Are F1 cars too complicated?

If there was a recurring theme so far regarding the 2014 cars, it’s the word “complicated”. While some drivers have shared their view of the new 2014 Formula 1 cars, they’ve done so by claiming that the cars are slower in cornering speed but still challenging to drive due to the complexity of the car and the technology.

That narrative was continued by Red Bull Racing as they struggled during the first winter test in Jerez. The team was mired with technical problems along with their engine and ERS supplier, Renault Sport F1. While some were contemplating the paltry 21 laps the team ran in Jerez, others felt it was simply teething pains. For Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, the issues are not a big deal:

“There’s a few things we needed to tighten up on our side but nothing major and obviously Renault have some issues that they are tidying up as well,” Horner told Sky Sports News. “But these cars are so complicated that even small problems can cause big failures.”

Notice that Horner is also claiming a high level of complexity and it brings up a thought. We’ve all seen the complexity of last year’s car and when they compare the 2013 chassis with a car from 2000 or the 1990’s, it is striking how much has changed and how complex the machines really are. I wonder if this year’s 2014 regulations changes have made the car nearly too complicated. I always consider the act of driving and trying to change the radio and in a BMW with iDrive, that can be a challenge requiring you to take your eye off the road. I would imagine that at some point the buttons, switches and dials will become too great and perhaps this will foster new innovation in control systems within a F1 car.

Perhaps a heads-up display in the visor with eye tracking or voice activation…but the noise in a car is really loud so voice may not be an option unless you did very sophisticated noise canceling DSP. Formula 1 used to allow pit-to-car data transfer in which the team could issue commands for the car from the pit wall such as ride height or other engine mapping etc. It may become a topic to look at again if the series becomes too technical for a driver to manage while going 180mph and trying to negotiate corners. What other ways are there to control all of the elements involved in an F1 car?

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