Screens instead of mirrors in F1 soon?
As designers are always keen to ensure that mirrors interfere with airflow as little as possible, the FIA often has to work to change their size and position for safety reasons. With Formula 1 at the top of the motorsport pyramid, it seems almost surprising that it continues to depend on an old concept such as fixed mirrors that have been on cars since the first edition of the World Championship.
In an age of GPS, on-board cameras and ultra-fast digital processing, it seems logical for F1 to update itself technologically. It could bypass the obligation to equip single-seaters with cameras that can show what is happening behind the pilot in the cockpit.
The idea of having rear-view cameras and screens in the cockpit in F1 is not new and has already been discussed between the drivers and the FIA. Carlos Sainz explained in 2018: “We’ve just proposed cameras instead of mirrors, which is the case in other championships, and I think the FIA will look at that. But it’s not something that’s been finalized. For now. It’s coming. We know from the drivers that there are drivers in other championships. [des caméras], I think they are in the WEC. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it could be an option.”
The AMOLED screen of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Cockpit displays are regularly used in other disciplines and debuted in the 2012 Audi R18 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Today they are common in the WEC or even the DTM. But while the FIA knows the screens have brought satisfaction elsewhere, there are still some significant hurdles to their introduction in F1.
is asked by Motorsport.comNicolas Tombazis, the FIA’s technical director for single-seaters, listed three issues that needed to be addressed before these screens could be considered for F1: “The first is that there isn’t much room for a TV screen in the cockpit. The second is that it’s sometimes used in cars with closed cabins, so the interior is quite dark. If we put his phone in direct sunlight, [il est difficile de voir l’écran] and we don’t want him to see anything by squinting.”
“The third problem is that there is an adjustment time for the concentration from one distance to another, which worries us a little and we have to evaluate it carefully. [les pilotes] roll, you shouldn’t lose a tenth of a second in alignment, that’s another problem. We’re looking at that and possibly other solutions like the buzzer, but it’s still a work in progress.”
Since the scenario where F1 cars will be equipped with screens is still far away, rear visibility will remain entirely dependent on mirrors in the medium term. Therefore, the FIA continues to carefully monitor the design of the cars to ensure that they do not obstruct the drivers’ visibility, and changes to the rules for next year have been deemed necessary.
What’s changing with mirrors for 2023
2023 mirrors on Mercedes W13
To help drivers see better in their mirrors, the FIA has chosen to increase the size of mirrors for 2023. The position of the brackets will probably change.
Teams have had the opportunity to test some of the solutions during the 2022 season so drivers can see the difference in vision. Red Bull was the first company to test larger mirrors at the Hungarian Grand Prix, followed by Mercedes in Belgium and other teams in the Netherlands during collective testing. An example can be found below in the Aston Martin AMR22.
2023 mirrors on the Aston Martin AMR22
The British team also took the opportunity to expand the surfaces surrounding the main room and add an additional vertical fin, which made it possible to further stiffen the structure, as well as change the trajectory of the air flow.
Nicholas Tombazis explained that the new dimensions are mainly to help drivers who don’t like curved mirrors. “We chose a slightly larger mirror”he said. “I believe it went from 150mm to 200mm and we saw that it improved the look in the corners. For some pilots, this does not change anything, because some already have enough curved mirrors. Others don’t like having mirrors that are too curved because it distorts their view too much. So it’s a bit of a personal choice. I think what we’ve changed will improve visibility for drivers who don’t have very curved mirrors.”