A late rule change saw a reduction in F1 cars’ minimum weight scrapped for 2023, but the debate around the safety of a nearly 800kg weight limit rages on and could lead to that number dropping in the coming years.
With the minimum weight at a record 798kg for F1 cars in 2022, there was optimism among drivers in July when the World Motorsport Council approved a reduction for the first time since the regulations were brought in, down to 795kg.
However, that wasn’t set in stone, and further technical discussions finalised the regulations staying at their current weight.
It’s rumoured that the new Pirelli tyres contributed to the change as they will weigh more than expected, but it’s left teams making last-minute adjusting to their plans after Alfa Romeo were reportedly closest to that limit at the start of the 2022 F1 season.
There’s hope that it’s only a temporary postponement in reducing the minimum weight though, after drivers have raised safety concerns over how heavy the cars have become.
How much do F1 cars weigh?
The minimum weight regulation measures the car before it’s filled with fuel. Cars have a fuel capacity of 110kg, although teams can run with less than that in Grand Prix if it’s a low-consumption track.
F1 drivers have an 80kg minimum weight requirement, a number that was raised in 2019 to equalise the gap between taller and shorter drivers. That figure includes race suit, helmet and shoes, and if drivers weigh under that figure then ballast is added around the cockpit.
First introduced in 1995, the minimum weight stayed at 585kg until 2009, when it increased by 20kg. In the last decade alone, that number’s increased by over 150kg.
While F1 cars have undoubtedly got safer over that period, there’s worries the increased force of impact that comes with the fattening of cars will reach a tipping point.
Some of that weight comes from safety features – the halo itself weighs 7kg – but George Russell said he was concerned crashes could get more dangerous if the trend continues.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from this regulation change, but equally, the big [issue] is the weight,” Russell told Crash.net.
“The weight is extraordinary. At the moment, the low-speed performance is not great.
“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.
“You’re going to have a greater impact if you’re going the same speed with a car that weighs 800-odd-kgs or over 900kgs at the start of a race, compared to one 15 years ago when they were at 650kg.
“And I’m sure there’s analysis going on about striking that right balance because I don’t know where the line is drawn.
“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.”
How has the F1 minimum weight changed?