F1 sees in-car video screens as a replacement for mirrors, but faces important hurdles

As car designers are always concerned that mirrors disturb the airflow over the car as little as possible, the FIA ​​has long had to work hard to enforce their size and position for safety reasons.

But for a high-tech series like Formula 1, it seems out of place that it still relies on an old concept of fixed mirrors that has been ubiquitous in cars since their first races.

In an era of precise GPS, on-board cameras and high-speed digital processing, it seems logical for Formula 1 to step up and be up to speed.

This could mean that Formula 1 cars will have to be fitted with rear-facing cameras, which can show what’s going on behind them on a small screen in the cockpit.

The idea of ​​having rear-facing cameras and cockpit screens is nothing new in Formula 1 and there were discussions between drivers and the FIA ​​on the subject a few years ago.

Carlos Sainz said back in 2018: “We proposed having cameras instead of a simple mirror, which they have in other categories and I think the FIA ​​will look at that. But that is not clear yet.

“It comes from the riders, we know other categories of riders have it. I think they have it in the WEC. That doesn’t mean it’s coming, but it could be an option.”

Digital rearview mirror with AMOLED technology in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro

Photo: Audi Motorsport Communication

Indeed, digital cockpit screens are regularly used in other categories and made their debut in sports cars back in 2012 when Audi used them on its R18 at Le Mans.

Nowadays they are commonplace in the WEC and also used in other categories like DTM.

But while the FIA ​​is aware of how well they’re working elsewhere, there are still some major hurdles before such in-car screens can make the transition to F1. Nikolas Tombazis, FIA technical director for single-seaters, has outlined three critical issues that need to be overcome before screens for Formula 1 can be considered.

When asked about Autosport’s technology, he said: “We’ve thought about it. It has three problems that need to be solved.

“For one thing, there is not much room in the cockpit for a TV screen. Secondly, it is sometimes used in closed cockpit cars, where it is quite dark. You can see if you put your phone in sunlight, and you don’t want drivers squinting to see if they can see anything. So there is.

“Then the third thing is that there comes a time when you need to adjust your focus from one distance to another, which also worries us a bit and we need to consider carefully.

“At the speeds you’re going, you don’t have to lose that half-tenth of a second to adjust, so that’s another topic.

“We’re looking at that and maybe other possibilities, like an audio signal or whatever, but it’s a work in progress.”

Robert Kubica, Orlen Team ART, BMW M4 DTM, as seen from the board

Robert Kubica, Orlen Team ART, BMW M4 DTM, as seen from the board

Photo: ITR eV

With the prospect of using digital screens in F1 still a long way off, rear vision will remain entirely dependent on mirrors in the medium term.

That’s why the FIA ​​is always careful to ensure car design doesn’t impede what drivers can see behind them – and regulatory intervention like 2023 will require.

What changes with the F1 mirrors for 2023

Matt Somerfield

Mercedes W13 2023 Darken mirrors

Mercedes W13 2023 Darken mirrors

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

To help drivers see more in their mirrors, the FIA ​​has decided to increase mirror surface area for 2023.

The mirror surface will be wider by 50mm, which means the mirror body needs to be wider, and the position of the struts may also need to be changed.

Teams had the opportunity to test a few solutions throughout the season to see what difference they could make for drivers.

Red Bull was the first to test a larger mirror in Hungary, followed by Mercedes in Belgium and a group test with all teams at the Dutch Grand Prix.

An example of the wider mirror can be seen below as Aston Martin lengthened their mirror for testing.

It also saw this as an opportunity to not only lengthen the surfaces that wrap around the main body, but to add an additional vertical fin, giving the structure not only additional rigidity but another medium for flow redirection.

Aston Martin AMR 22 2023 mirror

Aston Martin AMR 22 2023 mirror

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Tombazis has explained that the increased dimensions for 2023 are primarily aimed at helping drivers who didn’t like having curved mirrors in the housings.

“We opted for a slightly larger mirror,” he said. “I think it went from 150mm to 200mm and we’ve seen that improve the angled view.

“For some drivers it doesn’t make a difference because some drivers already have quite curved mirrors. Some other drivers don’t like highly curved mirrors because they distort their vision too much. So it’s all personal.

“I think what we’ve changed will improve visibility for drivers who couldn’t have highly curved mirrors.”

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