In the high-octane world of F1 racing, technological innovation is as much a part of the competition as the drivers themselves. Teams constantly push the boundaries of engineering, seeking every possible advantage on the track.
However, this relentless pursuit of speed and efficiency often leads to controversial innovations, some of which have been banned by the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Let’s take a look at 10 such innovations that were too good for the racetrack.
1. Ground Effect Aerodynamics
When Lotus brought ground effect technology to Formula 1, it boosted the cars’ downforce. But this led to a bunch of safety issues and accidents. There was a lot of back-and-forth between the teams and the rule-makers about it.
At first, people didn’t want to let go of this tech, but the risks became too obvious, especially with cars going faster around corners and some nasty crashes happening. So, they ended up banning it and switched to flat-bottomed cars starting in 1983. – Read more
2. Brabham BT46B ‘Fan Car’
The Brabham team introduced a fan at the back of their BT46B in 1978. This fan was for cooling but primarily created a vacuum under the car, increasing downforce. It won its first race but was immediately banned, as it was deemed to give an unfair advantage. – Read more
3. Active Suspension
Active suspension, innovated by Colin Chapman’s Lotus team in the early 1980s, revolutionized Formula 1 by maintaining a car’s level ride height for better grip and aerodynamics. Despite initial challenges, the technology evolved, culminating in significant racing successes, particularly with Williams in the early 1990s.
However, concerns over safety, escalating costs, and its complex nature led to a ban in 1994. In 2022, it has been suggested as a way to manage the problem with porpoising, but it was dismissed. – Read more
4. Traction Control
Traction control helped manage tire grip during acceleration, reducing wheel spin and improving performance. Although it was banned in 1994, it snuck back into the sport before being banned again in 2008 to put more emphasis on driver skills. – Read more
5. Mass Damper System
Renault’s mass damper system, introduced in 2005, involved a tunable mass in the nose of the car that stabilized the car over bumps. Banned in 2006, the FIA considered it to be a moveable aerodynamic device, which was against the rules. – Read more
6. Twin Chassis Lotus 88
The Lotus 88, designed in 1981, featured a revolutionary twin chassis system, one for aerodynamics and the other for suspension. This innovation was quickly banned as it was seen to contravene the regulations around movable aerodynamic devices. – Read more
7. McLaren’s F-Duct
McLaren’s F-Duct, introduced in 2010, allowed drivers to stall the rear wing manually by covering a hole in the cockpit, reducing drag and increasing top speed. It was banned in 2011 as it was considered to be a driver-operated aerodynamic device. – Read more
8. Blown Diffusers
These were clever exhaust layouts that enhanced the car’s downforce by channeling exhaust gases over the diffuser. While effective, they were banned in 2012 for creating uneven playing fields and for their impact on engine mapping and fuel consumption. – Read more
9. CVT – Continuously Variable Transmission
Williams developed a CVT for F1 in the early 1990s. This transmission system doesn’t use traditional gears, allowing for seamless acceleration. However, it never raced, as it was banned in 1994 to retain the traditional skill involved in gear shifting. – Read more
Used by Brawn GP in their dominant 2009 season, double-diffusers exploited a loophole in the regulations to create extra downforce. Though initially deemed legal, they were banned in 2011 to standardize car design and reduce costs. – Read more