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How Expensive Is An F1 Crash? (The Numbers)

Formula 1 is not known for being a contact sport, but there are some incidents that occur when two cars collide with one another. Crashes are always going to be a part of Formula 1. However, with how expensive these cars are, you may be wondering how expensive F1 crashes are.

F1 crashes can cost anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $1 million to repair. This depends on the amount of damage that has been done to the car during the crash and to which parts. Formula 1 cars are extremely expensive because they are designed for maximum performance. 

Formula 1 drivers are never happy when they crash, even if it happens in practice. Crashes cause more work for their team, and it costs their team money out of their already restricted budget. Below, we go into more detail about just how expensive F1 crashes can be.

How Much Do F1 Crashes Cost?

F1 crashes can cost between $1,000 to over $1 million, depending on the severity of the crash. Given how fragile F1 cars are, it’s incredibly easy to damage them, especially the wings and the floors. Even slightly tapping another car’s rear wheel can cause a severe amount of damage.

The problem though is that if any part of the car is damaged, it becomes practically useless. Each part of a Formula 1 car has been designed with perfect performance in mind. If even one small part becomes slightly damaged, the car’s performance can suffer dramatically.

KEY FACT: Even slightly damaged front wings can cost drivers several tenths of a second per lap, and a damaged rear wing can spell the end of a driver’s race

With ground effect cars, the floor is even more important too. The slightest bit of damage to the floor can cause the car to lose an enormous amount of downforce, which can lead to the driver having to retire.

Since each damaged part becomes essentially useless on a Formula 1 car, it will need to be replaced for the next session. Depending on the part that has been damaged in the crash, the costs for replacement can range anywhere between $1,000 and over $1 million. In the majority of cases, a big crash will cost at least $100,000. 

Why Are F1 Crashes So Expensive?

F1 crashes are so expensive because of the high costs involved in building the car. There is a huge amount of money that goes into building a Formula 1 car, upwards of $10 million, and the more fragile and exposed parts such as the front wing can cost up to $150,000 each.

The slightest bit of damage to the parts on the car can ruin its aerodynamics, meaning it detracts from the car’s overall performance. Because of this, the entire damaged part needs to be replaced, and it’s not as simple as repairing the damaged piece. In the case of a front wing for example, the entire wing needs to be replaced even if it’s just the end plate that’s damaged.

KEY FACT: Front wings are the most exposed parts of an F1 car, and even a slight bit of damage is cause for a replacement, costing upwards of $150,000

Side impact crashes can become even more expensive. When the car is hit from the side by either a wall or another car, the internals of the car such as the gearbox ($600,000) or the engine ($10+ million) can also take a lot of damage. These have to be replaced if they are damaged or else the car simply won’t work at all.

Bigger crashes can sometimes rip the entire car in half, causing damage to the engine, gearbox, as well as even bigger parts such as the chassis. These are all extremely expensive components, and so they can add up to cost more than 1 million dollars to fix.

KEY FACT: Max Verstappen’s crash at the 2021 British Grand Prix reportedly cost the team $1.8 million

Why Are F1 Parts So Expensive?

F1 car parts are so expensive because they’re built for maximum performance. Formula 1 teams don’t spare any expense when it comes to building their cars, and if they want to challenge for the World Championship, they need to build the best car possible, which takes costs above $10 million.

Each part of a Formula 1 car is designed and manufactured by the teams. Every Formula 1 team has their own factory responsible for designing the car, sourcing the materials, building each part, and putting all of it together. Aside from the salary that teams need to pay to staff and the costs involved in running the factory, there is one particular element that makes the parts so expensive.

Lightweight But Expensive

The main cost factor is the materials that are used to build each part. Formula 1 cars need to be as lightweight as possible, but they also need to be strong. The parts used on the car (such as the front wing elements for example) are extremely thin to make them light and aerodynamic so they can cut through the air with ease.

F1 cars are built using carbon fiber, which is an incredibly strong but lightweight material. But the material is also incredibly expensive. Despite the cost though, it’s the best material to use when it comes to building race cars. With carbon fiber it’s possible to get the best performing car that is capable of staying strong under the pressures it needs to withstand.

Who Pays For Crash Damage In F1?

F1 teams pay for crash damage. When a driver crashes a car and it needs to be repaired, they are not the ones who have to pay for the damage. Ultimately the crash damage is paid for by the team in the form of spare parts and replacements. Teams only pay for damage to their own cars.

