By Jason Cullen
What does it take for an amputee to drive a racing car? Three things: technology, innovation and bravery.
You may have seen the story of Billy Monger – a teenage racing driver who had to have both legs amputated after a horrific high-speed crash – getting back into the cockpit of a racing car.
This heroic feat is nothing short of inspirational. A true testament to internal fortitude and the human spirit, to get back out there after such an extreme accident in Formula 4 and race again.
His and Team BRIT’s (short for British Racing Injured Troops) aspirations to become the first all-disabled team to race in the iconic Le Mans 24 hours event will be nothing short of spectacular when it happens.
However, it takes more than just the human spirit. It also requires a lot of technological and engineering innovation to get to the point of getting an amputee up to this racing pace. And with that, two questions come to mind:
- What is this technology?
- Could the technology put amputees behind the wheel of Formula 1 cars?
MOTORSPORT – CORPORATE 2010 – RENAULT F1 – PRISES DE VUES – VIRY (FRA) – 28/09/2010 – PHOTO : FREDERIC LE FLOC H / DPPI
If you came up to me a couple of years ago and asked where I wanted to be working in the future there was only one answer: a design engineer in Formula 1. I wanted to graduate from university, dive straight into the design office of an F1 team and get stuck in – the idea of climbing the ladder and reaching the top ranks of a top team such as Ferrari or McLaren was exciting, even if I knew the dream would take years to achieve.
I admire those who are already at the top of the engineering pyramid in the sport. Adrian Newey, Paddy Lowe, James Allison and Ross Brawn to name a few who have cut it at the top of the pinnacle of motorsport. I wanted to replicate their success and have a profound impact on F1 and motor racing in general. You could argue that I, or anyone else who has the same ambition and drive, can still do exactly that. However I have been slowly taking backwards steps to see the bigger picture and I am realising that perhaps this is not possible in the way the engineers above have achieved.
Hundreds of people make up F1 teams in this era. Take Mercedes as an example: Over 500 people work on the power units alone, plus a further 500 on the chassis. Rewind 30 years ago and this number was perhaps 50, budget depending. This naturally means that anyone walking into the sport now will have a tougher time making a name for themselves than they would have done previously. Yes, F1 is a team sport, but who doesn’t want to be at the heart of it, driving development forward and leading a team into the history books? Continue reading