Everyone is worried about the weight of this new breed of Formula 1 car – drivers, teams, enthusiasts, TV viewers and even the dedicated F1 media are complaining.
With a minimum weight of 798kg, thanks to a 3kg increase just before the start of the season, the cars are the heaviest they’ve ever been, they look slow to look at as a result, and for the pilot, they must be lazy enough to feel like tanks.
But it’s even more alarming when you look at the bigger picture of how things have changed. Here is how it has evolved over the past 20 years.
|WEIGHT RULES||2000||2022||To augment|
|Car with driver (no fuel)||625kg (regulated)||798kg (regulated)||173kg|
|Motor||110kg (free)||150kg (regulated)||40kg|
|Safety, chassis + miscellaneous||75kg||100kg||25kg|
|Tires and rims||46kg||74kg||28kg|
|Wheelbase (approx)||300cm (free)||360cm (max)||60cm|
Some of these weight changes are estimated, but F1 has to be careful because as mass increases so do the safety requirements. So it’s literally a spiral to nowhere.
If we just add the extra weight of increased safety requirements, wheels/tires and engine to the weight of the 2000 car, that gives us a weight of 718kg, not the 798kg we have now.
Now we come to the juicy bit. The weight is not linear throughout the length of the car, but if we take the wheelbase of the 2000 car to be around 300cm, which they were, and divide the 625kg weight by that, we end up with a ‘car design weight efficiency’ of 2.08 kg/cm.
Factoring in the increase in weight that has been imposed on the teams in terms of regulations would bring that same car up to 718kg, which if you divide it by that same 300cm gives a design weight efficiency of 2.39 kg/cm.
Taking the maximum wheelbase for 2022 of 360cm, which most teams are in the region, and the car/driver weight of 798kg, we end up with a design weight efficiency of 2, 22 kg/cm.
So when it comes to weight efficiency, the teams did a better job than they would have done in 2000 by 0.17 kg/cm. However, if you were to take that 2.22 kg/cm and build a car with a 325 cm wheelbase, you end up with a car that weighs 718 kg.
The maximum wheelbase of 360cm is exactly what it says – a maximum. However, in the interest of performance, most teams went the full-length wheelbase route and ended up with overweight cars. With an approximate lap penalty of 0.3s per lap for every 10kg overweight, this will negate most of the wheelbase performance increase.
As with most car designs, teams are guided by the results of their aerodynamic testing. If the longer wheelbase performs better in the wind tunnel because the tunnels under the floor are longer or because the gap to the front wheels is greater, then most of them will accept the fact that they will be able to remove the weight “one way or another”.
The teams will use a massive spreadsheet to calculate the total weight of the car, and the location of each component on its XYZ coordinate will define the weight distribution and center of gravity. However, it’s all about compressing that spreadsheet and sometimes it’s not until the last gadget is added that you actually know the total weight of the car. So sometimes it can be too late.
Outside of simulation during the design phases, it is always very difficult to predict lap time improvements with improved aerodynamics. And as we saw this year with the ground effect, it’s even more difficult because of this phenomenon of porpoising which took everyone by surprise. Whereas a weight penalty is a weight penalty, and in turn a lap time penalty.
Many of these numbers are rounded off, but the intent is to offer an understanding that decisions made in the early design stages by teams can have far-reaching consequences that you may have to live with for a number of races. , if not the full season.
As teams work out small reliability issues, cars normally gain weight. As the season progresses, you need to have a dedicated weight reduction plan in place to keep the weight stable.
Just making something lighter leads to even more reliability issues. The easiest way to reduce weight is to have nothing. Whenever possible, removing a complete component that might not add much to the overall performance of the car saves weight and does not lead to reliability issues.
I’m pretty sure if you’ve really gone through any of these cars in detail, there will be a few components that ended up there simply because one day they might come in handy.
Complaining about overweight cars should have been addressed within every team probably a year ago, if not more, rather than going into the new regulations with overweight cars and pushing for an increase in the minimum weight.