The Head and Neck Support device was developed and tested over several years before being introduced to F1 in 2003. It is actually a safety system that has been introduced across many motorsport championships over the years and has helped save the lives of many.
The HANS device is mandatory in most motorsport series and is made of carbonfibre. The U-shaped shoulder collar is attached to the helmet by two elastic straps. It is secured under the drivers’ seat belts.
The double diffuser sparked controversy in F1 back in 2009 but when it was found to be legal, all teams designed their own versions. Originally Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota showed up with ‘double-decker’ diffusers, taking advantage of a loophole to create more downforce.
In basic terms, they incorporated the crash structure into the diffuser design, shaping the central part of it to allow air to flow through it, into the diffuser, creating more suction and downforce from it. The devices remained legal until 2011 when they were banned.
This was one of McLaren’s most recent inventions and debuted in 2010. The rear wing stalling system used a duct at the front of the car, which could be covered by a driver’s knee when on a straight to redirect the airflow down a vent and stall the rear wing.
This cut drag significantly and helped McLaren enjoy increased top speeds of up to 6mph. The nifty little piece of innovative genius was not deemed to be a moveable aerodynamic device but it was eventually banned at the end of the season.
Renault brought this technology to F1 late in 2005 with the R25, where the system was only used at the front of the car. However for the following season the R26 was fitted with tuned mass dampers at the front and rear, before it was banned at the German grand prix (despite the fact the FIA had previously said it was legal).
Tuned mass dampers featured a sprung weight enclosed within the nose of the car, which decreased the amount of pitching and movement experienced over bumps, kerbs and through slow corners. It had a considerable impact on the handling of cars and was duly copied by rivals until it was banned.
This is far from a new concept and different versions have been around in F1 from the 1980s onwards, but Red Bull reinvented it in 2010 to give the RB6 a big advantage over the rest of the field. Blown diffusers generate downforce through the exhaust gases being blown into the diffuser area.
It creates a huge boost in aerodynamic efficiency from the bottom of the car. Teams quickly reacted and created their own low exhaust layouts, but the innovation was eventually banned from F1 in 2012. Now F1 cars have central exhaust exits which prevent the kind of downforce improvement in this area.
There are some stunning aero innovations on the 2016 cars, including the Mercedes, which features some brilliantly aggressive looking bargeboards and front wing elements that are beautifully designed. It’s all in the detail and even the smallest changes can have a big impact on the flow of air over the cars.
In 2009 the Kinetic Energy Recovery (KERS) device debuted in F1, bringing hybrid technology to the pinnacle of motorsport. It wasn’t a big hit from the start (only four teams used it at some point during the year) but the majority of teams used it in 2011, and by 2013 the entire grid featured KERS.
The system took waste energy generated under braking and turned it into a power boost of 80bhp for up to six seconds per lap. It brought a new tactical element to racing and kick-started hybrid technology in the series. Now cars run with ERS within the power units, providing a performance effect 10 times greater than KERS.
What other F1 innovations from the last 15 years or so fascinate you the most? Let us know below!