Explained: Why are F1 cars almost 200 kg heavier than the 2000s?
F1 cars might be some of the lightest vehicles in the world when compared to traditional road cars, but inside the sport itself, they have progressively become heavier and heavier as the years went by. For comparison, a 2023 challenger is nearly 200 kg heavier than an F1 car from the 2000s.
This might seem bizarre, but as we dive deep into how these technologically advanced speedsters have developed over the years, things will make more sense.
Why are 2023 F1 cars almost 200 kg heavier than the 2000s?
We can begin with the late 1990s and early 2000s (specifically, from 1996 to 2006), when cars' weight did not change. F1 cars remained at 600 kg at that time. However, the weight gain started in 2007 when the minimum weight of the car was increased by the governing body.
When the sport entered the 2010s, the introduction of the KERS system and the ban on refueling changed the sport forever, especially in terms of car weight. Teams now have to run their cars with a full tank at the start of a Grand Prix, which makes the cars extremely heavy. This bumped the weight to 620 kg. Furthermore, the introduction of the DRS system added 20 kg.
In 2013, Pirelli tires changed their structure and added 200 grams on the front axle and 700 grams on the rear. Due to all these changes, the minimum weight of the car was set at 642 kg.
In 2014, the sport witnessed another massive change with the introduction of new V6 turbo engines, ushering in the hybrid era. Hence, the weight limit was increased to 690 kg.
The new Pirelli tires became heavier, and several other changes to the body further bumped the weight up to 702 kg in 2015. This was the first time the cars went above the 700 kg mark.
In 2017, the cars went through several changes in terms of bodywork. They became wider and bigger; Pirelli tires also weighed more, and the minimum amount of fuel per race was also increased. Due to all these changes, the FIA once again increased the weight limit to 728.
The World Automobile Federation discussed the fatal accident involving Jules Bianchi in 2014 and his death in 2015 and decided to add a halo around the cockpit area to protect drivers. It was introduced in the 2018 season, further increasing the weight of the car to 734 kg.
After seeing the cars get progressively heavier, several F1 drivers complained about how they were asked to reduce their weight to somehow keep the overall package light. Hence, for the 2019 season, the FIA introduced a minimum weight limit of 80 kg for drivers as well.
Additionally, the permitted amount of fuel in the car was once again increased to 110 kg, bringing the overall minimum weight to 743 kg.
After a slight weight increase in 2020 due to the new fuel flow meter, another 6 kg was added to F1 cars with an increase in the minimum weight limit of the drive unit. At the end of the 2021 F1 season, the cars weighed 752 kg or more.
Finally, the last massive jump in weight limit was witnessed in 2022, when the FIA introduced new technical regulations that completely changed the car's aerodynamic system. Along with that, 18-inch new rims were also introduced for Pirelli tires. All in all, the car's weight increased to 798 kg.
As the minimum weight limit gradually increased over the years, teams became stricter in their development approach and tried to save weight wherever they could. In the 2023 F1 season, we see almost every team using less livery paint on their cars to save a few grams. Apart from that, there are several clever methods teams and drivers use to get as close to the minimum weight limit as possible.