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Grand prix racing’s battle against weight



When Mercedes launched the 2023 W14, there was a lot of talk about a return to black livery. The base color is that of the bare carbon fiber construction, not painted at all. what is the reason? To save weight.

For this reason, Mercedes isn’t the only company to strip the paint, or at least avoid it in the first place. But given the current minimum weight limit of 798kg, you might wonder how they couldn’t build a car that could hold a few layers of satin silver. As with cutting-edge competition ever, the answer is not simple.

The need to reduce the weight of racing cars has been recognized from the very beginning of motorsport. But in those pioneering days, with speeds relatively low and engineers with only a rudimentary grasp of aerodynamics, reducing weight often simply meant ditching any bodywork deemed non-essential while drilling various components in strategic locations. The advantage of reduced mass is directly related to the fact that, as Sir Isaac Newton observed, a moving object will continue to move in a straight line unless a force is applied to it. The greater the mass of a vehicle, the greater the force required to accelerate, stop or change direction.

One of the earliest applications of weight limits in motorsports arose from the realization that larger, more powerful engines and their cooling and fuel systems weighed more than smaller engines.In the 1930s, rule makers thought that if they wanted to limit speed and spending, they should superior It’s a very handy way to limit the weight of competing vehicles.

However, the difficulty of this approach was quickly recognized by the governing body, the AIACR, when the 750 kg formula was introduced in 1934. It was expected that this maximum weight restriction would actually result in an engine capacity of only 2 liters at most.

But fresh approaches, exotic materials and access to state funding allowed Mercedes to enter the new Grand Prix season with the 3.4-litre W25, while Auto Union debuted with the 4.4-litre Type A. Both get more power from supercharging.

Top 10: Ranking of the best pre-war Grand Prix cars

Similar to today, Mercedes back then were left unpainted to save weight, thus giving birth to the legend of the “Silver Arrow”. There is a popular story that the paint removal was a last-minute restoration of a car that was slightly overweight when the Eifelrennen debuted in 1934. But some think it’s a drama concocted by legendary team manager Alfred Neubauer – with the silver exterior dating back much earlier.

2023 isn't the first time Mercedes has stripped back paint to save weight

2023 isn’t the first time Mercedes has stripped back paint to save weight

photographer: motorsport pictures

All engineering is a compromise, but this is especially true when designing a car not only to meet weight constraints (now, of course, the minimum weight constraints), but also to go as fast as possible within set distance and budget constraints. In short, light is fast and agile, while heavy allows for a more powerful engine. Today, the design process is more complicated because rigorous crash tests must be met and the required structures are relatively heavy.

Lotus legend founder Colin Chapman’s mantra “Add Lightness” is a good starting point for weight loss. If you can remove parts and the bits needed to hold them together, while taking a generic approach of eliminating as much mass as possible, you’re inevitably heading towards having the lightest car possible.

You might wonder, if there is a minimum limit, why is it common for cars to be designed to weigh even less than that limit. That’s because counterweights have been strategically installed to improve balance and handling while achieving the lowest weight allowed, further improving lap times. As a result, ingots of high-density material are embedded in the front of today’s cars.

New materials and technologies almost always present opportunities to reduce weight.Just as the aluminum monocoque introduced by the Lotus 25 was stronger and lighter than the space frame that preceded it, so the composite chassis of the 1980s was stronger and lighter

In order to be successful, all aspects of weight loss need to be maximized, and this includes the amount of fuel carried during the race. Mario Andretti, among others, fell victim to Chapman’s marginal refueling policy at Lotus. The intention was for the car to be able to crawl across the finish line, but in some cases it didn’t quite succeed. This has brought great distress to the relevant drivers.

Tolman once took a more controversial approach. Desperate to show their performance at the 1982 Brands Hatch British Grand Prix, the team deliberately under-filled Derek Warwick’s car. He raced from 16th on the grid to second in an artificially lightened car before inevitably running out of fuel. The team officially blamed a damaged drive shaft for having to shower early.

It wasn’t the only event of the day that proved that carrying less fuel could make a huge difference. In the same game, Brabham’s technical wizard Gordon Murray introduced his more complex scheme to take advantage of the same. Bad luck for Brands and subsequent rounds, culminating at the Austrian Grand Prix with Nelson Piquet starting from the lead with a strategic refueling and tire stop – years Haven’t appeared in top competitions in the past. Despite the 20 seconds of standing still, the advantages are clear. Where the rules allow, refueling during games will be a regular feature — until it was last banned after the 2009 season.

Piquet and Brabham were among the first to use in-race refueling in the 1980s to take advantage of the weight savings

Piquet and Brabham were among the first to use in-race refueling in the 1980s to take advantage of the weight savings

Photograph: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / motorsport pictures

New materials and technologies almost always present opportunities to reduce weight. Just as the aluminum monocoque introduced by the Lotus 25 was stronger and lighter than the spaceframes that preceded it, so the composite chassis of the 1980s was stronger and lighter. By the way, the aluminum monocoque bodies of the 1960s and 1970s were not painted for the exact same reasons as the W25 bodies of the 1930s and the W14s of 2023. They don’t need corrosion protection, so the paint just adds weight for no benefit. Frank Dernie confirmed that this was the case when he was at Williams College, where nothing unnecessary was painted.

A notable exception is the FW07’s main rear wing aircraft. It’s one of the first major carbon fiber components to be fitted to the car, and the exposed weave color might give the truth away. In fact, any livery on an F1 car deserves a closer look, for reasons that may go beyond aesthetics or business.

Of course, composites soon spread beyond the wings, with chassis tubs made from individual panels before becoming integral mouldings.

Amazingly, ATS was the underdog in F1 from 1977 to 1984, but was the first to save even more by eliminating a separate bodywork around this central structural component. In 1983, its D6 became the first F1 car to use the tub’s outer surface as an exterior panel, perhaps the team’s most notable contribution to eight years of top-flight racing.

As Ian Cowley, a young engineer at John Barnard’s Ferrari outpost in Surrey, discovered in the mid-1990s, this single-minded optimization environment can lead to completely Unexpected danger. Changing fire extinguisher foam to aqueous film-forming foam allows a shift from metal gas cylinders to composite containers, which is not only easier to integrate into the overall design, but is also believed to have the potential to deliver the largest percentage weight reduction of any system over the previous year’s car .

Cowley designed Ferrari’s new fire extinguisher ‘bottle’, which was then manufactured in the UK and filled under pressure. All was going well until, on a cold day, a batch of products was stacked next to the radiator in the production manager’s office. A solder plug, designed to automatically release its contents in the presence of heat, may behave differently due to not being mounted on a solid metal heat sink, but it does – with unfortunate consequences. “Cowley, you bastard!” yelled. Remind Ian and anyone else who can hear that the office is now filling up with bubbles.

Who knows where the next weight loss will materialize?Ultimately the only thing we know for sure is that as each team seeks to get the most performance out of their designs, they will inevitably try to only up to the permitted limit. Any “spare” weight available will be used to a performance advantage. Because in such a competitive environment, even a few grams of paint is a wasted opportunity.

The current F1 car is the heaviest ever, and weight reduction is still an important part of performance gains

The current F1 car is the heaviest ever, and weight reduction is still an important part of performance gains

Photography: Andy Horn/ motorsport pictures


Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa




Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

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Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag




McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared




Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences


Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg




engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles






twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place


second place


third place


fourth place


the fifth place


sixth place


Number 7


number 8




No. 10


These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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