RaceFans image: How 2021 F1 wheel rim lights could look

Wheel rim lights planned for 2021 F1 season

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 cars could display information to fans on their bodywork and even wheel rims in 2021.

Draft regulations for the 2021 F1 season seen by RaceFans specify six display panels which cars must be fitted with. Two of these will be on the bodywork either side of the car. The other four will be rotating LED display panels fitted to wheel rims.

The rendering above shows how the wheel rim lights could look on an F1 car running the 18-inch wheels which are due for introduction at the same time.

The purpose of the display panels will be to give information to spectators. This could include what position they are in or how may pit stops they have made.

In 2014 Force India, now Racing Point, tested a visual display called the ‘Info Wing’ mounted to its onboard camera. It was designed to show a driver’s position to fans, but was never introduced.

IndyCar tested wheel rim display lights in 2015. However they were never raced and the company which produced the test versions later closed. The championship has also used display panels on its cars but removed them three races ago following problems with the devices.

Simpler display lights are also used in other series, such as the World Endurance Championship, to indicate which position or class a car is running in.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 88 comments on “Wheel rim lights planned for 2021 F1 season”

      1. Yes, F1 appears to becoming “gimmick center”, this is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor racing and they come up with this, no offence to our American fans but this is typical Hollywood glitz, something that is not needed in F1, it may be a good idea and work well in endurance racing where the cars are actually circulating at night and it can be used by the fans to identify cars in the dark ….. but not in F1 please.

        1. What about lights linked to tyre age and compound

          1. add some neon, bean can exhausts, and maybe some low-rider bounce for the drivers parade! :-D

          2. that’s what i instantly thought too

          3. altough nitro systems would be more amazing :)
            btw i loved some NFS sequels, very first ones, and Underground 1 very much for the atmosphere
            was very good by that time. the UG2 sadly felt plastic. and it looked like the UG1 physics is not fps independent, became damn fast on a bit better pc, what is quite much of a design flaw
            since i tried some real simulations, its very likely i just could not enjoy many of these titles

          4. and how about this?

            1. i tried to link the nose led from Knight Rider. i wont omit those :)
              but link or picture just not shown up

      2. 100% Aggree. There are so many pretty additions from Liberty. They make it so American that I can’t watch it anymore. There are so many things displaying on screen (some are OK, most are pointless distraction) next to standings, in the bottom and that annoying ‘whooosh’ sound. Now I can see ads on wheels and bodywork. Do we need more information? No one overtakes anyone. Nothing changes so why give you more info?

    1. Haters gonna hate :)

    2. No, dear lord no.

      I watch a lot of Indycar and I don’t even refer to the info panels they have on the cars in that series. This is completely unnecessary and looks so tacky. It has no place in F1.

      1. I completely disagree here regarding the Indycar panels. At it’s heart, motor racing involves a race and the panels are so simple and useful at helping communicate the order of the competitors within the race.

        I think the wheel lights are a gimmick though. They are probably too low down for fans at the circuit to see.

    3. It will live up sho

    4. Sorry for the typo error.
      I was going to say that it will live up shorter than the LED shoes trend in the 90s.

      1. I actually thought it was a pretty funny reference to F1’s stated mission to liven up the show, but stated in sort of UK garage/grime style.

        1. @tifoso1989 I thought you were trying to say, ‘It will liven up the show’!

        2. @dmw, @shimks
          The thing is we cannot cancel comments here in RaceFans :)

      1. May as well chrome the wheels, use underbody neon lights to illuminate the cars and make the DRS flap activate from a keyfob.

        Which country will be first to host an F1 round in a large McDonalds car park?

        1. Now you’re talking, and this is in line with Colin Chapman’s design ethos “advancement through lightness” :op

        2. Which country will be first to host an F1 round in a large McDonalds car park?

          Been there done that!
          Caesars Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas 1981 – 1984

    5. Well, it might be tacky. But would it actually be of much use to the spectator?
      I find info panels enormously useful when watching a WEC race – particularly at night when the coloured headlights really help – when it’s not always easy to distinguish shapes and thence classes of cars.
      Most F1 races run in the daytime and those that aren’t are extremely well floodlit, so would the panels actually be visible? Most F1 races are relatively short and the number of cars going one or more laps down on the leaders is also relatively small. This season, info panels would have help show that Gasly was a lap behind his teammate, but I think would have been obvious to anyone apart from the most naiive observer.
      Would it help the TV audience distinguish what was happening on screen while the commentator was blathering on about something else? Yes possibly, but only to the non-expert viewer.
      Is this part of ‘dumbing down’?

