F1 Cars are Much Heavier Than You Think

Formula 1 cars are the pinnacle of automotive development. These peak racing cars are operating at the absolute limit of what a car can do. However, as the 2021 F1 season concludes and we prepare for the coming season, the 2022 F1 cars should be faster than ever but will also be the heaviest Formula 1 cars to ever hit the track. 

An image of a Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 car out on the track.
Mercedes Formula 1 car | TOLGA BOZOGLU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

How much do Formula 1 cars weigh? 

F1 is nothing if not a rule book. The main thing that keeps the races interesting is keeping the cars well-regulated to not vary too much. Of course, there are plenty of variations as far as design and strategy go, but weight is something that must be closely watched. 

According to The Race, over the past decade (or so), Formula 1 has seen a few major weight gains. In 2009 (the last year of refueling), the minimum weight requirement was 605 KG (1333.8 lbs). Fast forward 10 years and the minimum weight in 2021 for F1 cars was 752 KG (1657.88 lbs). Now, for the 2022 Formula 1 season, the cars will have a hefty increase again to a minimum weight of 790 KG (1741.65 lbs). 

These weight minimums are based on dry weight, meaning not counting fuel. As you may know, liquids tend to weigh a lot. This weight increase means that with fuel, the starting weight of a 2022 F1 car will be a stout 900 KG (1984.16 lbs). 

Is F1 faster now than before? 

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Yes. Much faster. In this time period between the 2009 and 2022 Formula 1 seasons, the sport and its equipment have dramatically changed. These weight minimums aren’t slowing things down as one might expect. In fact, the weight gain is mostly a product of faster – and safer – cars.

The Race shows a graph that outlines all the performance changes over this period and shows the corresponding weight gain that occupancies each change. In 2014 F1 cars made one of the most significant changes to the rules and designs of the cars since the sport’s creation; the turbocharged V6 hybrid power plants. 

As one might expect, the addition of a battery-assisted engine came with a sharp increase in weight. In 2017 another dramatic shift happened when Formula 1 cars were made bigger and also faster. Following that, in 2018, the Halo driver protection system was introduced. And, in 2019, the rules stated that there is now an 80KG minimum for the driver, gear, and the race seat. 

Are F1 cars safe? 

Although adding the hybrid element contributed to a massive weight gain, smaller safety additions also add up in weight over the years. More importantly than weight, though, is the fact that these cars are now made to keep these elite drivers as safe as modern technology can allow. 

As formula one fans watched in horror this past season, Romain Grosjean smashed his Haas F1 car into a metal barrier at 119 mph, where it instantly exploded. This crash had the world holding its breath while the race fuel engorged fire raged with Grosjean inside. The fact that Grosjean managed to walk out of such a crash alive, much less relatively ok, is enough proof to keep the weight gain grumbling down. 

These changes might make for bigger, less aggressive, and less maneuverable cars, but the trade-off is a formula one series in which drivers are safer (and actually a bit faster).