So much time, research, and hard work goes into designing and creating each part of a modern Formula 1 car. However, it can take only a split second during a race for a driver to destroy any part of the car during a crash. Therefore, teams are allowed to create and have a number of spare parts.
F1 teams generally have enough spare parts to reconstruct two new cars. The number of spare parts a team has is determined by how they want to spend their money within the budget cap, and there are limits to what spare parts can be used at various points of the race weekend.
The budget cap has significantly affected how teams approach spare parts. It is no longer possible to create as many spare parts as they think they would ever need. Below, we discuss the idea of spare parts in F1, and the restrictions that are in place to prevent teams from overspending.
Do F1 Teams Bring Spare Parts To Every Race?
F1 teams do bring spare parts to every race. Depending on how much of the budget cap a team has allocated to spares, they will often bring enough spare parts to rebuild entire cars. However, there are limits to the number and type of spare parts that can be used and when.
In 2003, the FIA instituted the “no spare car rule.” This meant that teams were no longer able to have a fully built spare car ready for a driver to swap into over the course of a race weekend. However, teams are still allowed to have enough car parts on hand to build another car for each of their drivers. But building an entirely new Formula 1 car over the course of a weekend is no easy task.
On top of that, teams usually don’t have the luxury of having an entire weekend to spend if they do end up needing to build a new car for one of their drivers. There might be a crash during qualifying on the day before the race. In a situation like this teams will need to build the car from their storage of spare parts over the course of one night. Surprisingly, they are often able to do it.
What Happens If A Team Doesn’t Bring A Spare Part?
If a team decides not to bring a certain spare part for a race weekend, or if there is a mistake during transport to the track that causes a part to be lost, a team may be out of luck. If a component on a car fails over the course of the weekend and the team doesn’t have a replacement, then they either need to run the car without that part or withdraw the car and driver from the race.
Usually, teams do a good job with making sure that they have everything that they think they will need at the beginning of a race weekend. There are mistakes that can occur with transportation of parts to the racetracks though.
Do F1 Teams Have A Spare For Every Part?
F1 teams generally do travel to every racetrack with a spare part for each component that is needed to build that year’s car. Teams will bring more of the components that are likely to be damaged (like front wings) and fewer of the larger, more expensive components (like engines and gearboxes).
Can F1 Teams Bring A Spare Car To The Race?
F1 teams can’t bring a spare car to the race. While they used to be able to, the use of spare cars was banned in 2003 as a result of rising costs in the sport. Given the budget caps implemented in recent years, it’s unlikely that F1 will ever allow teams to bring spare cars to the race again.
In 2003 Formula 1 witnessed a change to how teams would manage repairs and spare parts on their cars. The “no spare car rule” would make it illegal for Formula 1 teams to have more than one car built for each driver at any given time. Before this, teams were able to have multiple cars built for each driver. This made it easier for teams to recover from a bad crash during a race weekend.
Instead of needing to spend an entire night putting together a new car from all the spare parts that they brought to the track, they were simply able to unload one of their spare cars from their trailer and compete with that. The change to a no spare car rule made big crashes in the days leading up to the race much more challenging for the teams to bounce back from.
Formula 1 garage team members are no strangers to late nights during race weekends. If their driver happened to get unlucky earlier that day and crashed, it is now up to the mechanics to save the weekend for the rest of the team.
Even though these mechanics know the car almost as well as the back of their hands, they can only put it together so fast. There are so many small, complex pieces to put together that it needs to be done delicately. If a team fails to finish building their car in time for the race, then the team will have no choice but to withdraw from that race weekend with nothing to show for it.
Are Spare Parts Included In The F1 Budget Cap?
Spare parts are included in the $140 million budget cap introduced by the FIA for the 2022 season. This means that teams can no longer stockpile extra components and parts for their cars throughout the season. They will need to strategize as to how many extra parts they should create.
The development of a Formula 1 challenger does not stop when the first race begins at the start of the season. This is only a starting point for teams to then introduce multiple performance upgrades to throughout the season. The result is ideally a progressively better car for the drivers.
Budget Cap Stress
The teams that have regularly held the fastest laps on the time sheets at every race for the past decade or so have generally also been the ones who have spent the most money throughout the season. These teams have normally been able to build as many spare parts as they wanted. Without a cap on how much teams could spend, the teams with the most money made sure that they had enough spare parts.
