The weight of a car is crucial in terms of how it performs out on track. Nowhere in motorsport is this more apparent than in F1, where the teams do whatever they can to shave weight off their cars. This can leave fans wondering why F1 cars are actually getting heavier.
F1 cars have become heavier in recent years due to the safety improvements made in the sport. The cars are built more robustly, which increases their weight. The complexity of the 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid power unit also contributed to the jump in weight in the early 2010s.
Several drivers have voiced concerns about the weight of the 2022 cars. Teams are working hard to reduce the weight of the cars, but it’s no easy task. Having an overweight car will make it slower than the competition, and we discuss this in more detail below.
How Much Do F1 Cars Weigh?
F1 cars weigh 798 kg in 2022, or around 1,760 pounds. Modern Formula 1 cars are extremely heavy when compared to their predecessors, and a lot of this is down to the cars themselves getting bigger, and as a result of many safety improvements that have been made over the years.
The 798 kg mark is the minimum weight the cars must be with dry tires fitted and a driver in the cockpit. However, cars are much heavier in race trim when they start the Grand Prix on a Sunday afternoon. With the ban on refueling, teams need to fill their cars’ fuel tanks at the start. Cars are filled with fuel, which adds another 110 kg, or 242 pounds, to their overall weight.
This brings the weight of the 2022 Formula 1 cars closer to 910 kg, or 2,000 pounds, as they sit on the grid before the start of a race. However, this is based on the minimum weight limit, and some teams have struggled to cut weight on their car.
Compared to previous generations of Formula 1 cars, these machines are extremely heavy. Going back to the 2012 cars, we can see how much of a difference there is. The minimum weight limit for those cars was 640 kg, an in 2008, the cars were even lighter at just 595 kg. That means F1 cars have increased in weight by around a third since 2008.
Why Are F1 Cars So Heavy?
F1 cars are so heavy because they are very big cars nowadays, and they contain a lot of heavy machinery within them. The engine and gearbox are two particularly heavy components, but the various safety features, from the crash structure to the halo, also add to the overall weight of the car.
The weight of Formula 1 cars has increased dramatically over the past few decades. However, the jump in the weight of the cars between the 2021 season and the 2022 season has been drastic. So much so, that these are considered to be the heaviest Formula 1 cars in history.
There are several factors that have contributed to the weight gain of today’s Formula 1 cars. Simply looking at a modern Formula 1 car side by side with one from the 2000s will give you a clear indication of why they are so heavy.
It’s not just the elements that you can physically see that makes these cars heavy though. It’s also what’s happening underneath the skin of the car. Several developments have been made over the years, all of which add up, contributing to the cars’ weight.
Hybrid Power Unit
With the introduction of the 1.6-liter V6 turbo hybrid engines, the weight of Formula 1 cars went up between the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The hybrid power unit, despite being much smaller, is also heavier than the previous naturally aspirated engines.
The hybrid power unit is much more complex than the naturally aspirated engines of the past, and there are a lot of extra moving parts to it. The MGU-H and MGU-K do not weigh as much though, and together they make up just over 20 pounds of added weight.
However, the element of the hybrid power unit that does add a significant amount of weight to the car (outside of the internal combustion engine ) is the battery storage unit, which weighs in at 44 pounds. According to FIA regulations, the total minimum weight limit for a Formula 1 power unit is 150 kg, or 330 pounds.
Along with an aerodynamic regulation overhaul, the 2022 season also introduced bigger wheels. The cars moved from 13-inch rims to bigger and bulkier 18-inch rims. This is another contributing factor, as these wheels add a lot of weight to the cars. The addition of these new wheels is partly what led to the minimum weight limits being increased for the 2022 season.
Including all four wheels plus their wheel covers, the new wheels are 11 kg, or 24 pounds, heavier than the previous 13-inch wheels. It’s not the first time that the wheels on the cars have changed. In 2017, cars moved toward wider tires, and the minimum weight limits had to be increased.
Formula 1 is a dangerous sport, and in recent years there has been a major focus on improving the safety of the cars to keep the drivers safe. In order to improve the safety of Formula 1 cars, new elements need to be added to them, naturally increasing their overall weight.
The most obvious safety device that has been added is the Halo, which was introduced in 2018. At just 13.2 pounds, the Halo itself does not weigh much. However, it’s what happens underneath the body of the car that has a bigger influence on the car’s weight.
The Halo is not just stuck onto a Formula 1 car. It needs to be built into it. As a result, the chassis and bodies of the vehicles have had to be adapted in order to fit the Halo. In addition, the crash structures of the cars have been beefed up, making cars stronger and heavier.
Size Of The Cars
Wider wheels introduced in 2017 were not the only changes that were made to the dimensions of Formula 1 cars in recent years. An aerodynamic overhaul meant that the cars also became wider and longer than before. The cars could now be up to two meters wide, the widest and largest Formula 1 cars the sport has ever known.
These rule changes added a lot of weight to the cars, and the 2022 rule changes did nothing to cut their size down. While slightly smaller, they remained two meters wide. But despite being the widest cars Formula 1 fans have ever seen, this generation of cars were also the fastest in history, with the 2020 Mercedes setting multiple speed records.
