Over the course of 9 months and with a current schedule of 23 races, Formula 1 cars drive many thousands of miles. These finely tuned machines build upon 70 years of automotive racing legacy, and are constructed to withstand speeds above 200 mph, but many fans may wonder where F1 cars are built.
Most Formula 1 cars are built in England, where most teams are based. Others are built by teams located in the United States, Italy, and Switzerland. The engines, however, are sourced from Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, and Red Bull. F1 teams buy non-listed parts from suppliers when possible.
While F1 teams are responsible for fielding their own cars, most constructors, or racing teams, do not build every part for their cars. They do design and manufacture critical structures, like front impact structures, survival cells, and bodywork. Keep reading to learn where this process occurs.
60% of F1 teams are based in England, with the rest being spread between Switzerland, Italy, and the United States.
F1 teams based in England:
- Red Bull
- Aston Martin
F1 teams based in Italy:
F1 teams based in Switzerland:
- Alfa Romeo
F1 teams based in the USA:
Now that we know the teams that are from each country, we can look at the cities they are head-quartered in so we can see where exactly the cars are built:
- McLaren – Woking, United Kingdom
- Red Bull – Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
- Mercedes – Brackley, United Kingdom
- Aston Martin –Silverstone, United Kingdom
- Williams –Grove, United Kingdom
- Alpine – Enstone, United Kingdom
- AlphaTauri – Faenza, Italy
- Ferrari– Maranello, Italy
- Alfa Romeo – Hinwil, Switzerland
- Haas – Kannapolis, NC, USA
Formula 1 cars are built at the headquarters of each Formula 1 team, by a team of highly skilled mechanics and engineers. They take a year or more to develop, using existing and new technologies, along with driver input and careful adherence to the guidelines.
F1 cars have thousands of individual parts, but only the listed parts in the technical regulations have to be designed and built by the racing team, known in F1 as the constructor.
Other parts can be made by any of the various teams in competition or by third-party manufacturers. All ECUs, or Engine Control Units, are made by McLaren Technologies (not the F1 team), and all tires are made by Pirelli, specifically for Formula 1. Gearboxes, drive trains, and brakes are largely transferable from one car to another, even across constructors.
Wheels, seatbelts, electronics such as sensors and lights, and even the screws are purchased from a third-party vendor that works closely with Formula 1 teams to meet specifications set forth by the FIA guidelines. All components found on the cars must be rigorously tested and approved by the governing body, the FIA.
Constructors in F1 are responsible for building the listed parts according to the F1 sporting regulations, which as of 2018, includes the front impact structure, bodywork, survival cell, and roll structures. They can produce their engines or purchase one from an external source.
Only four teams in F1 build their own engines, making the remaining 6 teams so-called customer teams. Non-registered parts can be purchased from any third-party supplier as long as they have been approved by the FIA.
The term constructor refers to any person, team, manufacturer, or entity that is responsible for developing and constructing a car to Formula 1 guidelines, for Formula 1 racing. When listing the constructor, say for the Constructors’ Championship, the developer of the chassis and engine is usually listed as one entity, even if they were designed by separate parties.
In the case of entities such as McLaren-Mercedes, Haas-Ferrari and AlphaTauri-RBPT, points are awarded to the teams of McLaren, Haas and AlphaTauri, with the engine supplier not receiving any points from teams other than themselves. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the season, based on the combined totals of their two drivers, wins the Constructors’ Championship.
There are four engine manufacturers in Formula 1: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and Renault. All Formula 1 cars since 2014 have been powered by a 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid engines with a max rev limit of 15,000 RPM, producing maximum horsepower of about 1,000 horsepower at around 10,500 RPM.
These engines use an MGU-K and an MGU-H to supplement the internal combustion engine with additional power (about 160 extra HP) by way of two electric motors. The complex nature of these hybrid engines requires advanced machining and manufacturing processes. For this reason, the engine suppliers all have dedicated F1 engine factories on top of their main ones.
Different Engine Factories
For example, Mercedes is based in Brackley in the UK, but they have their engine factory in Brixworth, about 27 miles away. Alpine’s F1 engines are made at the Renault factory in Viry-Châtillon in France, while the chassis side of the team is based in Enstone in the UK.
