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Are F1 Cars Painted? (How They Paint Them)

The Formula 1 grid is made up of ten different teams. Each of these teams has a unique livery with different colors, logos, and sponsors. You may be wondering how these liveries always look so perfect, and how F1 cars are painted.

F1 cars are painted using specially formulated paint, weighing between 1.5-6 kg in total. The paint is applied to each part of the car before stickers are applied on top of the paint. Paint is important in Formula 1, as it needs to be lightweight and have a smooth surface to maximize performance.

The paint on the body of a Formula 1 car might seem insignificant, however, it is an extremely important part of the car. Teams use paint rather than wrapping their cars. There are some very important reasons for this which we’ll explore further below.

Are F1 Cars Painted Or Wrapped?

F1 cars are painted rather than wrapped. While wrapping a car might be the easier and more lightweight solution, it’s not necessarily better for Formula 1. In other forms of motorsport, such as NASCAR, we often see cars that have been wrapped rather than painted.

However, in Formula 1, none of the teams use wrapping on their cars, and there’s a good reason why that is the case. Firstly, a wrap can be damaged more easily than paint. Since Formula 1 cars travel at high speeds and are prone to encountering debris while they’re out on track, it can be easy for the wrap to be damaged, which of course is not great for TV and brand image.

Teams also prefer to use paint rather than wrapping their Formula 1 cars as the parts of a Formula 1 car are extremely intricate. Elements such as the wings and shape of the body are unique to Formula 1. Wrapping these elements is much more difficult and time-consuming than simply painting them.

We often see wrapping in other forms of motorsport as the cars have more simplistic shapes that are easier to wrap, which means that it can be done quicker and more effectively than painting. Also, in Formula 1, the budget required for paint is relatively low compared to building the car, so saving money through wrapping the car is not necessarily an issue that needs to be addressed.

Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics play a crucial role in Formula 1. These cars rely heavily on aerodynamically efficient parts to maximize their performance out on track. Even the slightest bit of damage to a front wing can cause the car to lose a ton of lap time.

Therefore, if the cars are being wrapped, it needs to be done perfectly. Oftentimes wraps can be done incorrectly, leaving a small area to be uneven or not in the best aerodynamic shape. This would take away from the hard work that the aerodynamicists and engineers have put into designing the car.

This is also the case if the wrap on a Formula 1 car becomes damaged. If the car was to be hit by debris or gravel, the wrap could be torn slightly. Formula 1 cars travel at speeds in excess of 190 miles per hour, and this could potentially cause the small tear to become bigger. Eventually, this could lead to the wrap flapping around in the wind, impacting the aerodynamics of the car.

Why Are F1 Cars Painted?

Formula 1 cars are painted in special liveries in order to differentiate the teams from one another. Each team has their own unique livery, and the liveries can change across different seasons. Some teams may also use special liveries for some races, and we’re seeing this become more frequent.

McLaren ran a special livery in the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, and Red Bull ran a special livery at the Turkish Grand Prix in the same year. Ferrari and Mercedes also often celebrate milestones in their team with special liveries.

Paint is the best option for Formula 1 teams as it can be applied precisely and with different coats. This means that it can be made lighter than the paint you would find on the average road car, and this is incredibly important when it comes to the performance of the car out on track.

Formula 1 teams also use paint in order to smooth out the body panels of the car. Some of the panels, such as the engine cover, are connected to the rest of the car. These connection points can leave small gaps that affect the aerodynamics of the car. Extra layers of paint can be applied to cover these panel gaps and smooth them out.

How Are F1 Cars Painted?

The process of painting Formula 1 cars is very meticulous and precise. Every part of the car needs to be as smooth as possible, and any uneven surface or slight bump in the paint on the body of the car will have an impact on the car’s performance.

Each part of a Formula 1 car is painted individually. The painting is done in a spray-painting booth at the team’s factory, and it is often done with an airbrush. The more intricate parts of the car can sometimes be painted by hand for more precision and to achieve a smoother surface. Teams such as Mercedes and Red Bull may paint their logos on by hand for more precision.

Formula 1 cars are painted with three layers of paint with a coat of primer underneath. At the end of the painting process, lacquer is applied to the paint in order to seal it. Using fewer layers of paint means that there is less weight, which is ultimately key to helping the car go faster.

Are The Sponsors’ Logos Also Painted?

The sponsors’ logos are just as important as the paint on the body of the car. Sponsors are an important part of Formula 1, and without them the sport would not exist. Therefore, it’s crucial that teams fill their car with sponsorship logos and present them in the best possible way.

However, these logos are not painted on the car. These are in fact stickers that are applied to each car a few days before the race weekend starts. The teams will carefully place each sticker on the car in right position. The drivers’ race numbers and names are also done with stickers.

Teams are very careful when applying these stickers as they have to ensure that the surface is as smooth as possible so as to not disrupt the airflow over the car. Stickers are used as they are easy to remove, whereas paint isn’t. It’s also easier and quicker to apply stickers than to paint a logo onto a car.

