Formula One is all about technological innovation, which also means finding new and improved ways to skirt the rules to gain that slight advantage over your competitors. If the FIA doesn’t specifically ban it, you might just have a good shot at finding a way to make it work for you.
The new F1 rules for 2021 involve a lot more standardization than we’re used to, which means we’re likely going to see teams being forced into getting super creative finding every little loophole they can.
Which sounds like it’s high time to celebrate some of the strangest—and most audacious—innovations of the past few decades. The F1 YouTube channel calls them “cheeky,” and I gotta say, that’s probably the perfect word for it. I always imagine the designers behind these new technologies smirking slyly to themselves when they discover the tiniest margin that they can capitalize on.
As we always used to say in my college Formula SAE team, you know you’ve made it as an engineer when something you’ve designed is so unexpected that it ends up being banned in the rules the following year.
You have to watch the video to get the full run-down of the slip-ups that enabled these innovations to come to the fore (and to see what happened to them afterward), but we’ve compiled a handy list to give you a taste of what you’ll find:
10. X-wings (1997)
9. Renault’s tuned mass damper (2006)
8. Red Bull’s internal onboard camera (2014)
7. F-duct (2010)
6. McLaren’s rear brake pedal (1998)
5. Double-chassis Lotus (1978-79)
4. Double diffuser (2009)
3. Water-cooled brakes (1982)
2. Six-wheeler (1976)
1. Fan car (1978)
I gotta say, I’m probably the biggest fan of Tyrrell’s six-wheeler. That was one mad looking beast, and I always felt like, with more modern innovations, we could actually make that thing work.