Despite 2026 being a long time away, Formula one is gearing up for the next big change in the sport. For the 2014 season F1 introduced the new breed of super efficient V6 hybrid power units which had been in the pipeline for several years. The space race that preceded the introduction of the most thermo efficient engines ever designed.
saw billions spent by the power unit manufacturers on R&D and Mercedes alone were reported to have invested alone close to $1bn.
Whilst being the most sophisticated power units of all time, the hybrid power units have contributed to a huge rise in the weight of Formula One cars rising to 800kg.
F1 cars are “obese”
This is the mass of the car with the driver, fitted with dry-weather tyres, but without fuel. The minimum weight limit is set by the FIA in the F1 regulations. At the start of a grand Prix the cars then add up to another 110kg of fuel for the 305km race.
Thought the years Formula One cars have become heavier and heavier though partly due to incremental safety features. The most recent of these was the addition of the halo to protect the driver from flying debris and even airborne cars landing within the cockpit area.
Just 14 years ago in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton won his first title an F1 car without fuel weighed 585kg and with refuelling allowed during the race, the comparison “fully loaded” with todays behemoth’s meant the car was around a third lighter back then.
F1 cars grew by 50%
Damon Hill’s title winning Williams W16 was just 4.6m in length, today the regulations have seen cars as long as 5.7m and in 2017 the width of the cars was increased from 1.8m to 2.0m.
Why does this matter?
Many of the traditional Formula One tracks were not designed for such huge cars and the perforce example is in Monaco where the size of the cars makes it almost impossible to overtake.
Further with around a third of the 2023 F1 calendar being run on street circuits, the current F1 cars are not at their best due to the size and weight.
Street Circuits an F1 car problem
Max Verstappen commented recently on the rise of the street circuits in F1.
“I don’t want to see myself in 2028 or whatever driving on street circuit close to the city just for the fan engagement, because you need these kind of iconic tracks on the calendar.
“Of course, I understand that everyone wants to make money, but there’s also a limit to that because it’s important to keep these really cool circuits on the calendar instead of just driving on street circuits.
“I think F1 cars are not designed for [racing on street tracks] anyway.”
However, things are about to change.
Change is on the way as Porsche sign F1 deal
Following a recent working party between the teams and the FIA, there was a commitment to regulating for lighter and smaller cars for the new power unit era beginning in 2026.
This has attracted significant attention from new manufacturers. Audi have already committed to join the sport with a deal apparently agreed to acquire the Sauber team, though at present the exact details are unknown.
Porsche were though to be close to acquiring 50% of Red Bull Racing, though the Milton Keynes team pulled out of the deal last month due to what Christian Horner described as Stuttgart’s “bureaucratic” culture.
ZIggo Sport, a dutch based motorsports media platform, are reporting that Porsche have now completed negotiations with the owners of the Williams F1 Racing team to acquire 50% of the shares. This will give them the platform they need to enter F1 in 2026.
Sebastian Vettel with a grandstand finish in his final United States Grand Prix 💪
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 23, 2022