Geneva, 2020 – Sir Jackie Stewart has spent all of his life pushing the boundaries, whether taking the chequered flag in Formula 1 ®, revolutionising driver safety or running his own Grand Prix-winning race team. The Flying Scot has always been prepared to go beyond the perceived limits of achievement, an attribute perfectly aligned with motor sport’s demands for constant development and original thinking.
This innovative spirit and a commitment to excellence, shared by Rolex and motor sport, has led to many significant long-term partnerships.
Sir Jackie, a three-time FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion and a Rolex Testimonee for more than 50 years, describes the synergies between Rolex and motor racing: “The levels of precision, engineering and innovation upheld by the top echelons of motor sport, and particularly Formula 1, are very similar to those set by Rolex. They are leaders in their respective fields and have made a habit of turning unconventional thinking into the norm, resulting in many pioneering moments in their histories.”
Rolex’s enduring relationship with motor racing dates back to the 1930s when Sir Malcolm Campbell set multiple World Land Speed Records wearing an Oyster at the wheel of his car Bluebird. To this day, the Swiss watchmaker identifies with motor sport’s advanced technologies, which are conceptualised and tested on the racetrack, before being adapted for the benefit of the wider community. Rolex’s drive to innovate and improve is at the heart of its partnerships with Formula 1®, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and legendary racing drivers, as well as in its support for events that celebrate the sport’s influence on the automobile, such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® and the Goodwood Revival.
GROUNDBREAKING TECHNOLOGY IN FORMULA 1 ®
Since 1950, Formula 1®, the pinnacle of motor sport, has developed state-of-the-art technology and continuously redefined what is possible for both human and machine. In 2013, Rolex formed a long-term relationship with Formula 1® as a Global Partner and the Official Timepiece, recognising the sport’s prestigious history of advanced and sustainable technologies. Rolex Testimonee and nine-time Formula 1® race winner Mark Webber says: “Formula 1 is the ultimate engineering race. It is all about performance and cutting-edge innovations – every single detail matters. It’s incredible to look back at the journey that the sport has taken and how it continues to set the very highest standards.”
In 2014, Formula 1® and the governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), introduced the era-defining 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 hybrid power unit, promoting efficiency, speed and energy recovery. Six seasons later, in a world increasingly focused on sustainability, Formula 1® cars run at greater speeds and produce more power yet use only half the amount of fuel, emphasis ing the sport’s ability to quickly adapt and drive change.
THE SHARING OF EXPERTISE IN FORMULA 1 ®
Since the inception of the automobile in the late 19th century, motor sport has played a vital role in accelerating technical progress and transferring know-how from the racetrack to road cars. The legacy of Formula 1® and its constant quest for performance is felt around the world thanks to its competitive nature and the sharing of expertise. Ross Brawn, one of motor racing’s most successful team principals and engineers, and now Managing Director of Motor Sports at Formula 1®, highlights the sport’s pivotal role: “Formula 1 has pioneered numerous technologies and innovations that have positively contributed to the automotive industry and other areas of advanced technology; the progress led by Formula 1 teams has benefitted millions of cars on the road today.”
Reflecting on how these innovations transfer to the rest of society, Rolex Testimonee and 2016 FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion Nico Rosberg says:
“Formula 1 has always had a large impact on the road car and continues to do so. In particular for the manufacturer teams, where we see their materials, technology and engines being implemented in the wider automotive industry. Mercedes, for instance, has transferred the Formula 1 team’s hybrid power unit to its road car.”
Webber adds: “The DNA of our cars has come from motor sport; it continues to develop technology that filters into mass market products – for example, brake innovations, such as the anti-lock braking system (ABS), as well as safety features on cars, steering wheel layouts and tyre technology. Every day, people are much safer driving their cars because of motor sport.”
This ability to share information also transcends the automotive industry, as motor sport often plays a key role in contributing to the fields of science and medicine.
This year, Formula 1® teams have adapted their technical expertise to make valuable contributions to the global coronavirus response, working to develop breathing aids for patients and protective equipment for medical staff and healthcare workers.
TESTING IN EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS
Motor sport has become the laboratory for technologies in the automotive industry, and beyond. For nearly 100 years, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has attracted leading manufacturers to test themselves against each other in the world’s oldest and greatest endurance race, trialling advanced engineering and showcasing expertise in a demanding environment. As a long-term partner of the 24-hour epic since 2001, and of North America’s pre-eminent sportscar race, the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, since 1992, Rolex supports the ongoing commitment to future innovations.
Rolex Testimonee and record nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tom Kristensen, contested the race on 18 occasions and witnessed the evolution of the sportscar. He says:
“Naturally, Le Mans has greatly influenced the automotive industry throughout the race’s history. To have a chance of completing and therefore being successful at Le Mans, takes engineering excellence, durability and precision, as the competitive environment pushes manufacturers to attempt to outperform each other. Success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the best stamp of approval that one can receive in the road car industry.”
The competitive demands placed on teams are a key driving force for the rapid rate of technological development throughout motor sport. Sir Jackie highlights this:
“Competition is a tremendous motivator, and Formula 1 has it in abundance – the sport innovates at an incredible rate, faster than any other activity I know.” Drawing parallels between Rolex and the world of motor racing, he adds: “Think about the amount of testing and simulation that is carried out by a Formula 1 team before a component ever makes it to the track – and Rolex is the same; the brand’s watches have been proven in the harshest environments around the world.”
THE SHARED PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Rolex has developed many major advancements that have influenced cultural trends, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch. In the same way, motor sport continues to progress technologies that benefit society. Looking to the future, Brawn reflects on the ongoing global role and responsibility of Formula 1®: “We believe that the sport can continue to be a pioneer for the automotive industry and advanced technology, by leveraging the immense talent, passion and drive for innovation held by all members of the community.”
Sir Jackie concludes: “The road cars that appear in all corners of the globe have had their technology accelerated considerably by the pace of change demanded by the world of motor sport. The innovations that are proven by motor racing today, will appear in the road cars of tomorrow. This constant transfer of know-how from the sport to the automotive industry is exceptional.”
For generations, Rolex and motor sport have continued to pioneer innovation in their respective industries. It is in this endless pursuit of excellence, through the sharing of knowledge and robust testing, that these technologies go on to impact everyday lives around the world.