While the teams are the ones who are technically paying for the parts to be designed and manufactured, sponsor money also goes into the crash damage cost. Each team has sponsors on their car that they use for the entire season or for multiple seasons.

The sponsors pay a lump sum or a specific amount of money over several months. Teams will use this money to help pay for any crash damage on their car. However, this money also needs to go to other expenses that the teams have to cover over the course of a season.

Crash damage can become too much for a team throughout a season and it can affect their performance. The more money a team has to spend repairing damage on their cars, the fewer funds they have available to further develop their car, bring updated parts, and improve the car’s performance over the course of the season.

What Is The Total Crash Damage Cost For A Season?

The total crash damage cost for a Formula 1 season varies from driver to driver. Some drivers have been incredibly unlucky, costing their teams millions of dollars in crash damage. Mick Schumacher, for example, cost Haas over $4 million in crash damage for the 2021 season.

On the other hand, drivers could also have an incredibly clean season and end up with little to no crash damage. In the 2021 season for example, Esteban Ocon had just $280,000 worth of crash damage for the entire year – the lowest number on the entire grid.

The Numbers Can Be Skewed

These numbers can be slightly skewed though. The crash damage amounts are shown as a direct result of the damage that needs to be repaired on the driver’s car. In other words, it still counts as their crash damage even if another car caused the crash or crashed into them.

As frustrating as it can be for drivers and teams, they have to pay for the damage to their own cars even if they are not at fault for the incident. This has been the focal point of a huge debate amongst the teams with the budget cap coming into play.

Is Crash Damage Part Of the Budget Cap?

Crash damage is part of the F1 budget cap, which is set at $140 million per team. This means that the damage that is done to cars involved in a crash can be repaired using funds from the season’s budget. While this is unlikely to surpass $10 million in a bad year, it does create issues for teams.

Formula 1 introduced the budget cap in an attempt to reduce the costs involved in the sport and level the playing field across the grid. The budget cap has been set at $140 million for the entire season, and any team that exceeds the budget cap will be penalized for it.

QUICK FACT: The budget cap started at $145 million in 2021, reduced to $140 million in 2022, and will be $135 million from 2023 onwards

If a car is damaged in a crash where another driver is clearly at fault, the team still has to pay for the damage to their own car. Teams have been frustrated by incidents where their car is damaged by someone else and the repair costs have had to come out of their own budget cap. There has been no solution to this yet, despite several teams making complaints about this system.

Upgrading the car’s performance also comes out of the budget cap, which means that too much crash damage during the season could prevent the team from upgrading their car and becoming more competitive.

Do F1 Cars Ever Have Insurance?

F1 cars are not insured when they are out on the track, but they are insured when they are moving between locations. This is understandable considering how expensive they are, and the fact that there is a much higher risk of damage when they are out on track compared to during transport.

Formula 1 cars are only insured when they are moving between tracks. Insurance will cover any damage that the cars sustain during travel or when they’re in storage. Of course, teams will have to ensure that their cars are securely stored and that the logistics they use are safe and reliable.

Formula 1 cars are also insured against theft and natural disasters when they are away from the track. F1 teams will always take good care of their cars, and even transporting their cars to the next venue is done at extremely high costs, with extreme care, and with the best possible logistical services.

How Long Does It Take To Rebuild An F1 Car After A Crash?

The exact time it takes to rebuild an F1 car after a crash varies. Incredibly, Max Verstappen’s car was fully repaired in 20 minutes after he crashed into the barriers before the start of the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix. But in other cases, it might take 2+ hours to repair the car, or even days.

The car will need to be rebuilt using the team’s available spare parts. This means that the engineers and mechanics will be working flat out to try and get the driver’s car back in one piece and ready for the next session.

The Time Of The Crash Counts

The difficult part comes when the driver has crashed late into one of the early morning practice sessions. Mechanics are often pressed for time as they race against the clock to get the car ready. They are under the most pressure when the car has been in a crash during FP3 as this could jeopardize the driver’s qualifying session later on.

Teams can stay overnight at the track to rebuild a car after the Friday or Saturday sessions. However, each team has been limited to just 8 overnight “jokers.” In other words, teams are only allowed to stay overnight to work on their cars 8 times per year, and there are specific rules in place that dictate on which days they can do this.

Drivers also need to be careful on their warm-up laps before the start of the Grand Prix. If the driver crashes their car during this time, it’s highly unlikely their car will be fixed in time for the start of the race

Do F1 Teams Use Spare Cars?

