technology which, when banned, prompted claims they had been singled out. Especially when the entire concept of their car was rejected. It’s a fascinating subject that often tells us as much about the politics of F1 as well as the sport and technology.

Technology Ban
Tyrell 6 Wheeler | Technology Ban

Rules Ambiguity

Most innovations and Technology bans are for safety reasons. To slow the cars down in the circuits that aren’t safe enough. A prime example is the ground effect. The cornering speeds were so high any driver errors or car failures could be very dangerous. Another main reason is cost.

The complexity of some modern technologies, and the like contribute to cost. Cost is the enemy of a competitive series. If only a few properly funded teams can enter what’s the point? This is the main reason why the assertion that F1 need to be technologically advanced and the pinnacle of automotive engineering is flawed.

The other main reason for the technology ban is the sporting challenge. For example, driver aids such as traction control and ABS are banned. Also, things like active suspension, four-wheel steering, mass dampers, etc make it an engineering and manufacturers championship rather than a drivers championship. The car driver balance in terms of performance contribution should be about 50/50 if there are two championships. Unfortunately, it’s about driver 5% and car 95% at the moment so there a big problem straight off.

Sometimes when Technology is banned because the rules are badly written, like the Lotus 88 and the BT46 fan car. I’ll never forget Ferraris’s response the Chapman’s assertion that the 88 had two chassis and both independently complied with the regulations. They added a second rear wing to their car saying the rules didn’t say you can’t have two!

Lotus 88 | Ground Effect | Technology Ban in F1

Active Suspension

Furthermore, you have to bear in mind that the FIA was under major public pressure to ban active suspension systems because there had been accidents directly caused by failures of the active suspension systems of the time.

In the practice sessions for the 1993 Belgian GP, Zanardi was so severely concussed after a practice crash caused by the active suspension system suddenly dropping the rear corner of his car as he was going through Radillion that he forced to sit out the rest of the 1993 season. Two races later in Estoril, and Berger lost control of his car after a pitstop when the rear left suspension suddenly dropped down, throwing him into a spin and nearly taking out.

Warwick as he was pitched headfirst into a barrier. With a direct causal link between failures in the active suspension systems of the time and those accidents, one of which had seriously injured a driver, there was popular support for eliminating active suspension systems – it was feared that, if anything, they might be more likely to be the cause of an accident.

Technology Ban
Active Suspension | Technology Ban

Senna’s Death

The final judgement of the Supreme Court of Cassatio in 2007 on Senna’s death was that the cause of the crash was due to the failure of the steering column, with Patrick Head ultimately being declared guilty of criminal negligence for ordering the modifications to be made to the car.

But Reports suggests that the car bottomed because Ayrton was running a tighter line than others & hit the worst of the bumps which disrupted airflow through the diffuser & caused a sudden total loss of rear downforce. The rear of the car stepped out Ayrton corrected but the car regained traction as he was steering to the right & this drove the car in that direction.

The broken steering column theory is largely disregarded by those in Motorsport who understood the dynamics of what actually happened and/or have actually seen all or some of the data available. Though people keep bringing up the in-car video that shows the steering wheel moving ‘oddly’ given his experience & well-documented feel for the cars Ayrton would have felt it & pitted.

Death of Ayrton Senna - Wikipedia
Death of Ayrton Senna | Technology Ban in F1

Coming back in 2022

Ground-effect underbody tunnels have not been permitted in Formula 1 since 1982, but the calls for their reintroduction have become rather loud in recent years. F1 has sought to reduce the current reliance on wings for downforce, which have been blamed for the “dirty air” that makes close-quarters racing difficult in modern racing, which made the idea of a return to ground effects more attractive to the rule-makers.

By creating a very pronounced entry at the front of the floor, the air moves through two Venturi tunnels. As the air flows under the car, it’s squeezed through the point closest to the ground, developing an extreme low-pressure area, creating a large amount of suction underneath. This means the floor is relied on more for downforce and reduces the wake produced by various bodywork components.

Technology Ban
2022 F1 Car Model | Technology Ban in F1 | Credits:

Unlike the old-school ground effects, the car won’t have sliding skirts and instead has a range of fins underneath to minimize any disturbance. To make sure each team uses the floor as it should, a standard tea tray will be developed to attach to the front of the floor. The tires will also change, as F1 moves to an 18-inch rim for 2022.

Suggested Reading : How F1 Tires Work

F1 at the beginning regulated competition by changing the size and configuration of engines. This worked well up till the start of when aero technology started to come in. Ever since then a game of catch-up has been played between the rule makers and the engineers, with the engineers given so much freedom in the early days of this revolution it’s now impossible to close the gains and things they have learned. With both Regulation change and Financial cap, F1 is set to shake its roots.


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