      1. I’ve just had a horrid thought; are the wheel rim lights intended for advertising opportunities?

        1. That would be very sad and unfortunate. I really hope that will not be the case.

      2. The LED panels are visible at daytime too. I find them immensely useful at all times in IMSA and WEC, with their massive spread of cars. Their use in F1 is questionable, but it would be a nice-to-have, but not a must-have. The wheel rim lights are gimmicky IMO, and probably add nothing to the information that you would get from the LED panels on the side like in WEC cars.

    6. I see so much Need for Speed Underground 2 in this.

      Do you guys remember when tuner cars had Neons? Something that died out about 20 years ago. Now making a comeback in F1?

      Out of all the things that could be brought back from the pits of History… this is not one of them.

      1. Yes! F1 needs Neon underbody lights ASAP!

        1. And big shiny “fart-can” exhaust extensions.

          1. Also furry steering wheel and rabbit’s feet hung to the mirrors.

            1. not forgetting the wood beads for the seat obviously.

    7. F1 has problems. Motorsport audiences shrinking, advertising revenue shrinking, spiraling costs, dysfunctional governance, fragile aerodynamics, eventual retirement of stars like Hamilton and Vettel, and reconning with climate change.

      Clearly it needs spinning wheel covers and electroluminescence paint.

      1. Seriously though, one simple visual change: put helmet colors on the Halo so I can tell which Ferrari is in front. The numbers are useless in at least half the shots. That’s it.

        1. Agree with this – the halo blocks an easy way to identify a driver at a glance, without having to wait for the car to pass the camera and be able to catch the number on the side. Painting the halos different colours would solve this at minimal cost.

          I don’t need graphics on the car to tell me what position it’s in within the race. That’s shown on the side of the TV screen. The TV director prefers face-on shots of cars anyway, so we only see the wheel just as the car turns into a corner, as the TV director cuts to another shot ….

          1. exactly. already (way) too many graphics on the screen already.

        2. The Ferrari in front is Leclerc ;-)

    8. *facepalm*

      And then they should introduce WEC-style penalties mandating that every “display” must be working all the time.
      So, if you are comfortably running P1, but then this atrocity dies on your car – you either have to retire or replace the part during the lengthy pitstop.

      What a great way to randomize results!
      *facepalm*

    9. I really like it. Very cool and modern.

    10. Seems controversial but… I like it.

      Of course should not show ads, of course should be able to fail without penalties. You guys are looking at the worst case scenarios too much: F1 already fixed the bad things they tried to introduce in the past (big Heineken stars to name one) while retaining the good ones (the virtualized panels). That’s why I’m confident.

      Also, the available info to the spectators are never enough when following a race. Hardcore fans need more than a single screen precisely for that reason. If we can increase the information density, I’m all for it.

      And finally, we need to advance and move to the future of F1. I too love the sound of V12-10-8, I too remember how difficult it was when drivers used stick shift but people, those days are gone.

      1. MY GOD! An intelligent post devoid of any nostalgic old ideas!

    11. No, please, no!

      We already have Indy for that. Do It there, install A/C in ALL cars, GPS displays so the driver cannot get lost.

      Add a coffe cup holder and a mandatory stop for Donuts (the food, not the 360° spin).

      Come on, with só much technology involved, we Go back to babysitting the viewers that don’t have a clue by giving them info they don’t care about?

      I guess that where the money is…And I am just a purist.

      I will miss pure sports F1.

      1. I think you’re making a bit of a leap.

        Not sure how displaying the position is not “pure sports”.

        Should they get rid everything digital and have people adjust the positions manually on the tower? Get rid of stopwatches! You should be counting! That’s “pure sports”.

        Let’s just get rid of all the technology altogether, hey? Cars included. The drivers should race on bare feet!

        “Pure sports” 🙄

    12. Flamethrowers, thats what we need, and maybe some unicorns, not too many though, about twenty should do it and reverse grids and a catchphrase, something snappy.

