Infiniti names F1 champ Sebastian Vettel ‘Director of Performance,’ hotter cars to follow?

Infiniti names F1 champ Sebastian Vettel Director of PerformanceWho wants their next car tuned by a winning racing driver?

Infiniti recently named three-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel its Director of Performance. That’s an impressive-sounding title, but what effect will Vettel have on the Japanese luxury brand’s products?

Since Infiniti is the title sponsor of Vettel’s team, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, the pairing must have seemed natural from a public relations perspective.

Renault, owner of Infiniti parent Nissan, supplies the team’s engines, so Infiniti can claim a very tenuous connection to F1.

Infiniti says Vettel, the youngest World Champion in F1 history, has already begun working his magic. He was involved in the development of the Q50, testing cars at the Nürburgring and Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Engineers sought Vettel’s “world-class chassis dynamics, performance and handling feedback,” according to an Infiniti press release.

So, as much as we’d love to see a version of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) hybrid drive from Vettel’s Infiniti Red Bull Racing F1 cars on the next M Hybrid, the champion’s input will probably be limited to chassis tuning, at least for now.

Switching to pipe dream mode: what would happen if Vettel also got to change some hardware?

Vettel previously collaborated with Infiniti on a special edition FX50. Its 5.0-liter V8 was bumped up to 414 horsepower (compared to the stock FX’s 390 hp), courtesy of new intake and exhaust systems and revised ECU programming. Taller gearing for the seven-speed automatic transmission helped it reach 186 mph.

The Red Bull Racing engineers also designed a functional carbon fiber front splitter and roof spoiler for the FX. If they were willing to do it once, why not cook up some carbon fiber bits for other Infinitis?

Tapping racing expertise to shape a car’s body isn’t unheard of; just look at the many changes Chevrolet has made to the Corvette over the years at the behest of its race team. With access to one of the winningest F1 teams around, what’s to stop Infiniti from doing the same?

If Infiniti wants to take its relationship with Vettel beyond the PR realm, it could enjoy what business types call “synergy,” with the Red Bull team providing the tech and Vettel providing the driving experience. It works pretty well for Ferrari and its F1 drivers.

Infinitis with race-proven aerodynamics and chassis tuned by Vettel now inhabit our wildest dreams, but don’t expect any other major changes.

For reasons of cost, Infinitis will continue to share engines, etc. with Nissan, and Nissan has its own race engineers at Nismo. Then there’s the Q50’s steer-by-wire system, which is completely unrelated to anything in F1, or anything else, making the Red Bull crew’s experience a little difficult to apply.

Time will tell if Vettel’s presence is just for show – or if his influence will truly show up in the cars we drive.

Cars

Quick! Someone petition Ferrari to make this luscious tribute to the F40

Ferrari looks toward the future as it designs hypercars like the LaFerrari. Designer Samir Sadikhov turned his eye toward the past to create a modern interpretation of the 1987 F40 without venturing into full retro territory.
Cars

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Cars

Where are you going this weekend? These 5 off-road vehicles say 'anywhere'

The body-on-frame SUV is going extinct, but there are still several options for buyers looking to skip the asphalt. To help you sort the good from the bad, we've rounded up the best off-roaders currently available.
Cars

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.
Cars

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.
Cars

Many adults believe fully self-driving cars are already traversing U.S. highways

The American Automobile Association tested cars with features such as lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control and found them lacking in real-world conditions. Forty percent of surveyed U.S. adults think self-driving cars exist now.
Cars

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Waymo’s driverless cars, ‘Fallout 76’ tips, and Racella

In today's episode of DT Daily, we discuss Waymo's foray into the ridesharing sector, along with various tips for making the most of the recently launched Fallout 76. We also sit down with singer Racella to chat about her new EP, Waves.
Cars

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.
Cars

Jeep’s outdoorsy Gladiator pickup truck bares it all ahead of schedule

Jeep will introduce the long-promised Wrangler-based pickup truck at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. Named Gladiator, the model was designed to conquer the great outdoors, not for the construction site.
Cars

The hamster-friendly 2020 Kia Soul will rock out at the Los Angeles Auto Show

Kia has released a teaser image to preview the next Soul. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2020 Soul will keep the outgoing model's boxy proportions but it will wear a sharper design.
Cars

2020 Toyota Corolla sedan aims to offer sharper handling, better tech

The 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan gets the same upgrades as the recently-introduced Corolla hatchback, including a firmer foundation, new engine, and more tech features. Will that be enough to keep the long-lived Corolla nameplate relevant?
Cars

Startup Rivian exits stealth mode with a bold promise to electrify off-roaders

Electric car startup Rivian has finally turned off stealth mode and provided details about what it's been working on since 2009. It will build battery-powered off-roaders instead of taking on Tesla and others in the luxury EV segment.