McLaren Gives an Exciting Sneak Peek Into the Future of F1 Technology at Abu Dhabi Testing

Published 12/15/2021, 7:23 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Young Driver Test – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 14, 2021 McLaren’s Pato O’Ward during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed


Although the season is over, we get the drivers’ test in Abu Dhabi to ease us into the long winter break. At the session, however, McLaren made things very interesting. The spotlight of the session was placed on the new 18-inch Pirellis; a situation McLaren took full advantage of.

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As cars made their way to the track, something looked different on the McLaren machine. The team featured a unique wheel cover with 14 double rows of LEDs. Testing the covers on their rear wheels gave us an exciting glimpse into the future of F1 technology.

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This idea stems from the want of offering better visibility to sponsors. Thus, the new boots may be a good place to grab attention. Now teams seem to be interested in this extraordinary marketing strategy.

Pirelli boss Mario Isola shared endless possibilities this may present, beyond marketing. “When you install that [LED light] device and it’s working, it can do whatever it wants. It can show position, it can show logos, it can show lap time in qualifying or something. There are many possibilities. It’s technology, so it’s easy to program what you want to show.”

Almost like a sci-fi movie concept, how thrilling it would be to see the lights during night races? It certainly would be much more attractive for the sponsors of the sport and the teams.

How does the new cover on the McLaren work?

The rows of LED lights sampled what could soon be seen in the premier series. The lights on the cover are activated in a way that shows the logo of the sponsor while the wheels are in motion. Further, it will remain stable regardless of changes in the wheel’s motion.

This new innovation opens up a lot of doors for the sport. However, no matter how little, it will still be unwanted weight to the car; thus will this exciting prospect weigh heavily on the car’s performance?

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Isola shared his thoughts on the modernization of the sport. “There was an idea to put some LEDs on the wheel covers, to use them for marketing purposes as well, which means you can display any kind of message.”

However, the downfall of using flashy covers is something that may hinder performance. “Clearly it has to be studied because the wheel covers are also an element that could unbalance the tire. It is very important that the tire is correctly balanced, otherwise, they begin to suffer vibrations.”

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Regardless, the tire covers will be a permanent part of the 2022 car. With so many new changes to the sport in the coming season, it will be a season to look forward to.

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Shreya Sanjeev

779 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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