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How Hot Is An F1 Cockpit? (Temperatures Explained)

To some it may seem that the job of a Formula 1 driver is easy, that they effortlessly cruise their way to the finish line. However, it is anything but simple. What many don’t realize is how uncomfortable the conditions inside the cockpit of an F1 car are and how high those temperatures can be. 

The cockpit of an F1 car can reach up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) in some extreme cases. Drivers must push through these harsh conditions while wearing their thick fireproof race suits and helmet, and with no way to cool down the cockpit. Drivers can lose up to 4 kg through sweat.

Some races are known to be particularly brutal due to the weather conditions, and many drivers struggle when the ambient temperatures begin to rise. Below, we discuss just how hot it gets inside an F1 cockpit, why it’s so hot, and how drivers can withstand these temperatures and stay cool. 

What Temperature Is An F1 Cockpit?

The temperature of an F1 cockpit is generally around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the exact temperature fluctuates depending on factors such as the ambient air temperature, exposure to the sun, humidity, and more. Cloud cover and cooler air temps can keep the car cooler. 

On top of the hot cockpit temperatures, drivers are also required to wear their fireproof underwear and fireproof race suits. These race suits are relatively thick and can keep drivers even warmer inside the already sweltering cockpit of a Formula 1 car.

Rainy weather or cloudy days can result in a much cooler cockpit than on sunny days. However, drivers will never experience a cool or chilly temp inside the car when driving. The cockpit of the car will always be hot, no matter how cold the ambient temperatures are. 

Why Is A Formula 1 Cockpit So Hot?

A Formula 1 cockpit is so hot (up to 60 degrees Celsius) mainly because of how close the cockpit is to the engine and the mechanical components of the car. These parts can reach extreme temperatures that spread to the cockpit. Other contributing factors are the ambient air temperatures and sunlight.

The engine of the car has an optimum operating temperature of between 100 and 120 degrees Celsius (212-248 degrees Fahrenheit). The only thing separating the driver from the hot engine is the fuel tank and the survival cell that the driver is sitting in. This heat naturally transfers into the cockpit, which generates the temperatures we see inside the car.

This is also why the cockpit of the car can be incredibly warm even if the ambient air temperature is cold or if the cars are driving in rainy conditions. No matter the external factors, the engine still maintains a high temperature. However, these conditions would make the cockpit of the car much more manageable for the driver.

Other factors can contribute to the heat inside the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, making it even hotter. If the ambient air temperature is already hot when the race starts at 3pm, then the drivers could experience even higher temperatures inside their cars. The sun can also contribute to heat, as the cars have open cockpits that naturally let sunlight in.

How Do F1 Drivers Stay Cool?

F1 drivers stay cool by drinking fluids while racing and wearing cooling vests before the race. Unfortunately, these methods provide little relief and drivers have no way to remain completely cool throughout the race. Even the water mixture they drink becomes hot, not providing much cooling.

While the drivers are in the car they experience extreme heat. However, there is no way for them to cool down while they are in the car. Unfortunately for the drivers, their comfort is last on the list of priorities when it comes to designing and building a Formula 1 car. The cars are built to save as much weight as possible.

This means that there is no way for the drivers to keep themselves cool using onboard devices such as air conditioning. Instead, drivers are given a drink bottle that has an electric pump. The bottle has a straw that feeds into their helmet, and they can drink a mixture of water and electrolytes at the push of a button.

No Cold Drinks

This drink though does not stay cool during the race. There’s no way to keep the bottle cool, and Jenson Button says that even after a few laps in the Grand Prix the drink is more like hot tea than anything else, which does not help with driver cooling. The only relief from the heat is the wind from the open cockpit, which doesn’t do much if the air temperatures are high.

If the ambient temperatures are high, drivers will often wear cooling vests on the grid before the start of the race. These vests have ice packs and patches of cooling liquid in them, which is stored in a freezer before the race. The vest is not designed to lower the driver’s body temperature, but to help relieve the discomfort of the heat, keeping them cool before they get into the car.

Do F1 Cars Have Air Conditioning?

