Formula 1 cars are incredible machines that are packed with technology. However, they’re extremely expensive. If a car is damaged during the race, it’s not as simple as jumping into a spare car. Newcomers to the sport might be wondering how many cars F1 teams have and if they’re allowed spares.
F1 teams only have 2 cars available to them during a race weekend. They are not allowed to bring a spare car with them to a Grand Prix — they were banned in 2008. However, they have enough spare parts to rebuild an entire car and get it back on track after a crash.
Without spare cars, drivers need to be more careful during their Free Practice sessions. However, they also don’t want to hold back too much and taint the data that the team is getting from the car. Below, we will go through the idea of spare cars in F1 in more detail.
How Many Cars Do Formula 1 Teams Have?
Formula 1 teams can bring 2 cars to every Grand Prix, and they are not allowed to bring a spare car at any point. However, teams do have enough spare parts to rebuild an entire car if they need to. Teams can only use these spare parts in specific ways at certain times to adhere to FIA rules.
The reason F1 teams are only allowed to bring 2 cars is that it helps to save costs. Logistically, having a third car would mean that teams need to spend more money not only to transport their third car to each race venue but also to rebuild and take apart their third car to transport them.
On the other hand, spare parts are already broken down into smaller pieces and are easier to transport from one race venue to another. Formula 1 teams may bring enough spare parts to build a third car (everything from bodywork to engines is brought with them) but they are not allowed to put them together unless it’s on a car that’s already been assembled,
If a Formula 1 car is damaged during the weekend the team is allowed to repair their car using the spare parts that are brought with them to each race weekend. Just about anything on the car can be repaired or replaced – from engines to gearboxes and even chassis sometimes – as long as the team has enough time to complete their repairs.
Do F1 Teams Use New Cars For Each Race?
F1 teams use the same cars for each race, but they can be slightly different from race to race. This comes down to the upgrades that the teams bring to each race. Some teams can choose to bring major upgraded parts such as bodywork or chassis, but the majority of the car stays the same.
Bringing a brand new car to each race venue would cost the teams too much money. In an age where the sport is trying to reduce costs and is bringing in a strict budget cap, the ability to keep costs under control is crucial. Teams will need to reuse the majority of their parts as much as they can throughout a Formula 1 season.
While it’s technically the same car at the end of the season as the driver started the season with, there can be some big differences between the 2 cars. With all the different upgrades and parts that have been changed, it’s not uncommon for a car to look completely different 12 months after it has been revealed to the public at the team’s official launch.
Formula 1 cars sometimes look brand new when they have been crashed at a race and appear at the following race venue a week later. However, this is simply because the same car has been rebuilt using spare parts. Teams can only change absolutely necessary parts and new spare parts will be shipped out from the factory to the race venue.
Do F1 Teams Have Spare Cars?
F1 teams do not have spare cars. Teams are only allowed to repair damage to the cars on the track using spare parts that they are allowed to bring. This means there is more risk to drivers if they crash their car, as opposed to allowing them leeway to continue racing in a spare.
Formula 1 teams no longer have spare cars sitting around in their garages. This used to be the case in the past, and a driver that crashed their car late in Free Practice 3 did not have to worry about whether or not they would be participating in qualifying later on in the day. They always had a spare car at the track ready for action.
Some drivers took advantage of the spare car in the past. We have even seen drivers jumping into the spare car after crashing their main car in the Grand Prix. However, there are some rules in place when it comes to doing this – which we’ll take a closer look at later.
However, spare cars are no longer allowed to be brought to the track by Formula 1 teams. Instead, the teams need to be able to repair their damaged cars using only spare parts. The teams are responsible for bringing enough spare parts to repair any damage on their cars, and as long as the car has been fully repaired, the driver will be allowed to take it out on track.
Removing spare cars from Formula 1 has been a smart move. There is now more risk involved if a driver crashes their car. If a driver were to cause a severe amount of damage to their car at the end of the third Free Practice session, there is a risk that they would miss qualifying unless their team can repair the car in time.
What Happens If A Car Is Destroyed?
Modern Formula 1 cars are incredibly fragile. It takes just a simple tap against a barrier or slight contact with another car to cause damage to a front wing. Even though the wings can be replaced incredibly easily, the rest of the car is just as fragile.
Some crashes can be severe enough to cause damage to the car’s chassis. Teams do often bring spare chassis to the race venue. However, they won’t be able to rebuild the entire car in time for them to take part in the next session.
The same can often happen between qualifying and the race. In 2021, we saw Charles Leclerc get pole position in qualifying before crashing his Ferrari into the barriers. There was more damage than expected, and the Monegasque was unable to start his home Grand Prix.
When Did F1 Teams Use Spare Cars?
F1 teams used spare cars before 2008 when they banned the use of spare cars entirely. Before the 2008 season teams were allowed to use spare cars during the Grand Prix weekend. It often saved the teams a lot of trouble, especially if a driver crashed their car during qualifying.
The perfect scenario for when a spare car would have been used is the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix when Max Verstappen crashed his Red Bull on the way to the grid. The Red Bull mechanics had less than 20 minutes to repair his car and get him ready to start the race – which they did successfully.
