Will we finally see an F1 car drive upside down on the Grand Tour this year?

1y ago

22.3K

OK, so a little admission before we get started. As far as I know, there are no plans for the guys from the Grand Tour to attempt to drive a Formula One car upside down in a tunnel. It would be hugely irresponsible, dangerous and would not really achieve anything. I know what you're now thinking, it sounds right up their street, but let's analyse the complexities and costs of the task.

We need a long tunnel...

Before we get to thinking about the car, we first need to find a suitable location. This is because 20+ F1 cars are built every year that "should" be able to be used in this experiment, but how many long tunnels with smooth and relatively flat ceilings exist.

A quick Google Search provided some options, including the Gotthard Base Tunnel (35.5 miles long) and L├Âtschberg Base Tunnel (21.5 miles long), both of which are railway tunnels in the Swiss Alps, however they are both far from ideal. Not least because the ceilings are not pool table flat, feature many intrusions (lights, electricity cables, etc) and closing them for the necessary preparation work would cost the local economy a butt load. Maybe if the channel tunnel gets closed following Brexit, we could find an interesting use for it.

Obtaining a car...

This issue is pretty easy to overcome if you have money but it's still a vital piece of the puzzle and one which requires consideration. Who the hell is going to loan out their Formula One just so you can check if it can actually drive upside down. If we consider that aerodynamics have been sufficient enough to allow Formula One cars to drive upside down since around 2000, that means that there are over 300 cars suitable for the test but most of these are owned by collectors, housed in museums or are raced as part of a heritage series. I would say that this kind of experiment would be right up Red Bull's street. It has "PR stunt" written all over it.

The car needs work...

If you attempt to drive a Formula One car upside down, even if only for a few seconds, you'll likely encounter some technical issues. Think about it, modern F1 cars are highly optimised and super efficient at what they do. As soon as you change something fundamental like the orientation of gravity it will effect how the engine functions (fuel pickup, lubrication, etc) and likely confuse the hell out of the vehicles electronics. We know that planes can be run upside down so making a Formula One car operate in this condition is only an engineering exercise but it would take both time and money.

Convincing the driver...

Once again, this one is probably pretty easy. I'm sure people would queue up for the chance to drive an F1 car AND be the first person to drive one upside down, but you can't just have anyone drive the car. They need to be highly skilled, communicate well with the engineering team, able to appreciate the risks involved but still willing to commit 100% to the task. Someone like Guy Martin would certainly be a front runner.

Keeping your lunch down...

If the likes of Michael Schumacher can feel sick in an F1 simulator, motion sickness can affect anyone. When something is not quite right with your situation, your body knows. Fair enough your visuals show that you are travelling through the Dunlop Curves at Le Sarthe, but if the actuators on the hexapod are even a fraction of a second out of sync, your stomach will start to churn.

Being upside down is an odd feeling. Being in control of a machine that can easily kill you while upside down would certainly get my adrenaline pumping but is masses of adrenaline pumping through your veins really going to benefit you. Fighter pilots go through a long period of training and wear special suits in order to cope with both intense G-Force and rapid changes of orientation, so I would expect that the driver would need to go through something similar.

Testing...

Think about it, the Formula One car would need to accelerate up to 100MPH+ and then tackle some banking, while still accelerating, until completely inverted 180┬░. It then needs to travel for a sufficient distance to prove that it's staying inverted due to its aerodynamics and not just through centripetal force, before going back down the banking and returning to a normal state. This is a tall order and won't happen on the first run. A lot of effort will need to be put into achieving this task and that means the costs will continue to ramp up.

Money...

In order to shut down a long tunnel for the time required, prepare it, acquire a Formula One car, modify it, find a driver and an engineering team, then film it all, it's going to take a tonne of cash. Maybe Elon Musk is planning a PR stunt like this in one of his Tesla's when the first Hyperloop tunnel is launched. I'm sure he's got the money to throw at this, but unless Jeff Bezos is willing to chip in a bit more to the Grand Tour fund, I think it's a few pennies too much.

Conclusion...

It's never going to happen. But we can dream can't we...

Sidenote - I wrote this article before watching the following video, but I would encourage anyone who wants more technical detail on driving an F1 car upside down to give it a look. The narration is a bit stilted but the information is great - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFZ9loSAIPA

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Comments (6)
  • Just a thought, but the G forces the car has to deal with might already mean the engine is capable of it.

    Ensuring fuel still gets to the engine and oil doesn't go about the place is certainly needed when the car pulls 4.5G sideways going around a corner.

    9 months ago
  • Hot Wheels did it... with CGI. Maybe invite Hot Wheels Co. for a chat and a couple of drinks. Maybe they'll say yes to the project... Make it a reality.

    1 year ago

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