There is one question that anyone who has ever seen a Formula 1 Grand Prix asks:
How much does a Formula 1 car cost?
After stretching your imagination, you might have put it at two or three million dollars. You would be wrong by a long way.
Building a car from scratch costs the F1 teams well over 14 million dollars.
And this only covers the expense of the main components of a Formula 1 car, as it is very difficult to account for the cost of the engineering and design that goes into the production of these components.
Why do Formula 1 cars cost so much?
Although the cost of the main components of a Formula One car can come to over 14 million dollars, constructors try to mask the total in order to avoid penalties by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).
For example, the FIA has put a ceiling on the cost of an F1 car engine at $15 million. But the engine of the car is not only the engine block.
It has five other ancillary components. The components are together called a power unit. Constructors only reveal the cost of the engine block.
Research and development is a continual process. Even as the cars are competing today in F1 2020, engineers will be studying its performance and developing the car for F1 2021 and F1 2022.
Companies developing road cars also do research and development. But they sell hundreds of thousands of cars of a single model. On the other hand, an F1 team can use just two cars per season.
The top three teams will be reportedly spending close to $500 million or more to race in 2020. They would naturally want to cover as much of this amount as possible through sponsorship.
The recovery of this large amount depends on only one factor: the performance of the teams Formula One car. If the performance of the car is not good enough, even very good drivers will not be able to score points in a Grand Prix.
The FIA has also been making changes in the rules governing the expenditure of the teams.
From 2022, rules that were originally slated to come into place from 2021 (before Covid-19 hit) are aimed at significantly reducing the costs of building an F1 car, to help level the playing field between manufacturers.
The signing of the Concorde Agreement will also help smaller teams to compete with their more wealthy adversaries.
What do the different components of an F1 car cost?
F1 cars are open-wheeled, open cockpit, single-seat, rear-wheel driven vehicles specifically designed to participate in Formula One racing competitions, an they have to meet the specifications outlined by the FIA.
The F1 car is made up of two main components; the chassis and the power unit. The chassis is the framework of the F1 car to which all the other parts are attached.
The power unit is the heart of the car. It generates power and will determine how fast an F1 car will go while consuming the minimum amount of fuel. The efficiency of the power unit will often determine the success of the team.
There are various components and systems like the front and the rear wings, monocoque, gearbox, steering wheel, hydraulics, control systems, cooling systems and others.
How much does an F1 car chassis cost?
All ancillary parts are attached to the chassis. It is a one-piece structure that is subject to various tests to determine its strength, rigidity and ability to bear stresses.
Formula One uses a monocoque chassis which also includes the driver’s protective shell. A monocoque chassis is virtually indestructible and provides safety to the driver in extreme conditions.
The monocoque is constructed from a composite carbon fibre that is twice as strong as steel and lighter by 5 times. It is typically made out of 12 layers of carbon fibre mats.
A monocoque can weigh as little as 35 kg and withstand the tremendous stresses arising from aerodynamic loads and cornering speeds.
But a monocoque chassis has to support the load of other components of the car bolted to it. The permitted weight of an F1 car is 633 kgs including the driver and tyres but without any fuel in the car.
The average price for a carbon fibre monocoque or chassis, along with the halo structure protection for the driver, can be a minimum $1,200,000.
How much does an F1 car engine cost?
All Formula 1 cars use 1600cc turbocharged V6 engines which have been introduced since the 2014 F1 season.
Since then the engines have been developed continuously to get the maximum power output out of them. In fact, today’s F1 cars produce more power while consuming less fuel than the previously used V8 engines.
When we talk of an F1 car engine, we are not just talking about the engine block. The heart of the power unit and it.
A power unit has six components. They are the internal combustion engine (ICE), the turbocharger (TC), Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H) constitute four components. The Energy Store (ES) or batteries and Control Electronics (CE) complete the components.
The ICE with the assistance of the TC, turning at a maximum of 15000 revs per minute, produces an output of 700 bhp. An F1 driver is allowed to use only five elements of the power unit. Using a sixth will lead to penalty points.
The MGU-K (which salvages energy when braking) and the MGU (recovers energy from the exhaust heat) store energy in the ES (battery) and contribute another 300 bhp when the car is accelerating on a straight.
The driver of an F1 car is permitted to use only five components of the power unit at any one time. In F1 2020 this limit is set for the first eight Grand Prix.
In case he uses the sixth unit during a Grand Prix, he is liable for a penalty that will affect both the driver’s and the constructor’s rankings.
The control electronics of an F1 car helps the driver and his team monitor around 1000 sensors transmitting millions of bytes of data.
The electronic control box is located just millimetres away from the exhaust box and the wires and the electronic components need to be protected from the heat.
So when we are talking about the cost of an F1 car engine, we are talking about the Power Unit and not the internal combustion unit alone. A new engine starts at a minimum of $11,000,000.
How much do the front and rear wings of an F1 car cost?
Formula One is raced at speeds of 300 kph during a Grand Prix which is more than the take-off speed of light aircraft.
With that kind of speed, the car would have very little purchase on the tarmac and the drivers would lose control of the car.
At the same time, cars travelling at those speeds and higher would experience considerable drag due to wind resistance. This drag would affect the speed and the fuel consumption of the cars.
The front and the rear wings do the job of providing the car downforce to keep the car firmly grounded on the track.
The front wing, which is the foremost part of the car and, along with the nose cone, directs the air away from the front tyres and around the car.
It is also designed pointing downwards producing an effect opposite to that created by the wings of an aircraft increasing the downforce on the car.
