It was revealed earlier this year that F1 teams were looking at ways to make cars more spectacular, considering ideas including sparking cars, glowing brake discs and vapor trails. Discussions about the ideas have moved forward, and teams and other representatives on the F1 Commission have given provisional approval for the sparks plan to come into force for 2015.
The current idea is for the sparks to be created by mandating titanium skid blocks within the planks of the cars. Work is now ongoing among the teams to work out where to locate the skid blocks to produce the best sparks.
In the 1980s and early ’90s, F1 cars produced sparks, and it was fucking amazing — like a fireworks show at two hundred miles per hour. These were from parts of the underside of the cars hitting the asphalt race surface.
For the last twenty years or so, though, a wooden plank has been fitted to the underside of F1 cars. Its main function is to provide a reference for race officials to govern how close a car’s underside may be able to get to the track. Specifically, it prevents engineers from designing cars that are too low to the ground — the lower a car gets, the faster it can corner, and the more dangerous the sport gets. By setting limitations as to the maximum amount of wear the plank can endure over the course of a race, cars cannot get too close to the track.
All of this means that the introduction of fakey titanium plates to the underside of the cars specifically to generate sparks is like fitting the cars with fake tobacco sponsorships: it may look a little like the 1980s, but it’s all hollow.