Enlarge (credit: Christoffer Rudquist)
For over 60 years, Formula 1 teams have developed, tested, and built the fastest and most technologically impressive cars the world has ever seen. An almost unending list of superlatives can be ladled onto F1 cars: they can accelerate from 0 to 190mph in about 10 seconds, fling around a corner at such speeds that the driver experiences g-force close to that of an Apollo astronaut during Earth re-entry, and then decelerate by 60mph in just 0.7 seconds thanks to strong brakes and massive downforce—the same downforce that stopped the car from spinning out around that corner.
But the bit that’s really impressive is that these machines are designed and built from scratch every year. That’s what makes F1 so competitive, and why the rate of improvement is so rapid. These teams—there’s only about 10 of them, and most are based in England—have been challenging each other to make a new best-car-in-the-world every year for 60 years. The only way to pole position is to try and find an edge that no one else has thought of yet, and then to keep finding new edges when everyone inevitably catches up.
As you’ve probably guessed, materials science, engineering, bleeding-edge software, and recently the cloud are a major part of F1 innovation—and indeed, those fair topics are where we lay our scene.
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