Why Not Paint The Logos?

As the season progresses teams might bring new sponsors onboard or they might lose sponsors, so having the logos in sticker form makes it much easier to remove them from the car or apply new ones throughout the course of the season.

We often also see young drivers being given a chance of driving a Formula 1 car during first practice on a Friday. The full-time driver will take over in the following session, so applying the drivers’ names and numbers with stickers is the best solution as they can easily be changed within minutes.

On top of that, a driver could be replaced throughout the season, whether it be through injury or poor performance. Having the drivers’ names and numbers painted on the body of the car makes this a difficult situation as they can’t simply be repainted since it would require extra layers of paint, adding more weight to the car.

Are F1 Cars Repainted After Every Race?

F1 cars are repainted every race to allow teams to present their car in the best possible way. It’s not uncommon for a car to be damaged or scratched during a race. However, in the majority of cases, the teams have pre-painted spare parts ready to go.

Oftentimes the teams can’t have their car’s parts sent back to the factory to be repainted in between Grands Prix, especially when they have back-to-back races. Any parts of the car where the paint has not been damaged will be reused – the engine cover for example.

The factory will then send new parts that have already been painted to the next race venue. Older parts are not usually reused, especially if they have been damaged, so there is sometimes no point in sending them back to the factory to be repainted.

How Much Does The Paint Weigh On An F1 Car?

The paint on an F1 car weighs between 1 and 6 kg, or 2-13 lbs. Teams use specially formulated paint that is lighter than the paint you would find on your average road car. In addition, they also use fewer layers of paint on their car to make it as light as possible to maximize the car’s performance.

F1 cars only have about 6 kg of paint applied to them (about 13 lbs) at most, but some sources suggest the number can be as low as 1.5 kg. The average road car has between 2-8 kg of paint depending on the size. The weight of a Formula 1 car is extremely important. It’s estimated that a Formula 1 car loses around three tenths of a second per lap for every 10 kg of extra weight on the car.

Why Do Some Cars Have A Matte Finish?

For many years the Formula 1 world loved the high gloss, shiny finishes that were used on the cars. These gloss finishes are shinier, and they make the cars look good. Recently, however, some Formula 1 teams have been using a matte finish on their cars.

While matte finishes might be more aesthetically pleasing to many people, there’s a more important reason why some teams have switched to this form of paint. Red Bull was one of the first teams to discover this “loophole” in the mid 2010s, as they found that a matte finish was slightly lighter than a gloss finish.

Teams are still on the fence about the benefits of using a matte finish, with Ferrari jumping on the bandwagon in 2019. Mercedes, and some other teams on the grid, are still using gloss finishes on their cars. It’s not clear how much this affects the performance of the cars.

The fact that Mercedes, the 8-time Constructors’ World Champions, did not move to a matte finish and still managed to win title after title shows that the advantage gained from using a matte finish on the cars is likely to be minimal! Plus, as F1 cars must be of a minimum weight, teams can only save so much weight before they legally must add it back on in some weigh.

Are F1 Cars Ever Wrapped?

Formula 1 teams always prefer painting over wrapping their cars. The body and the wings of a Formula 1 car are not wrapped as wrapping can be easily damaged. The intricate aerodynamic parts of the cars are also too difficult to wrap with precision.

However, the logos and driver decals on the cars are not painted on. These are special stickers that are placed on the car by hand, just before the race weekend starts. Having the body of the car painted makes it easier to apply and remove these stickers without damaging the paint of the car.

Removing stickers from a wrap would cause it to tear, meaning the entire car would need to be rewrapped if the team needs to change the drivers’ decals or the sponsors’ logos. Painting the cars is a much better solution, with stickers being used to place the branding on the car.

What Is Flow-Vis Paint On An F1 Car?

During preseason testing and free practice sessions we sometimes see cars with bright yellow paint on. This fluorescent yellow paint is known as “flow-vis” paint, and it serves an extremely important role in Formula 1.

The paint is a special oil-based mixture and is applied to the car right as it leaves the garage so that it can flow across the body of the car. As the car drives around the track the paint will begin to dry. The direction that the paint flows in and the way that it dries on the body of the car gives the teams crucial information.

The way the paint spreads across the car shows how the air flows around the body of the car. Using flow-vis paint, engineers can physically see how the air flows around the car and how the aerodynamics of the car is affecting that airflow.

This information is crucial when it comes to the design of the cars, as it allows the engineers and aerodynamicists to see how well their simulations correspond to what happens on the track. Seeing the airflow allows them to decide whether the air is being directed where they want it to go, and they can then plan any changes they want to make to optimize their car’s aerodynamic package.

Final Thoughts

The paint on a Formula 1 car is a specially formulated, lightweight mix. This needs to be applied to each part of the car individually in such a way that the surface is as smooth as possible. Lightweight paint and a smooth surface allow for better aerodynamics on the car.