Auto Tech

The McLaren MP4-X envisions the future of Formula 1

This is what happens when you take the rulebook and throw it into the nearest refuse bin.

The MP4-X is covered in electrodes that can alter various parts of the bodywork depending on, say, how much downforce is necessary for a sharp turn.

A fair number of motorsport fans believe the glory days of Formula 1 are long gone. No longer is it the absolute pinnacle of automotive achievement, making use of the best new and future technology. To fight this growing feeling, McLaren went to the drawing board and created its own version of the future, the MP4-X.

The MP4-X combines technology that's already prevalent today and some that is still in the very early stages of development. Some of the MP4-X's components, like its ground effects, are currently banned under FIA regulations, but the best part of a concept is that it can ignore the rules.

As with current Formula 1 cars, the MP4-X makes use of battery technology. On this concept, however, the Woking, England-based team put the batteries inside the crash structure, a concept it believes can transfer over to road cars. To keep the batteries charged during a race, the concept comes equipped with both solar panels and induction coils that generate electricity by running over couplings built into the track.

Electricity also plays a role in the MP4-X's active aerodynamics. Electrodes on the car's body panels would control the bodywork itself, adding or removing downforce when it's needed. The body panels would be built using material that physically responds to electrical current, which is another technology that Macca is interested in implementing in road cars.

Unlike current Formula 1 cars, the MP4-X features fully-enclosed wheels and an integrated canopy. The latter has a good chance of arriving within the next few years.


To ensure driver safety and awareness, a helmet-mounted augmented-reality display would let him or her look "through" the canopy's opaque pieces to keep an eye on traffic. The canopy itself would also work to enhance low-light visibility and mitigate any harsh, direct sunlight. To keep fans happy, cameras would display the driver's point of view throughout the race.

That leads us to the real freaky stuff. McLaren wants the car's advertisements to change for each viewer, like they do on the Internet. Driver suits will pack biometric sensors and advanced fabrics that can adjust vehicle settings to suit driver fatigue or other factors. It could also relay data to a simulator, where fans could virtually race against the greats. Some vehicle systems could even be controlled using direct brain mapping, which might be the most pie-in-the-sky part of this concept.

Whether or not some (or any) of this technology actually makes its way to Formula 1, the McLaren MP4-X is a wickedly cool concept that shows just what's possible when designers and engineers don't have to care about silly things like budgets.