      1. and a dance routine, and Maldonado, and a 10hp ‘super boost’ for any contact, and red shells and banana skins.

        1. They could just go full “Running Man” with it. Get Toto to do some voiceovers.

    13. One wonders where this sort of thing gets thought up.

      Has someone that makes these panels lobbied Liberty successfully to push their product on to cars as a “standard part” ?
      Is someone at Liberty making money form this?
      If we’re trying to reduce weight why are we adding more superfluous parts?

      My fear is that sensible change will not get through whilst these stupid gimmicks will for 2021and beyond. I’m looking forward to Dieters article on the technical regulations where hopefully we’ll see some substance.

      1. Dross complete Dross. You can see that Liberty Media are American.

    14. YES!!!!
      One more step towards F1’s inevitable Wipeout future!
      First, lights all over the cars. Then, lights all over the tracks, including weapon and boost pads. Finally, new spec anti-grav engines!
      DO IT!!!!

      PS: Technically, the first step was changing the logo, now that I think about it.

    15. Wow fantastic idea, can’t wait till they can start doing tricks like Lowriders. You know what lets scrap all of this racing around a circuit stuff and introduce best pimped out car.

    16. Yes FIA! Also, please make sure you mandate these awful looking atrocities to be located on the rims of the wheels, that way they will be neatly blocked by the planned wheel covers!

      With that said, I honestly thing something like this on the rear wing endplates or both sides of the sharkfins would work great, but it would have to be made sure that it is much higher resolution and also visible in daylight

      1. Hahahaha someone forgot to consider the covered wheels. Whoops!

        I like your end plate idea; seems logical too. I wonder which tech would the lightest and brightest? OLED?

    17. Such an awful, tacky, gimmicky idea that should have been immediately shot down. I swear they’re trying to make F1 look and feel as much like a video game as possible. Perhaps F1 has someone from Codemasters on the board of directors now.

    18. This is way more complicated than it needs to be. The WEC system with 3 lights works great (1 light for the leader, 2 lights for 2nd place, 3 lights for 3rd). It takes 2 seconds to explain to a novice fan and F1 wouldn’t even have to bother with different colors for different classes. Not really important for the TV crowd, but it helps when you at a race live.

      1. How is this complicated? Doing this has been something 7-8 years old novice solders could build as a kit with an LED strip and a motor for spinning up the strip for YEARS.

        Yes, the quickly varying wheel rotation speed, and having a system for changing the display remotely will make a a tiny bit more complicated, but it will still be one of the simplest devices on the vehicle.

    19. So, the solution for PU sound is new subwoofers? tum tum tum

    20. If it helps the crowd at the track to understand things, I’m all for it. Personally, these kind of small info lights tend to distract my viewing on the TV, as I try to figure out what the screens/lights are showing instead of what’s actually going on.

    21. This thing will be as readable as spotting a black cat in a coal mine.

    22. Oh no.

      Please Liberty, stop with the gimmicks.

    23. And coloured smoke jets from the diffuser 😂

      1. Glowing eye brows for the helmets.

        1. Oil dump to make the car behind spin.

    24. I really have no issue with this. I didn’t need these lights to figure things out, but if it helps some people then I don’t see the harm. I do wonder if younger kids might find them really cool. They do want kids getting back to hanging posters of F1 cars on their bedroom walls and becoming life-long fans.

      For me it is plenty enough that they are tackling all the big issues all at once, which is a daunting task, and one that is coming together, so these lights are just a small frill that may or may not happen, and they don’t bother me one bit.

      1. Just like my thoughts. I think Liberty needs to get the important bits right. After that add the LEDs, Ferris wheels, exhausts that fire candies and flames. You see my point. First the things that need to be fixed and then add the “bedroom poster” element.

    25. Add the lights, then set the cars up to drift around the corners. Ugh…

    26. Ah, the pinnacle of LED lighting.

    27. I get how some manner of display on the car might be of interest to trackside viewers, they don’t have the wealth of information TV viewers get via overlays, timing columns, etc.

      I’m not sure putting this on the wheel rims is the best solution, though, since the wheels will be obscured as long as any part of another car is alongside, not to mention the inherent vibrations and movement that’ll make a clear display a challenge. Maybe a panel beside the airbox would be a better position, I recall this being tested. It would also simplify wiring, since we’ve already got the camera atop the airbox.

