Renault’s R.S. 2027 concept is an upsettingly realistic take on the future of F1

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What good is a concept if it’s not a little outrageous?

The auto manufacturers and teams of Formula One pour a lot of money into the sport, so every now and then they like to try and wow everybody with their vision of where F1 is headed. They’re often outlandish, always a bit weird, and I love them.

The latest F1 concept was announced this week at the Shanghai Auto Show, and it comes from Renault. The R.S. 2027 is a gorgeous evolution of the current look of open wheel racing, with wild LED displays that decorate the wheels, four wheel drive and four wheel steering, and a see-through nose that shows off the front suspension.

But the rest of the ideas surrounding the R.S. 2027 presents are actually pretty tame compared to the F1 concepts we’ve seen in the past, and that’s because Renault seems focused on supporting ideas that F1 — and its more liberal new ownership — might actually embrace in the next decade. That’s… boring.

A bulk of what Renault writes about in the R.S. 2027’s press release has to do with improving the fan experience, which is good! But it’s something F1’s new owners — Liberty Media — have already been very vocal about since taking over at the start of this year. In fact, a lot of Renault’s ideas here read like they’re being written to pander to regime put in place by Liberty Media.

To wit: F1’s new director of commercial operations told CNN in February that the sport needs to “be more proactive and a little bit edgier than it has been historically in driving celebrity and athlete personality." Well, Renault suggests using a “transparent cockpit and a transparent helmet that allow the drivers to be seen in the heat of the action.”

F1’s new CEO said he wants the sport’s races to be more like the Super Bowl, turning them into “events that capture a whole city.” Wouldn’t you know it, Renault is suggesting putting on multiple races across a typical F1 weekend.

On the safety side, the R.S. 2027 has a closed cockpit for improved driver safety, which isn’t anywhere near surprising. Safety has come a long way in open cockpit motorsports. But the exposure of the drivers’ heads still presents a huge risk. Which is why F1 and IndyCar are already working on their own solutions to the problem while other disciplines like NHRA drag racing have adopted others. There’s also some autonomous features, but they would activate only if and when an accident occurs.

Lastly, if you’re thinking that an F1 car in 2027 is destined to be fully electric, Renault would like you to think again. The company is proposing that in a decade, its F1 car will simply be a more eco-friendly version (read: a fuel tank half the size) of the current hybrid setup. There would be an all-electric mode, but it would only be used on the pit lane.


Renault
The R.S. 2027 is pretty, but aside from the LEDs, where’s all the fun stuff?

That’s not surprising since Renault already has a venue to promote electric technology. Renault currently holds the team title in Formula E, the all-electric sister series that was started by F1’s governing body in 2014. The company’s involvement in Formula E even shines through in another suggestion made with the R.S. 2027 — that fans should be able to vote to give the drivers a power boost during the race. Sound familiar?

Believe it or not I was happy to see Lynk & Co, a new player in the road car world, show off a realistic concept just two days ago. But that’s because the immediate future of road cars actually impacts my life. I want my motorsports concepts to be bold and beautiful, and I want them to present big, even stupid ideas while they’re at it. If the best Renault’s got is a smaller gas tank, some sharper angles, and a bunch of (admittedly decent) ideas that the sport was already working on, I guess I’ll just wait for the next concept.

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