F1 cars do not have air conditioning. The driver’s comfort is not as important as performance in Formula 1, and instead the focus is on the driver’s safety and the speed of the cars. Air conditioning does not contribute to making the car faster and is therefore left out of the design. 

Formula 1 cars are only built with what they need to perform. Teams will shave as much excess weight off the cars as they can. In 2022, some teams have even begun removing paint from their cars, leaving just exposed carbon fiber. This is done to save as much weight as possible, even if it is only a few grams of weight.

It is estimated that a car will lose three tenths of a second for every 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of weight. On average, air conditioners found in cars can weigh between 27 and 82 kilograms (60-100 lbs). Adding this kind of weight to the car would make it far too heavy.

Additionally, the air conditioning would not work in a Formula 1 cars anyways because the car has an open cockpit. The cool air would simply escape rather than cooling the cockpit down. On top of that, drivers likely wouldn’t be able to feel the cool air with all their safety gear on. 

Do F1 Cars Have Holes For Driver Cooling?

Formula 1 cars do have a small hole at the front of the nose that is supposed to be for driver cooling, but it’s not very effective, and likely primarily serves a small aerodynamic purpose. Creating more holes in the cockpit and bodywork would ruin the aerodynamics of the car and make it slower. 

Creating holes in the bodywork would mean that air is caught inside the cockpit, slowing the car down rather than allowing it to go faster. The goal with a Formula 1 car is to get the air to flow smoothly over the car and for the bodywork to disrupt the airflow as little as possible.

However, because the car does not have an enclosed cockpit, the drivers can feel the wind as the car is moving. Much like putting your hand out of the window while driving, the drivers often experience buffeting, which is when the wind moves their helmets around at high speeds.

This allows some air into the cockpit unlike what we see in IndyCar where the Aeroscreen blocks airflow into the cockpit. Formula 1 drivers might not get a ton of cooling from this flow of air, but it can be beneficial during a race with cooler air temperatures.

Which F1 Race Is The Hottest?

The hottest F1 race is the Singapore Grand Prix. Despite being hosted at night, it is the hottest and most physically demanding race on the calendar. The ambient temperature isn’t too high, but the intense humidity in the country can see cockpits reaching 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

Formula 1 is a global sport that travels all around the world. Moving from venue to venue in different countries and different continents means that the drivers face all kinds of climates, temperatures, and weather. There are many races in exotic countries, but one race is notorious for being the toughest on the calendar.

Drivers have compared the Singapore Grand Prix to working out in a sauna while wearing full safety gear. As if that wasn’t brutal enough, the Singapore Grand Prix is also the longest race on the calendar. It’s the race that is closest to reaching the two-hour time limit every time that the race has been held.

The track itself is unforgiving, with 23 corners wrapped up in the tight and twisty Singapore streets. The circuit has an incredibly high chance of featuring a safety car too, which means that all drivers need to be fully aware of what’s happening at all times.

Hottest F1 Race In History

The hottest F1 race in history was the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005, which recorded an ambient air temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). This was only the second time that the country had hosted a Grand Prix. The Bahrain GP is now held at night time.

Drivers were struggling even before they got into their cars, desperately trying everything to cool themselves down. From cooling vests to soaking towels around their necks, every driver was uncomfortable and trying to keep cool. However, putting on fireproof overalls and getting into the cockpit of a Formula 1 car makes the heat much worse.

The problem was that the Bahrain Grand Prix was the third race on the calendar, which means that the race was taking place much closer to summer than where it is placed currently as the season opener. The summer came early in 2005 and the temperatures quickly shot up on race day.

There were several engine failures due to the raging ambient temperatures and cars struggling to cool themselves down. Fernando Alonso managed to take victory in his Renault despite all the chaos and heat, and made it all the way to the end of the race without any major issues.

Final Thoughts

The cockpit of a Formula 1 car can become intensely hot, reaching up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) in extreme cases. This is because of how close the cockpit is to the engine and mechanical parts. Despite the open cockpit, drivers have no relief from the heat during a race.