Formula One is the pinnacle of motor sports, ranking along with the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup as one of the world's top three sporting events. F1 championship races are held at racetracks around the world and are broadcast on TV nearly everywhere. Each race weekend, the TV coverage attracts a total of around 350 million viewers. The 2008 season has 18 races in the championship series, with 22 drivers and 11 teams competing for the championships. F1 cars brings together the ultimate in new technology, and the competition between them is highly compelling for viewers.

"FORMULA ONE The Great Design race" is the Japan exhibition in the international tour series of the Design Museum, London's 2006 exhibition on the theme of design in F1. In the spectacular and exacting world of F1, technology is always pushing the envelope and attracting attention, but design plays an equally important role, with design strength being indispensable if the technology is to successfully meet the requirement for speed. Winning is the only objective, as teams face cutthroat competition to design and set up more than 10,000 individual components for each car.

view of the exhibition view of the exhibition British Grand Prix, 1950
view of the exhibition
© Antti Hahl
view of the exhibition
© Richard Learoyd
British Grand Prix, 1950
© LAT Photograhic
Italian Grand Prix, 1963 Monaco Grand Prix, 1967 British Grand Prix, 1991
Italian Grand Prix, 1963
© LAT Photographic
Monaco Grand Prix, 1967
© LAT Photographic
British Grand Prix, 1991
© LAT Photographic

This exhibition examines the role played by design in the process of Formula One's development. As context, it presents definitive examples of actual F1 cars from each of the periods of F1's history, from the first Grand Prix of 1950 to the present day. These begin with the iconic Cooper T51 from the dawn of F1, and include Brabham and Lotus cars from the 1960s and 1970s. There is also the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 in which the unparalleled Ayrton Senna displayed such overwhelming ability in winning his first Championship title in 1988. These historic F1 cars can be seen at close quarters, and are accompanied with explanations of what made each machine so successful.

In the world of Formula One, teams are competing fiercely for the championships, and the flamboyant public side is paired with intensive secrecy behind the scenes. Access to backstage areas is firmly restricted to only a very limited set of people. Consequently, this exhibition is particularly interesting for its insight into the backstage processes of F1, including video of areas that cannot usually be seen and an exhibit of a machine deconstructed into its component parts. One of the reasons that F1 is so interesting and so exciting is its intimate link to technology and design. Here is an opportunity to discover more about the ultimate in design in a world where superb design is a prerequisite for victory.