Renault vision of Formula 1 includes autonomy
Renault’s vision of Formula 1 10 years from now, in the form of the R.S. 2027 Vision concept revealed at Auto Shanghai 2017, places people at the center of the action for a complete experience. Propelled by a more-electric propulsion system, the driver is better showcased, has a greater connection to fans, the sport better protects its participants, and the series takes more active responsibility toward the environment.
In response to television audience trends and shifts in broadcasting formats, Renault explored how Formula 1 in 2027 could become more compelling entertainment. The format of Grand Prix weekends would be revised to make them more diverse with new opportunities to promote the drivers. Sunday’s race would be shortened to 250 km instead of 300 km in 2017, and divided into two parts: a long race and a second, shorter one known as the “Final Sprint.” A Rookie Night Race, featuring the teams’ reserve and/or rookie drivers, would be on the Friday evening of race week, ahead of Saturday’s official practice.
“One role of Renault Sport Racing is to anticipate the future of Formula 1 so that it draws a maximum number of fans in an environment consistent with Groupe Renault’s objectives,” said Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing. “We look forward to generating inspired conversations with the racing community, fans and enthusiasts through this concept that highlights our ideas and desires.”
“The melding of creative energy and technical expertise from Renault’s design teams and Renault Sport Racing has created a visionary, yet completely credible and authentic R.S. 2027 Vision; a Formula 1 exercise that puts people at the heart of the sport and communicates Renault’s view of the F1 future,” added Stéphane Janin, Director, Concept Car Design, Renault.
Although instantly recognizable as an F1 single-seater, with its long, slender nose, side pods, and four open wheels, the concept’s design is more aggressive. In addition to optimizing performance and energy efficiency, a combination of mobile aerodynamic features and active lighting systems make the cars more “communicative” to viewers. Fans benefit from a closer connection to the driver thanks to a transparent cockpit. The lightweight shell is 3D-printed, with forms tailored to the driver’s body. The helmet is also transparent, enabling fans to better see the driver’s face and expressions.
Bold features like the C-shaped LED front lights and the illuminated Renault diamond on the engine cover provide a visual tie between the racing car and Renault’s road-going models. Active LED lighting in the wheels displays a range of information, including the driver’s position and the car’s remaining energy reserves, making it easier for viewers to understand how the race unfolds. The digital display on the steering wheel informs the driver of his “fan ranking” position, which is determined by spectators’ interaction on social media, rewarding the most deserving driver on the track with an additional boost of power in the last laps.
Some of the driver’s telemetry data is accessible to fans via the Internet, enhancing their overall understanding of the race and the strategy. This data also allows connected players to participate real-time in the race and compete against their heroes.
Autonomous and connected
Since driver safety will continue to be a high priority in Formula 1 in 2027, the F1 concept incorporates some novel safety features. One of those is autonomous driving function.
The delegation of driving duties to the car is automatically activated during race incidents such as a safety car, virtual safety car, yellow flags, etc. In these situations, mandatory single-file running and other restrictions—bans on overtaking, speed limits, etc.—are managed entirely by the car, minimizing the risk of further accidents and ensuring the safety of competitors and track marshals.
The car’s closed cockpit protects the driver from flying debris and other dangerous objects. The aerodynamic canopy is made of impact- and flame-resistant polycarbonate. It is framed by two titanium pop-up roll-over bars that deploy in milliseconds should the car overturn, providing the driver with a gap between the cockpit and ground from which to escape.
Connectivity functions meant to mimic consumer technology exchange information based on what is happening in the race.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication lets drivers know exactly where each competitor is on the track or in pit-lane. This feeds information to the pit lane’s predictive collision warning system, preventing teams from releasing drivers while another car is passing by at speed.
Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, with peripheral systems on the steering wheel’s digital screen, includes the immediate display of instructions, such as yellow or blue flags, given by the race director. A direct link is established with the marshals in the section of the track where each car is running.
Sustainable materials and power
In Renault’s 2027 vision, Formula 1 focuses more on sustainable technology and systems to gradually reduce its “carbon footprint.”
Designing Formula 1 car parts will require less time and tooling thanks to increasing use of 3D printing. New materials used by 3D printed parts could be more recycling-friendly than the many composite materials they replace.
Renault expects F1 hybrid propulsion to reach an unheard of weight/power ratio—1000 kW (1340 hp) for a weight limited to 600 kg (1320 lb)—while becoming more efficient and electric. V6 combustion engines will be downsized, and fuel tank capacities will shrink to just 60 kg (130 lb) compared with 105 kg (230 lb) currently, a smaller quantity for proposed shorter, more exciting race durations.
In addition, the level of power generated by the propulsion’s kinetic energy recovery system is raised considerably to 500 kW—compared with 120 kW in 2017—courtesy of two ERS-K units, one each front and rear. The resulting four-wheel drive configuration delivers better traction for the single-seater racing car.
Renault envisions batteries with energy density twice that of current F1 technology feeding and regenerating the ultra-high-performance dual-energy recovery system. Thanks to the two 250-kW electric motors front and rear, the bulk of the energy normally wasted under braking can be recovered and stored for later use during the same lap.
The concept car’s aerodynamics are active to minimize energy waste due to drag at high speeds without detracting from slow-speed stability. Efficiency is further enhanced by active suspension that optimizes handling under the exclusive control of the driver. Four-wheel steering makes the car more agile and responsive.
Technology evolutions and performance objectives, while maintaining an energy efficiency goal, reach the balance between power output from the engine and power output from electric motors.
Renault’s vision also advocates for a responsible approach to costs. By capping expenditures the discipline can attract more manufacturers and teams for a long-term commitment. To achieve this, F1 will benefit from some standard elements, all non-performance-differentiating components provided by a single supplier selected by the FIA.
Restricting development work on the car aerodynamics will bring wind tunnel and parts production budgets down, too. Only the front and rear wings, engine cover, floor, and diffuser can be altered, and only three configurations are authorized during a season. Ultra-complex hydraulic suspensions give way to simpler active suspensions that could recover some of the otherwise lost energy.