Red Bull’s engines are currently made in the Honda factory in Japan, but they are constructing a facility for their Red Bull Power Trains (RBPT) division due to open in the coming years. Ferrari is an exception to this general rule, as they make their chassis and engines in the same place: their factory in Maranello.
Formula 1 teams can buy or develop any component used that isn’t a Listed Team Component (LTC) in the technical regulations. These guidelines mandate that a constructor has to develop and own the rights to the survival cell, front impact structure, roll structure, and bodywork (among other things), and that they cannot share these parts with another team or constructor.
Teams will often choose to buy mass-produced items such as screws, lights, wheels, brakes, fuel tanks, harnesses, seats, and countless other products that are not explicitly stated as having to be designed by the team. They purchase the engine from one of four engine suppliers (unless they are the supplier of course), and an engine control unit or ECU from McLaren Technologies (not the F1 team).
Pirelli provides tires free of charge to F1 teams, but they are limited to 20 sets that are pre-defined per race weekend. They get 13 dry weather sets, 4 intermediate wet sets, and 3 wet sets. Pirelli supplies Formula 1 with tires as part of a 2011 contract and does so free of charge for the marketing exposure.
F1 teams usually begin car development for their next car while their current car is still racing. How early development starts depends on the next year’s regulations. For 2022, teams had to start much earlier than usual, as the rule changes completely altered the way the cars looked and behaved.
However, when not much changes between each year, development can start later in the season. But modern Formula 1, with in-season development races very much a constant battle, requires teams to be almost constantly developing their cars. But in terms of developing a car from start to finish, it may take anywhere from 12-18 months or more.
Once the design has been tested using CAD programs, teams make scale models of the car to test in a wind tunnel to eliminate any glaring issues and understand to a certain degree how their car will react to airflow.
Afterwards, modern production techniques such as Computer Assisted Manufacturing, or CAM, begin making the parts from all types of metals, alloys, and in the case of bodywork, carbon fiber for assembly. They also have the capability to 3D print some parts to see if they would be feasible for production at scale.
Simulators And Testing
After the designs have been finalized, assembly only takes a few days when all parts are on hand. They will also take driver input into consideration, usually gathered using the simulator, since it’s their lives on the line in the driver’s seat. When pre-season testing rolls around, the cars are put to the test for just a few days before the first race.
Although they may have finalized the overall design, F1 teams are constantly looking to make improvements to the car over the course of the season, often making minor changes between races, or even between practice laps. Whatever they can do within the rules to improve their chances of success during the season they will try, because it just might be the difference between first and second place.
With a budget cap of $140 million dollars in 2022, and a reduction to $135 million in 2023, the cost of a Formula 1 car is not as much as it was in the past. Relative to the total budget, the actual cost of a race-ready F1 car is only about 7-11% of the cap, or $10-15 million.
This price is just for the components that make up the car, and does not include the costs of research and development. It’s also obviously quite hard to find exact numbers in such a competitive and secretive sport, but this estimate is likely not far off the average cost of an F1 car. Let’s break it down for a better understanding of where each team’s dollars go concerning the car’s construction.
- Engine – By far the most expensive part of the car, these can be had for between $10 and $15 million
- Chassis – Made of carbon fiber, the structure and bodywork are around $700,000
- Gearbox – Consisting of the transmission and clutch, this comes in at $400,000
- Hydraulics – Providing power steering, throttle, and gearbox control, estimated at $170,000
- Front Wing – Downforce on the front of the car is key to stability at speed, costing $150,000
- Fuel Tank – Holding 30 gallons of high-octane race fuel, valued at $140,000
- Rear Wing – Provides downforce over the rear and maintains stability while cornering, costing about $85,000
- Steering Wheel – Keeps controls within reach and displays critical info, and comes to about $50,000
- Halo – Made of titanium, this prevents many accidents from being fatal, costing $17,000
- Tires – Transferring power from the engine to the road, a set is valued at close to $3,000
Formula 1 cars are designed, developed, tested, and assembled at each team’s headquarters in their respective countries. The majority of F1 teams operate out of England, with only four teams based elsewhere in the world. The purpose-built race cars, with price tags topping $12 million, have become staples of international automotive racing over the past 72 years.