This alignment of the front wing creates downforce. Both the nose cone and the front wing are designed together.
The rear wing reduces the turbulence in the wake of the car reducing the drag as well as provides downforce. It also has the DRS overtaking aid.
The rear wing reduces the air drag on the car while also producing a part of the downforce. It also helps to maintain the balance of the car.
If a car loses the rear wing while racing it will lose nearly all downforce, and become incredibly difficult to drive.
At maximum speed, an F1 car can produce a downforce of 5G. That means 5 times the weight of the car is pressing down on the tarmac.
This helps the car get a better grip on the track and prevents it from losing grip in the turns. The driver can control the downforce by aligning the wings from the steering wheel.
The front wing of a Formula One car along with the nose cone will cost $300,000 while the rear wing will cost about $150,000. This is the average cost and it can vary on the specification of the wings.
How much does the gearbox of an F1 car cost?
Formula 1 cars use semi-automatic sequential gearboxes that are highly automated, and are required to have eight forward gears and one reverse gear.
A differential connects the gearbox with a set of gears. A drive shaft transmits the power to the rear wheels which drive the car.
Formula One car drivers use flappy paddles located on the underside of the steering wheel to shift through gears.
The average cost of an F1 car gearbox will be $600,000. This cost could vary on the specifications of the customer.
How much does the fuel tank of an F1 car cost?
Many accidents in Formula One races have turned from merely an accident to fatal due to rupturing fuel tanks and the fuel catching fire. Today’s F1 fuel tanks are nearly indestructible, and teams are no longer required to refuel during a race.
Fuel tanks now used in F1 cars are made from Kevlar and polyurethane. They are installed between the driver’s seat and the engine.
The fuel bags, if you may call them that are ribbed and shaped to fill the spaces behind the driver’s seat. They are attached to the back of the drivers seat to prevent them from collapsing as the fuel drains from them.
An F1 car tank can carry only 110 litres of fuel as per the FIA stipulations. The fuel tank is wider at the bottom in order to keep the centre of gravity of the car lower.
A new fuel tank designed to fit in the space behind the driver’s seat is around $150,000.
How much does a Formula 1 steering wheel cost?
F1 steering wheels are constructed from carbon fibre and have silicone grips. An array of buttons and a colour screen allow the driver to control every function in the car.
The wheel has to be detached from the steering column to enable the driver to get out of the cockpit and into it. A driver has to be able to detach and attach the steering to the column in under 5 seconds.
To connect the steering wiring to the main car’s, a special connector is built into the column. The male connector of the main car wiring fits into the column connector without a risk of the connectors misaligning.
Unlike in a streetcar, if drivers want to shift from the fifth gear to the third, they have to go through the fourth gear.
A clutch on the lower right of the steering wheel (underside) is used only when starting from a standstill.
There is also a neutral button just above the upshifting pedal on the left. Before shifting to neutral the driver has to press this switch.
Besides the gear-shifting paddles, there are innumerable switches on the steering wheel, and a colour screen is attached to the centre to give drivers a visual display.
Unlike a road car, the wheel of an F1 car is more rectangular in shape with rounded sides. Around the centre of the rectangle are the switches, a central screen and dials at the bottom.
Most drivers can control more than forty functions throughout the car other than manipulating the gears.
A formula 1 steering wheel will set f1 teams back $70,000.
How much does the hydraulic system of an F1 car cost?
A complex hydraulic control system controls nine subsystems in an F1 car. With modern-day hydraulics, the number of mistakes that a driver can make is greatly reduced.
The steering can be power-driven and a hand changing clutch could be fitted on the steering wheel because of the hydraulic system.
The hydraulic control system also made it possible to change gears by hand by having a switch on the steering wheel.
The driver can also control the DRS system from the steering wheel because of the hydraulic system.
Along with the complexity of a system, the cost of implementing it also increases. In return, you get convenience and performance.
An F1 hydraulic system costs a minimum of $200,000.
How much does a set of F1 car tires cost?
Unlike street car tyres which last for 7000 km or more, Formula 1 car tyres barely last 120 kilometres. Drivers change car tires in their pit stops during the race.
Formula 1 drivers choose tyres of different hardness for different track and weather conditions. In dry conditions on tracks with good grip, drivers would like to use hard and slick tyres.
In wet conditions, softer and treaded tyres would be preferred to prevent aquaplaning. Treaded tyres are used for wet conditions and are classified as intermediate for light standing water and wet for heavy standing water.
Tyres are made from different compounds and are classified as hard, medium and soft among slick tyres for dry conditions.
Pirelli is the official supplier of tyres for all the teams participating in F1 2020. Each set of tyres will cost the team $2,000.
And then there is the cooling system, the driver’s seat and the suspension, all of which cost a pile of money.
Why are Formula 1 cars so expensive?
For 14 million dollars you will get the components of a Formula 1 car. You will have to put fuel in the tank to drive the car.
However, the good news is that thanks to the FIA Technical Regulations, the fuel used in an F1 car has to be similar to the fuel we all buy at the petrol station.
The cost of an F1 car is a closely guarded secret among constructors. That is not only because of the competition but also because of the limit on expenses imposed by the FIA.
It is virtually impossible to account for the people-hours that go into the research, design and testing of each component of the car. That makes putting an exact price on an F1 car difficult.
|Car Component||Approximate Cost USD|
|Front Wing with Nose Cone||300,000|
|Rear Wing and DRS Overtaking Aid||150,000|
|Driver's seat and suspension||48,000|
|Total Material Cost||14,000,000|