FIA president new promises are misleading

The growth in the size of Formula One cars since the inception of the FIA approved championship in 1950 has been quite remarkable. Even the current older statesmen on the current grid have seen a significant change in the footprint of the cars they’ve driven over the course of their careers.

When asked about carbon zero in F1 earlier this season, Lewis Hamilton replied, “As we [the cars] get heavier and heavier, that’s more energy we’ve got to dissipate,”



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“Bigger brakes, more brake dust, more fuel to get you to the location, and so on,” he said. “I don’t fully understand it.”

The game changer in recent history has been the arrival of the new V6 turbo hybrid power units. The minimum weight for the cars in 2013, the last year of the V8 engines, was set by the FIA at 642kg, the following year this rose by almost 50kg to 691kg.

Yet hybrid systems had already arrived in F1 before the new V6 power units for 2014. The last year before hybrid systems were added to F1 cars was in 2008 and then the cars weighed just 585kg. The following year the inclusion of KERS saw the weight rise 20kg, a trend that has continued ever since.

For the 2023 season the weight limit is set at a phenomenal 798kg and the drivers are now repeatedly complaining about the ability of the modern F1 car to perform in the slow speed corners.

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FI promises smaller F1 cars

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem raised the hopes of F1 fans worldwide that a big change in Fq car weight could be on the near horizon.

While the specifications for the new 2026 power units are agreed, the rules around the rest of the car are yet to be set I stone.

“One thing I would like to see is very clear: we need a lighter car,” said Ben Salaam to

“I believe this is better. I come from motorsport, where lighter cars are safer and they won’t use the same amount of fuel.

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Hybrid engines added huge weight

“It will be hard to achieve, but everybody wants it. So I am pushing because I come from rallying, where nothing is worse than having a heavy car.”

This may be the latest ‘intervention’ from the first FIA president who has no F1 background since Jean-Marie Balestre 1985-1993.

While Ben Sulyam is riding a popularist hobby horse, the fatal blow to significantly dropping the weight of the modern Formula One car was landed when the FIA decided to continue with hybrid power units. 

There was significant interest in F1 returning to V8 normally aspirated F1 engines for 2026 with 100% renewable fuels. This would ditch all the weight of the  battery and associated hybrid systems.

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F1 claim to wants smaller cars

Stefano Domenicali was asked about the weight of F1 cars recently and paid lip service to his view the cars should become lighter.

“One of the points that has always been a debate has been the weight,” he said.

“As you know, with the hybrid engines, with the batteries, the weight is getting higher and that is something that is not really in the nature of F1. So, it’s a topic for discussion for the future.”

George Russell who heads up the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association has also had his say on the matter and raises the irony of the weight increase due to more safety components.

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Heavy cars are a safety concern

“The weight is extraordinary. At the moment, the low-speed performance is not great,” Russell observed.

“We keep making these cars safer and safer, but obviously the heavier you make them, when you have an impact it’s like crashing with a bus compared to a Smart Car.

“If you just keep making it heavier, heavier, heavier, stronger, stronger, stronger – actually you get to a point where you cross over that [line] that too heavy is actually not safer.”

The man who is really in the know has given his opinion on the maximum which can be achieved in terms of weight loss for the 2026 cars and it is a paltry 5%.



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Speaking on The Race F1 Tech Podcast last year, Nicholas Tombazis – who is the FIA’s head of single seater racing and in effect the Associations day to day man running the sport, – believes the best that can be hoped for are ‘tweaks’ to the minus weight.

“It is realistic to make them a bit lighter,” Tombazis said. “But not a massive amount; we have to consider that the difference in weight since 2000, say 20 years ago or so, is about 200kg, which is a massive number.

“And out of those 200kg, about 100 comes from the power unit, so from the electrical parts, batteries, turbos and so on. That is a big weight increase.

This confirms the decision not to return to V10’s or V8’s was costly. That said Tombazis believes the hybrid route is the future.

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New safety design added 50kg

“But it it is necessary to keep Formula 1 relevant to the directions of society. While a petrolhead would like a V10 and end of story, we know we have to go in the direction we’ve gone. So that counts for about half of the weight increase.

The FIA’s head of single seater performance goes on to break down the various components of an F1 car and how they contribute to the overall weight.

“About 50kg-odd are for safety. So halos, much stronger chassis, bigger protections and so on and so forth. So again, nobody would want to compromise that.

“Then there’s where the opportunity is, and there’s about 15-20kg because of more complex systems on the cars and there’s about 30-35kg on car dimensions. So cars being much longer and wider, bigger tyres and so on.

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Potential shorter and narrower 2026 cars

So for the 2026 chassis there is an opportunity to make the cars much shorter and narrower, but as Tombazis emphasises the increased reliance on electrical power will compensate for that.

“And we believe in the car dimensions there lies an opportunity. We would want 2026 cars to be quite a lot shorter and probably maybe a bit narrower as well and all of that is going to contain the weight increase.

“On the other side, there is a battery increase because we are going more electrical which is adding a bit of weight. So the net effect I hope is going to be a bit lighter, but not a massive amount.”

Formula One ditched refuelling for 2010 and there has been ever since a debate whether it should be introduced. One of the benefits would be to reduce the weight of the F1 cars which are around 4 seconds a lap slower on full tanks at the start of a race than in qualifying.



FIA promises misleading and delusional

However, with F1 targeting just 70kg of sustainable fuels for 2026, bringing back the controversial refuelling would add very little to the total weight loss.

Visually the 2026 F1 cars may look smaller and more compact if Tobazis gets his way over the reductions in dimensions, however their weight and therefore relative performance is alter little.

And as such Ben Sulyam’s pronouncements are misleading for F1 fans and delusional at best.

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