This shows just how skilled Formula 1 mechanics have become. When they have no option but to repair the damaged car, they simply need to get to work. In the past though, the driver could simply jump over into their spare car and enter the race as normal.
Spare cars were brought to each Grand Prix weekend, so they were always there as a backup option if the driver needed a new car to continue into the race weekend. However, teams only brought one spare car, so if the second driver also crashed their car, the mechanics would need to repair the car to get it back on track.
Why Did F1 Get Rid Of Spare Cars?
Spare cars were banned from F1 in 2008 mainly to lower the costs of competing in the sport. The use of spare or ‘T cars’ was more common before 2003, when regulations were introduced to limit their use. However, they were banned outright for the 2008 season.
The spare car was always a good backup for drivers to have in case something went wrong during the race weekend. However, in 2008 the FIA suddenly banned teams from bringing a spare car, and from that point onward teams were only allowed to bring spares to repair or rebuild their cars. They are also not allowed to assemble a car beforehand as they had done in the past.
Instead, the teams would have to use the parts to rebuild or repair the car that has been used throughout the weekend. Teams are also allowed to bring a spare monocoque which can be used to rebuild an entire car, but only if needed.
There are a few reasons why Formula 1 got rid of spare cars, but ultimately it worked out for the better. Formula 1 teams have shown that they can work fast enough to rebuild their cars in between sessions, especially if they do so overnight.
Formula 1 has always tried to reduce the costs involved in racing, from using smaller engines to limiting some parts of the cars. Removing spare cars was one of these cost-cutting measures that the sport decided to implement in 2008, and it certainly did help. Teams no longer had to spend more money on logistics and more time on building up and breaking down an extra car for each race weekend.
While these costs might not make a big difference to the larger teams like McLaren and Ferrari, they do make a big difference to the smaller teams on the grid who could use that money elsewhere now that there’s no longer a need to build an extra car for each Grand Prix.
This is a way to get the front of the pack and the back of the pack closer together and improve the competitiveness of the championship. Formula 1 is still on the hunt to reduce costs today, with teams now being limited in the number of engines and gearboxes they are allowed to use throughout a season for example.
Confusion About The Rules
Having a spare car has caused some confusion in the past for drivers and teams. The rules stated that a driver could not change cars during a Grand Prix, and once the race had started, they must complete the race with the same car.
Despite the rules being relatively clear, there were many instances of drivers crashing out early in the race but rejoining in their spare car once the race had restarted. These drivers would ultimately be disqualified from the race, however, in some cases, they still influenced the outcome of the Grand Prix despite not being allowed to race.
Montoya And His Disqualifications
Juan Pablo Montoya was disqualified in 2 different races for the same breach of the rules, but during the second incident at the 2004 US Grand Prix Montoya was only disqualified halfway through the race.
Montoya had a mechanical problem on the grid of the 2004 US Grand Prix when he jumped out of his car and ran over to get into his spare car. He managed to start the race and run in second place for several laps. He was on course for a podium finish before he had been black-flagged from the Grand Prix.
Formula 1 drivers were only allowed to use their spare car in the race if the race had been red-flagged before the first lap had been completed. There had been no first lap red-flagged races since Belgium in 1998, which ultimately made the FIA decide that there was no use to keep the spare cars in place.
Have F1 Teams Ever Had More Than Two Cars?
F1 teams were allowed to have more than 2 cars before the first Concorde Agreement in 1981. Mercedes consistently ran with 3 cars in the 1950s, and in the 1970s BRM ran up to 5 cars at a Grand Prix. The additional cars come at a higher cost for everything that goes into Formula 1 racing.
In recent years, there have been some discussions about bringing back a third car for each team, and this argument has mainly been led by Toto Wolff. However, it’s unclear whether this would happen in the future, as this is not something that the FIA or other teams would be considering.
What Parts Can F1 Teams Change During A Race?
F1 teams can change many parts during a race, but they must be replaced with parts of the exact same spec, and many parts would simply take too long to change mid-race for it to be worth it. Front wings are often changed after a crash, but you’d never see an engine changed during a race.
Formula 1 teams are allowed to repair their cars during a race. However, there is only so much time they can take before losing too much ground. The biggest repair that a team can do is changing the front wing of the car. The nose of the car can be replaced in around 12 seconds, which is a slow pit stop. This is still doable, especially if the car is fast and they can make up for the lost time.
However, when it comes to bodywork and mechanical failure there is not much the team can do. Technically a team could bring their car into the pits, fix a small issue, and send the car back out again. However, if they have lost too much time there’s no point in wearing out the engine or risking it being damaged in the race (each car is only allowed to use 3 engines per season).
If there is damage to the floor of the car, the rear wing, or even a big mechanical issue, the team will retire the car from the race. In the long run, taking one DNF is better than taking more engine penalties down the line.
Formula 1 teams are only allowed 2 cars. This is to make it fair for all teams, evening out the playing field between the rich teams and the teams with smaller budgets. They haven’t been allowed spare cars since 2008. This is to help reduce the overall costs for all of the teams.