After a disappointing start to the season and only two points in the bag after three races, Renault is already playing catch-up in this year’s Formula One championship. But that hasn’t stopped the French team from looking ahead to its future participation in the world’s premier racing series, and at this week’s Shanghai Motor Show it’s offering a glimpse at what the sport might look like in ten years’ time.
The R.S. 2027 Vision Concept on display at Renault’s Shanghai stand is pure fantasy, as it’s impossible to anticipate what F1’s rule makers might have in store in years to come. We don’t even know what might happen in 2018. But, if Renault’s predictions are even remotely accurate, race fans are in for a far more visual and interactive experience.
For starters, the concept features an enclosed cockpit, but its 3D-printed dome is made from transparent polycarbonate so viewers can see exactly what’s happening inside. The driver’s helmet is also almost completely see-through to offer a clear view of facial expressions in the midst of on-track warfare. Who wouldn’t love to see Lewis Hamilton’s mug when nemesis Sebastian Vettel slices past to steal a win?
The car’s wheels incorporate active LED lights which communicate information such as track position and battery power reserves, and more LEDs in the wings change from white to blue, indicating when battery power is being used. Renault’s diamond logo is also illuminated with LEDs, but this tech could easily be expanded to highlight other sponsors. Just imagine a glowing hot pink Force India livery.
Armchair racers can give their favourite drivers an extra boost in performance by interacting on social media networks, and a digital display on the steering wheel shows a driver his “fan ranking” position. With enough input from viewers around the world, his (or her, based on supplied images) car will get an added shot of power in the closing laps. Some of the car’s telemetry is also streamed via the internet to give fans a better understanding of how race strategies are unfolding.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is an industry buzzword with road cars which could soon talk to each other to prevent accidents and help smooth heavy traffic situations, and Renault thinks the technology will fit into F1 too. Drivers, and their cars, could see exact positions of competitors on track, or in pit lane where collisions are frequent. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication could also allow race directors to upload yellow or blue flags immediately to a driver’s cockpit, and a fully autonomous mode with set speeds would take full control from the driver during safety-car periods.
Renault sees big changes in F1 drivetrains, and though the 2027 Vision still features a turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 engine for primary propulsion, new high-energy density batteries will raise total system outputs to one megawatt (1000kW). The concept also sees an all-wheel drive configuration to help put the power down, and four-wheel steering has been included for increased agility – especially in pit lane where entry and exits to boxes are often blocked by other cars and crews.
Renault's imaginings extend to changing race configurations as well, and instead of the one (roughly) 300km race used currently, the weekend would be split into one 250km event and another shorter final sprint showdown. Teams’ reserve drivers would get greater roles at each race meeting, with Friday “Rookie Night Races” to take place after the second official practice sessions.