Five years ago, Red Bull Motorsports partnered with Polyphony Digital, creators of the Gran Turismo series of driving simulators, to design the X2010. The concept, playable in Gran Turismo 5, served as a look into the future of open-wheel racing, implementing fan car technology to increase downforce ten-fold, as well as a jet-fighter-esque canopy for the driver and full cowling over each tire to maximize low air resistance. Sebastian Vettel, then driving for Red Bull’s F1 team, once lapped the Suzuka Circuit in GT5 20 seconds faster than a modern F1 car while behind the wheel of the X2010.
Fast forward to today, and McLaren has produced their own vision of the future of motorsport. It’s called the MP4-X, and, although it boasts a similar purpose to Red Bull’s design, the engineers at McLaren have gone totally sci-fi with regard to its technology.
The MP4-X, theoretically, utilizes electrodes that turn the air passing over and around the car into plasma, increasing grip. Rather than physical inputs for steering and throttle, the Woking-based constructor imagines the driver controlling the vehicle with their brain because, you know, a wheel and pedals are so barbaric. The canopy features a heads-up display and can change its tint to weather conditions. (Ok, that last one shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.)
Not surprisingly, Red Bull caught wind of McLaren’s little science project and posted a cheeky response on Twitter, calling McLaren out for being late to the party. Unfortunately, the MP4-X is not, as of now, drivable in any racing simulator, but with a new Gran Turismo releasing sometime next year and Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport series pumping out extra cars as downloadable content to support the recently-released Forza 6, it’s conceivable we could be driving the MP4-X — virtually, that is, — in the near future.
— Red Bull Motorsports (@redbullmotors) December 3, 2015
I must admit I do at least prefer the exterior of the McLaren to the Red Bull, probably because it looks more like a modern F1 car with its wheels pushed to the corners and large side pods. And although Red Bull appears to be taking credit for having an idea about the future, I certainly don’t want these two constructors to be the last. I want to see Ferrari’s version of where F1 is heading, and Mercedes’, and Renault’s. These concepts may seem quite unrealistic now, but the fact is some of these technologies could make their way into a formula car very soon — especially that canopy, as the sport seeks to reduce head injuries to drivers.
Plus, I mean look at them. They’re just cool. McLaren doesn’t have an awful lot to celebrate this year, after an absolutely abysmal performance all season long in which the team often broke down, occasionally failed to qualify for Grands Prix, and tended to finish in the back of the field. Keeping this in mind, the MP4-X does scream more “PR stunt” than anything else. But hey, at least it gets your mind racing and your blood pumping, and isn’t that was motorsport is all about?