F1 Car Minimum Weights Explained
The FIA imposes a minimum weight limit on all cars that must be adhered to. If any car is found to be below the weight limit, then it will be immediately disqualified from the race. F1, along with all other forms of motorsport, is extremely strict on minimum weight limit rules, and breaching them is considered cheating.
Formula 1 cars are extremely sensitive to weight. The lighter the car is, the faster it can go. It’s estimated that a car can gain three tenths of a second per lap for every 10 kilograms it sheds. In motorsport terms, that’s a lot of speed that can be found for very little weight loss.
The minimum weight limit ensures that all teams have at least the same minimum weight on their cars and that no team is using a lighter car to go faster. The rule was simply implemented to create a fair and equal opportunity for all teams in terms of the weight of their cars.
Teams need to aim to get their cars as close to the minimum weight limit as possible. This includes the driver, but not fuel. Teams will precisely fuel their cars to be just over the minimum weight limit when they reach the end of a race (they also need to ensure there’s at least one liter left at the end for a sample to be tested).
Why Are The Drivers Weighed After A Session?
At the end of a qualifying session or race, you often see the drivers being weighed immediately as they step out of the car. This is because the FIA checks that each car is over the minimum weight limit at the end of these sessions.
The driver’s weight is included in the overall weight of the car, so drivers must weigh themselves with all of their gear on in order for the FIA to check whether their car is above the legal weight limit or not. This is to avoid the cars having to be weighed while the drivers are still in them, as this would slow down post-session proceedings significantly.
Due to these strict rules, we have seen drivers and teams being fined and sometimes penalized for stopping on the side of the track to pick up a flag or something else their crew member hands them as they head into the pits. The FIA does not want to create a situation where an object adds to the weight of the car and pushes the car over the minimum weight regulations.
Heavier Drivers At A Disadvantage
Cars can be changed to be made lighter, but drivers can’t be. This is one of the elements that has been hotly debated over the years in Formula 1 and other motorsports. Drivers who are taller and heavier will naturally make their cars heavier, making them slower and putting them at a disadvantage.
With the 2014 regulation changes, many teams were struggling to trim their cars down to the minimum weight limit, and this affected the taller and heavier drivers the most. Adrian Sutil, one of the taller drivers, even tried fasting for two days prior to a race as an experiment to see if it could help his team save some weight.
In 2019, this situation was fixed with a simple rule change. Formula 1 implemented a minimum seat weight, which was 80 kg, or 176 pounds. This included the driver, equipment, and the physical seat inside the car. If the seat weight is below this limit, extra ballast weights need to be added. This rule equalized the field more by not punishing taller and heavier drivers.
F1 Minimum Weight Rules Over The Years
As Formula 1 cars have gotten bigger and heavier, the FIA have had to adjust their rules in order to change the minimum weight limits for the cars. This was done to create a more equal and realistic ideal weight that cars would need to achieve.
Going back to 2008, Formula 1 cars were extremely light at just under 600 kilos. The cars could easily be lifted off the ground if they did not have fuel or a driver in them. In 2011, there was a substantial increase in weight due to the introduction of KERS.
In 2014, the hybrid power units were brought in, raising the limit to 690 kg, and in 2015, the minimum weight limit was pushed up again to 702 kg. The 2017 rule changes forced the cars to abide by a 722 kg minimum weight limit.
By the end of the previous generation of cars in 2021, they were weighing in at more than 750 kg. The 2022 Formula 1 cars currently have a minimum weight limit of 798 kg, or 1,752 pounds.
Are The 2022 Cars The Heaviest Ever?
The 2022 Formula 1 cars are the heaviest in the history of the sport. The cars have slowly but surely gotten heavier over the years, to the point where they are now close to 910 kg, or 2,000 pounds, on race day when loaded up with fuel for the 190-mile Grand Prix.
Formula 1 drivers, teams, and even Ross Brawn, the man who pioneered the 2022 rule changes, have said that the heavier cars are not necessarily good for the sport. The tiny, lightweight, and nimble cars of the past were the element that made F1 so unique.
However, many of the weight increases have come about because of new safety features being added to the cars, which is more important than the Formula 1 DNA that everyone wants to stick to. There are other ways to bring the weight down, but racing fans may have to wait until the 2026 rule changes for that to happen.
Heaviest Parts Of Formula 1 Cars
With the overall weight of Formula 1 cars being so high, many may wonder what the heaviest part of the car is. This is the element that can be used to streamline the overall weight of the car and bring it down closer to the minimum weight limit.
The heaviest part of the car is the power unit, which in total has a minimum weight limit of 150 kg, or 330 pounds. In addition, there are the other internal components such as the crankshaft, connecting rods, and cooling systems, all of which have their own minimum weight limits and are not considered to be a part of the power unit’s weight.
However, it’s not as simple as putting a car on a diet. Removing weight from a car is a difficult process. These cars have been designed with as many weight-saving elements as possible. Engineers know that the lighter their car is, the faster it will be. In other words, they only put the essentials on a car when it is designed, and there isn’t much that can be removed from it to reduce the weight.
F1 cars have become heavier over the years, especially when compared to the cars of the 2000s. Years of incremental changes and sweeping regulation changes have led to a massive difference in weight, including the move to hybrid power units, extra safety measures, and the switch to 18-inch wheels.