      1. @phylyp I think fans trackside have far more information now than they ever have before with more big-screens showing more information as well as the available of mobile app’s to give things like timing, tracking & other commentary/updates.

        I can remember standing trackside in the 60s/70s/80s with nothing but the track PA providing information of what was going on & we all seemed to be able to follow what was going on just fine. And before the advent of the VCR it wasn’t as if we were able to go home & re-watch it either unless the race broadcast was repeated in some way.

        I attended the Indycar race at COTA earlier this year & found the LED lights they ran to be difficult to see as cars whizzed by at speed & when I could see them at slower speed parts of the track I wouldn’t say they really added anything as race positions were easy to see on the big screens & regularly updated over the PA so I wouldn’t say they were really that needed.

        1. @roger-ayles – thank you for your comment, particularly since you’ve seem the lights in IndyCar. It’s interesting that the light panels are hard to read when the cars are at speed, since in many circuits the largest stands are on the start-finish straight!

          1. @phylyp @roger-ayles I think the IndyCar panels are more helpful for displaying positions on ovals, when you have a car in your sightline for longer, and when the running order can get very mixed up with backmarkers.

            Having said that, I have found the panels to be very useful when attending road and street courses too for the ability to show when drivers are on push-to-pass.

            I think having information visible on all four tyres opens up lots of interesting possibilities. They could display colors related to tyre temperature, so you could see which drivers are abusing their tyres and which ones are managing them. You could see the tyres heat up in long sweeping bends. You could watch drivers fight to bring them up to temperature when they come out of the pits (when blankets are banned, touch wood).

            Flashing a “HAMMER TIME” message like those awful greenscreened graphics on the world feed would be quite tacky indeed, but if they can show relevant information to fans and look good in the process, I’m all for it.

      2. @phylyp It’s not like cars are alongside each other much of the time. The start and overtake attempts (which will of course hopefully be more frequent, but still) is a tiny fraction of the race for each car, and I don’t really see the view of the rims being blocked at any other time.

    28. in the name of all that is racing
      just no

    29. Fun hacking opportunity

    30. F1: Pimp My Ride. We just need X-hibit to do the grid walk and it’ll bring in a whole new audience!

    31. All they *REALLY* need are the driver numbers displayed in a *LARGE* easy to read format, visible from every angle of the car, on TV and live at the track, so that first those new to F1 can easily tell the teammates apart.

      1. @partofthepuzzle – while we’re at it, instead of a 2-digit display, why not make it a 3-character display, and show the driver abbreviation instead? Easier to decipher “GIO” is Antonio, than see “99”, and work out who it is (either directly, in the case of popular drivers, or indirectly by elimination).

        As long as the display is not there continually.

        @phil-f1-21 – not continually? Please don’t give them ideas, they’ll stick advertising in there periodically :)

        1. Having the driver name abbreviation is a fine idea.

    32. I think the wheel rim lights is a pretty tacky idea to be honest. Cut the Hollywood glitz about everything. What is it with Americans (not all I’m sure).

      As the comment above says I do think driver numbers should be displayed much more prominently. At the last GP I attended, I was really stuck by how small the numbers are. It sometimes made it difficult to tell team mates apart.

      I don’t really have a major problem with some small display on the side of the cars indicating what position the car is in. As long as the display is not there continually.

    33. I can only assume they think the new regulations will mix the grid up so much that we spectators will need to be told who is P1 because it could be a bright pink racing point and our minds can’t cope with that.

    34. As long as “fans” continue to say F1 should provide a “spectacle”, we’ll continue to see ideas like this that do little to nothing to actually improve the racing.

    35. I had to stop reading and check the calendar for a moment…nope, it’s not April Fools Day… Maybe it’s a hangover from the Silly Season… Maybe it’s some twit at Liberty blowing the cobwebs out of his little mind… Perhaps if I shut my eyes tightly the bad images will go away…

    36. Ummm … uhhhh … I uhhh … hmmmm … ya … for sure …

    37. So many comments here remind me of this: https://youtu.be/IAJwS9dFj1o?t=88

    38. Cristiano Ferreira
      5th September 2019, 7:21

      F1 GANGSTA STYLE!

      Are the drivers allowed to do some drive-by in the races to take out the opposition?

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