This left the teams at the back of the grid with far fewer spare parts than the bigger teams, or far less money available for research and development. With fewer spare parts, a mistake from a driver during a weekend is far more significant than it is for a big team with stockpiles of parts for their cars. The budget cap was introduced to help fix this problem.
Leveling The Playing Field
The possibility of some of these bigger teams struggling to understand how working on a budget is handled could add a new dynamic to Formula 1. If teams spend all their budget before the end of a season, they might run out of spare parts to keep their cars competing.
If some of the wealthier teams can’t be vigilant and keep their spending under the limit, then the smaller teams could have a chance to let their abilities shine with some cars withdrawing due to lack of parts. This might not be the best way to level the playing field in terms of the raw sporting aspect, but it might be necessary for bigger teams to understand the message the FIA is sending.
Formula 1 fans want to watch races that are fair and ultimately determined by the skill of the drivers behind the wheels of the cars. However, when one team can brush off the destruction of one of their cars like it doesn’t matter, and another team a couple of garages down is in the same crashes has to seriously consider their future in the sport, there is a problem.
To make things fairer, the budget cap requires all teams to consciously think about how much they are spending. The strategy is not only at the track, but also within the checkbook. A failure to produce enough parts might leave teams struggling to keep their cars together at the end of the season. However, failure to continue developing the car will also leave them struggling to keep up.
What Happens To Unused Spare Parts In F1?
Unused spare parts in F1 usually remain in the hands of the team that made them. They might be repurposed for other parts for future cars, or they may be used for testing instead. In some cases, spare parts are auctioned off by the team to lucky fans that want to own a piece of their favorite team.
If a team does not end up using the spare parts that it brought for one race weekend, then they are generally stored and then transported with the team and the rest of the equipment to the next race. Spare parts are not created new for every race if they were not used or damaged at the last race. This would be inefficient and, especially with the new budget cap, a big waste of much needed money.
With tens of thousands of individual parts per Formula 1 car, around 20 cars on the grid in any given season, and enough parts to create a second duplicate of each car, it’s easy to see that there are millions of parts involved in an F1 season. Many of these parts are small screws and bolts, but they all add up and all have to be manufactured with precision.
Many of the Formula 1 spare parts are kept by the teams that designed and created them. One of the primary reasons for this is so that teams can ensure that their designs don’t fall into the hands of a rival team. F1 teams are very secretive about their design philosophies and engineering tactics. After all, it is a competition and teams don’t want to just give away the tricks they’ve discovered.
Are Old Parts Put In Storage?
Unused spare parts, along with old used parts, are all stored by each team at the end of the season. Each team has members of their organization whose jobs it is to make sure that these unused parts are stored properly and securely. The individual parts are each assigned a code that is inputted into the database of the storage facility to keep track of all the components.
These parts are generally stored in these facilities for a designated amount of time before the teams determine that the parts are no longer worth keeping. At this point in the lifespan of the parts teams looking to cash in on the appeal of owning a part of a real Formula 1 car might try to repurpose some of their components into consumer products.
Why Not Make Some Money Back?
After a season ends, teams won’t use many of the spare parts on future cars. Regulations might have made a particular part illegal or obsolete, and teams are required to design and create a largely new car for each new season. Many Formula 1 fans will spend exorbitant amounts of money to own a piece of Formula 1 history, even if the part was never actually used in a race.
The cars that won championships or performed very well are generally kept by the teams in a constructed state and displayed as a symbol of pride for what they accomplished. Spare parts are then often used when maintaining these cars, and because some cars are often used for exhibition races, it’s key that they have some spares in case they’re damaged.
Limits Of F1 Spare Parts
The most extreme limit of spare parts in Formula 1 has been the budget cap. First introduced in the 2021 season, it has forced teams to cut back on the number of spare parts they can create. However, there have been regulations in place for a while now that specifically limit the number of spares you can have for certain components of the car.
These limits pertain to parts of the car including engines, gearboxes and various other critical components that prevent the richest teams from simply spending most of their budget on new, more powerful engines each weekend.
Not being able to drop a brand-new engine into each car for every race means that teams must manage an engine’s health over multiple race weekends, balancing performance with reliability. Teams normally create a schedule ahead of time to determine when they will put in new limited units, but disaster can strike any team and ruin that schedule.
F1 teams generally bring enough spare parts to each race to build a new car if need be. While there are limits to how many of each part can be used before penalties are incurred, teams will often have enough spare parts to still race on Sunday even if the car is damaged on Friday or Saturday.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.