F1 teams do not use spare cars. Formula 1 has used spare cars in the past, and they were known as T-cars, but they were banned in 2008. T-cars were essentially a third car that was kept at the track in case one of the other drivers crashed their cars.

The idea was that if a driver crashed their main car during practice or even on their way to the grid, they would simply jump into the spare car and carry on with qualifying or the race, rather than having to wait for the team to race against the clock and finish repairing their car.

The Ban On Spare Cars

However, after some confusion and several disqualifications (where drivers used the T-car despite starting the race in their main car), the FIA eventually decided to ban spare cars in 2008. The main reason was to control expenses and cut costs in the sport. Spare cars have not been used since, and it puts a lot of pressure on the mechanics to be able to repair their cars as quickly as possible

Most Expensive F1 Crash Ever

The most expensive F1 crash ever was likely at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix. It’s certainly the biggest crash in terms of the number of cars involved, so it could easily also be the most expensive too. 13 cars were involved in the crash, so damage costs were likely in the millions of dollars.

As the drivers set off at the start of a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix, it didn’t take long before cars were all over the place after La Source (turn one) on their way down to Eau Rouge. A total of 13 cars were damaged during the crash, as the spray made it even more difficult for the backmarkers to make their way through the stricken cars in the middle of the track.

There are no official figures to verify the costs of the crash, but it’s clear that it was definitely one of the most expensive in the sport’s history. 

We’ll never know for sure what the most expensive crash was in the history of the sport. Formula 1 teams don’t always publish their finances for everyone to see, and only as recently as 2021 have crash damage reports been aired to the public. Even then, damage cost is calculated per season rather than per race.

What Does It Feel Like To Crash An F1 Car?

Crashing an F1 car can leave drivers winded, and the high G forces sustained can leave them in pain. Crashing in anything is never a good experience. But while the speeds of Formula 1 cars are much higher, drivers are usually far safer in F1 cars than in the average road car. 

This is mainly because of all the research and development that has gone into creating the safest possible environment for drivers to be in. Crashes are not uncommon in Formula 1, and in the modern sport, drivers are much more likely to walk away from a crash, no matter how big it is.

Limited Range Of Movement 

The drivers can take a much higher impact because of how tightly they are strapped into their seats. The driver’s body can’t move at all while they are strapped in, which means that they won’t be moving around the cockpit during a crash, and they are less likely to be injured. It all comes down to where the energy goes in the car.

Why Do F1 Drivers Not Get Injured In Big Crashes?

F1 drivers are often not injured even in big crashes as a result of multiple safety advancements in the sport, such as advancements in the monocoque and the Halo. F1 is always focused on driver safety, and it will improve even further in the future after more research and development.

There have been some incredible crashes over the years, from cars rolling over at 180 mph (300 kph), to cars landing on top of each other. Formula 1 might not be a contact sport, but sometimes contact is inevitable. Despite all these big crashes, the frequency of drivers being injured has drastically declined. 

When looking back, there has been a lot of injuries and deaths in F1 over the years, and the sport definitely has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous sports in the world. However, thanks to all of the research and development conducted by the FIA, Formula 1 has become one of the safest sports for a racing driver

How Do F1 Teams Know If The Driver Is Hurt After A Crash?

F1 teams know if a driver is hurt after a crash through the radio and sensors in the car. If a driver is injured in a crash, it’s important for the team, the FIA, and the medical team to know so that they can react as quickly as possible. If it’s a life or death scenario, every second counts.

G Force Sensors

Precautions have been put in place to ensure that everyone outside of the car understands the driver’s situation. The first safety element is the G force sensor. Any impact that exceeds 50 Gs triggers a sensor in the car. The medical team will be deployed, and the driver has to go for a medical evaluation.

Cameras

There are rear-facing cameras inside every single car. These are not always used in the live broadcast, but the cameras placed inside the Halo monitor the driver and send a live feed to the medical team. This allows the teams to assess a situation in an instant to see if the driver is trapped or in need of help, provided the camera is intact.

The Radio

In any crash, the team will ask the driver on the radio if they are okay or if they are in need of assistance. This will give the team an idea of what they are dealing with in terms of injuries as they can hear directly from the driver. Drivers also wear biometric gloves that detect their heart rate and blood oxygen levels and inform the medical team of their vitals.

Final Thoughts

Crashing a Formula 1 car is incredibly expensive (often costing more than $100,000-$1 million) because of the costs involved in designing and manufacturing the cars – usually upwards of $10 million. Whenever a part is damaged it needs to be replaced or the car will lose performance.