F1’s creativity could benefit society, if only government had more vision

时间:2019-11-16  作者:蒲郓泅  来源:澳门拉斯维加斯  浏览:184次  评论:144条

About 15 years ago Britain ignored a great opportunity to bring together sport, industry and action on the environment. A country whose designers and engineers were dominant in could have exploited some of that creativity in order to become the world’s leader in the emerging field of electric vehicle technology. Instead the racers got on with racing and the captains of industry carried on supervising the decline of Britain’s industrial base.

It would have taken vision and courage to promote such a scheme. But isn’t that what governments ought to be doing, rather than maximising short-term gains in order to get themselves re-elected? Someone in power should have foreseen a future involving electrical recharging points in residential streets and motorway service stations, and devised a strategy to exploit Britain’s existing talent pool.

We are all going to be needing electric vehicles one day. Elon Musk, the software billionaire, saw it coming 10 years ago, when he took control of Tesla Motors, which makes high-end electric cars. Toyota had already seen it, and now the night-time streets of London are full of Uber drivers at the wheel of hybrid Priuses which make the city’s conventional diesel-engined black cabs look like an insult hurled from the past at the future.

Britain’s Formula One teams were ideally placed to fast-track the development of the relevant technology in collaboration with major car manufacturers. Back then you had McLaren, where Ron Dennis was planning to turn a racing team into a freelance purveyor of all-round technological expertise and a builder of road-going supercars. You had Frank , who was called up by BMW when the Bavarian company wanted someone to design and build a machine capable of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in their colours, which duly occurred in 1999.

Since then McLaren have built a 220mph hybrid road car which sold out its limited production run of 375 examples at around £1m each, while Williams have collaborated with Jaguar on a similarly exotic supercar, the C-X75, powered by electric motors and gas turbines, launched at the Paris motor show in 2010 but aborted due to unfavourable economic circumstances.

You might consider those vehicles, aimed squarely at the super-rich, to be making a pretty marginal contribution to a more environmentally aware world. But the technology is certainly adaptable to more demonstrably worthwhile projects. Williams’s specialist knowledge lies behind the current contract to supply battery technology to all the teams involved in the three-year-old , and the need to make batteries lighter and last longer while maintaining performance, driven by the imperatives of competition, is bound to offer a trickle-down benefit to ordinary electric cars, which have the same basic requirements.

Formula One’s knowledge has occasionally benefited society, even outside the world of transportation. Back when Ross Brawn was running the Ferrari team, a surgeon at the Great Ormond Street hospital noticed the slickness of the Italian team’s pit stops, with four wheels changed and a fuel tank filled in a handful of seconds by a 20-strong crew using jacks, air-guns and fuel nozzles. After analysing the details of how Brawn’s men coordinated such a swift and complex exercise, he went about , where the right tools also need to be in the right place at the right time.

Formula One can do more than just respond to a changing world by dabbling in hybrid technology. of the sport’s commercial rights, which received the approval of both the company’s shareholders and the sport’s governing body this week, is widely seen as an opportunity to blow away the stale air of the Bernie Ecclestone era and re-examine the ways in which grand prix racing functions. It also seems like an opportunity to deploy some imaginative thinking.

The change of ownership lies behind the current stories about the renewed at Silverstone, its very existence long threatened by the need to pay Ecclestone an enormous annual fee. Some members of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, the circuit’s owners, would like to activate a break clause allowing them to terminate the relationship at the end of 2019, meaning the race would have to find another home or, like the French Grand Prix once did, simply disappear. Others see a chance to persuade Liberty Media to accept a reduced fee in the interests of preserving one of the world championship series’ most historic venues.

Many reiterate the old argument that Silverstone is one of the few tracks in the series handicapped by the lack of a government subsidy. The idea of throwing public money at a sport characterised by financial excess in all areas is a complete nonstarter in these straitened times, but it needs to be acknowledged that motor racing, which commands an international audience, is something in which Britain retains a unique expertise.

Motor racing is reckoned to provide employment for about 40,000 people in Britain while ensuring that the country remains at the forefront of a certain type of technological research and development. Even the all-conquering Mercedes cars, winners of the past three drivers’ and constructors’ titles in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, are designed and built for the German company in Brackley, Northamptonshire, part of the tract of England close to Silverstone that is also home to several other teams.

If I were the government, I would sit down with all the stakeholders and think about the ways in which their world-beating skills could be brought to bear on projects – of which electric propulsion is only one – that would benefit society as a whole. Access to the brains of people such as Adrian Newey, the most successful designer of grand prix cars in history, would be exchanged for benefits in the shape of grants and tax breaks. And if a viable framework for such a project could be devised, it would make sense to put Silverstone at the heart of it. Why not bring together, say, the Motorsports Industry Association and London’s Imperial College, and build a facility where young engineers, with the cooperation of the teams and the motor manufacturers, could learn how to design a better future while surrounded by the inspiration of the past?

It can never be too late to use the assets you already possess in order to improve the odds on the survival of the species. And it might ensure that, in 2020, Silverstone will still be a grand prix venue, able to celebrate its 70th anniversary as a world championship circuit in the proper style.