The 2015 Formula One season has come to a close, which means it’s back to the drawing board in preparation for next year’s championship. For team McLaren Honda, we think they might have let their imaginations get the better of them, as they’ve revealed this, the McLaren MP4-X. The concept serves as a vision of a futuristic Formula One racer, and it is utterly bonkers.

Where do we begin on this tech fest? Let’s start with the exterior of the car, which features what McLaren calls Active Aero. The car will be able to modify its aerodynamic properties thanks to adaptive shape-memory alloys used on the car, that are able to change its shape when an electrical current is applied.

McLaren also says that the MP4-X’s wings are fitted with electrodes that “electronically control” the bodywork, allowing downforce to be “dialled in” as and when needed. Additionally, the powerfully charged electrodes can be switched on when going into corners, turning the air around the wings into plasma, great for high speed tracks.

For more aerodynamic performance, the MP4-X reintroduces ground effect, a design feature that was banned in Formula One in 1982. Here, huge venturi tunnels beneath the car generate a massive amount of downforce that can be safely harnessed for even greater speeds through corners.

Elsewhere, the tyres can now be monitored not just for tyre pressure, but for wear as well. This real-time tyre-condition monitoring reduces the chances of a random blow-out mid-race. Advertising also gets a bump into the digital age, with stickers being replaced with digital on-car billboards. Your individual preferences and browsing habits determine what ads you will see during a race.

The MP4-X also adopts a canopy that offers higher levels of protection compared to the conventional open-cockpit racers. The idea is currently being mooted for introduction in today’s race cars following the ultimately-fatal crash of French driver Jules Bianchi in October last year.

Inside the cockpit itself, aircraft-inspired systems will assist the driver during races, starting with a distributed aperture system that uses a head-mounted augmented vision display to provide the driver with an unobstructed, all-round view of his/her surroundings.

Cameras fitted on the vehicle provide the live imagery, allowing drivers to “see through” the car. McLaren claim that this will remove the limitations of side-visibility in single-seater racers, and gives drivers less excuses during a “who bumped into who” debate.

The system is supplemented by a heads-up display, providing the driver with information pertaining to the race, including the positions of other drivers and their vehicle info, flag and caution data, or the locations of accidents and debris.

Driver will also be monitored more thoroughly with real-time biotelemetry, allowing hydration and energy levels to be registered. Racing overalls worn will also be made out of smart fabrics with inbuilt bio-sensors, allowing medical teams to quickly assess any injuries suffered as a result of an accident.

A real-time performance monitor keeps track of the driver’s movements and fatigue levels, and adjusts the car’s setting to compensate for any shortcomings. Through this monitoring system, audiences will also get to see the different driving styles between drivers through this as well via a first-person view.

For something a little more hands-off, the MP4-X could be operated without physical touch controls whatsoever. McLaren’s vehicle systems include a cognitive human-machine interface that uses gesture control and brain synaptic control. Simply use visual gestures, holographic instrument panels, or even think it, and the car will execute a move.


The idea behind using brain signals to control a car comes from McLaren Applied Technologies, the division that applies McLaren’s Formula One research and development to other fields, including the treatment of neurological diseases such as ALS.

As for the powertrain, there isn’t a whole lot to go on. McLaren states that the continued development of internal combustion engines like that on its P1 hypercar and in Formula E, could yield more efficiently packaged hybrid power units.

Electrification is still integral in the futuristic Formula One racer’s powertrain. Here, “thin batteries” are fully integrated into the car’s crash structure, storing energy from the hybrid power unit and solar panels located on the skin of the car. The crash structure is also capable of retaining its shape and properties after a crash, according to McLaren.

What do you think of McLaren’s out-of-this-world reimagining of a Formula One racer? Red Bull also has a sci-fi racer of their own in the form of the X2014 concept. Which would you rather have?