How much does an F1 car cost?

F1

F1 teams spend hundreds of millions competing in the World Championship every year, but how much does an F1 car actually cost?

F1 car cost lead McLaren 2021

How much does a modern F1 car really cost? We've worked it out for you

McLaren

As Formula 1 teams push for ever more performance, so the cost of producing an F1 car has risen. As a general rule, the more money that’s thrown at a grand prix car, the faster it goes. There is also a baseline expense for making an adequate grand prix car.

We spoke to Pat Symonds, designer of the 2005 and ’06 title-winning Renault cars, who also worked at Williams and Marussia before his current role of F1 Chief Technical Director, to give us an expert view on the breakdown of how much an F1 car really costs.

“It’s terribly difficult,” he says on trying to estimate the value of creating a grand prix car. “In my current role, I’m continually asking the teams how much they’re spending on certain bits.

“Sometimes teams don’t want to say, sometimes they don’t know – but I’ve got a few snippets, and I can estimate the cost increase with inflation from my years at Marussia.”

Previously, it was thought the cost of building and then developing a top-level F1 car prior to 2021 could be as much as $400m (£282m). However, with a budget cap of $145m (£102m) for a team’s entire operations now imposed for 2021 onwards, and then reducing to $140m (£98m) in 2022 and $135m (£95m) in 2023, squads will have to be much more efficient in how they produce and develop their cars.

Calculated below are only the manufacturing costs to fabricate an F1 car – research and development expenses are something entirely separate and not included in this piece.

So, how much cash do you need to create a front wing? Will a steering wheel set you back much? With the help of Symonds, we’ve provided a breakdown of what each main component of an F1 car costs.

 

Chassis

McLaren F1 moncoque

F1 monocoque: twice as strong as steel and five times lighter, might set you back a little

McLaren

The chassis is the central part of an F1 car, and all additional parts, such as the front wing and halo, are attached to this.

It’s a single-piece monocoque structure, forming a protective shell around the driver. Virtually indestructible, twice as strong as steel and five times lighter, it’s usually made from 12 layers of carbon fibre mats.

It typically weighs around 35kgs but also has to take the weight of all the other components and withstand huge aerodynamic load.

Cost: $707,000 – (£500,000)

 

Rear wing and DRS

31 OCON Esteban (fra), Alpine F1 A521, action during the Formula 1 Aramco Gran Premio De Espana 2021 from May 07 to 10, 2021 on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, in Montmelo, near Barcelona, ​​Spain - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Whilst cheaper than a front wing, the rear wing is still an expensive F1 component

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Having a key influence in creating the essential downforce of an F1 car – and therefore giving it the extra grip through corners to seriously lower lap times – the front and rear wings are expensive in spite of their relative size.

Both can be developed race to race and therefore run up huge costs in design and construction, but the intricacies of the front wing and nosecone make these even more expensive than the rear.

Cost: $85,000 – $150,000 (£61,000 – £108,000)

 

Front wing / nosecone

front wing car cost Raikkonen

A front wing will far outstrip the cost of a rear wing due to its greater intricacies

Grand Prix Photo

The front wing assembly is one of the most intricate and crucial parts of the car. So much of an F1 car’s performance comes from the downforce it generates.

Since new aerodynamic rules came into force in 2017, the designs have become ever more complicated. This can drive the cost of a relatively small component sky-high.

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Pat Symonds (PS): “I’ve heard Christian Horner often quote £250,000, but I don’t know if this is just so he can bump the budget cap up!

“A Marussia front wing was £33,000. To be honest there’s no single part of the car that’s got more complicated than the front-wing since 2016 – apart from maybe the bargeboards.

“I’d definitely go with at least £100,000.”

Cost: $141,500 (£100,000)

 

Halo

Overhead shot of Romain Grosjean in the Haas underneath the halo

The halo was crucial in saving Romain Grosjean’s life

Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

Developed at the Cranfield Impact Centre, the halo was brought in to protect drivers’ heads from wheels, broken wings and other dangerous debris sometimes sent flying during crashes.

Cranfield manager James Watson spoke about the halo’s development and capabilities in an interview with Motor Sport following Romain Grosjean’s harrowing Bahrain 2020 crash, where the halo almost certainly saved his life.

“We tested it to take over 100 Kilonewtons,” he said (roughly the equivalent of 10.2 tonnes, or two African elephants landing on it simultaneously). “It’s difficult to work out what the exact force [of Grosjean’s accident] was, but the fact that it remained intact would imply that it was less than what was actually tested.”

Since its introduction, the halo has protected drivers such as Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas in some of F1’s biggest accidents.

Cost: $17,000 (£12,000)

 

Floor and bargeboards

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after crossing the finish line during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix race at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 9, 2021 in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona. (Photo by Lars BARON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LARS BARON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Detailing of a 2021-style floor can be seen just ahead of the rear wheels of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes W12

LARS BARON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The floor of an F1 car contributes around 60% of its downforce, making it crucial in finding performance. As a result, they have become increasingly complex and expensive to make. The FIA attempted to curb downforce levels on safety grounds for 2021 by chopping off a section of the floor near the rear wheels.

Naturally, in reaction to the rule changes, team aerodynamicists are looking for ever-more ingenious ways to generate downforce in other areas of the floor, by creating new flicks and flaps in non-restricted sections.

Additionally, F1 cars’ bargeboard areas have also become incredibly complex since the aero rules that were freed up in that area in 2017. The building of these sections again costs a significant amount of money.

PS: “These days, because F1 car floor designs can incorporate the outer 100mm, which has all these intricate features in it, combined with bargeboards – which are massively expensive – floors are approaching the £100,000 mark now.”

Cost: $141,000 (£100,000)

 

Engine

Mercedes PU car cost

Mercedes displaying its power units from 2014 through to 2018

Mercedes

F1 has been using the same 1600cc V6 turbocharged engines (or Power Units) since 2014. These engines have been developed to maximise performance, the rules surrounding their technical specification have remained predominantly the same.

Made up of six components, the PUs feature an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Turbocharger (TC), Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H), the Energy Store i.e. batteries (ES) and Control Electronics (CE).

PS: “The regulations call for a customer to be supplied at €12m (£10.34m). The reality is that no one pays just this for their engines, because of all the other bits and pieces that come into it.

“Customers are paying something in the region of €15m (£12.92m) for one engine.”

Cost: $18.32m (£12.92m)

 

Gearbox

Haas gearbox f1

An F1 gearbox can cost up to £250,000

FLORENT GOODEN / DPPI Media

F1 cars have semi-automatic gearboxes, with eight forward gears and one reverse.

All F1 cars have an automated sequential paddle-shift system, allowing for seamless shifting – taking around 0.05sec.

Some teams buy in gearboxes from others, while some make their own. Haas uses a year-old Ferrari gearbox paired with a 2021 Scuderia engine, while McLaren continues to make its own gearbox despite switching to Mercedes power units from 2021.

Cost: $354,000 (£250,000)

 

Fuel tank

F1 fuel tanks are almost indestructible and are made from polyurethane and kevlar.

The ‘bag’ of fuel is ribbed and designed to fill the space behind the driver’s seat, also being attached to the seat, which prevents the bag from collapsing as the fuel drains.

Cost: $31,000 (£22,000)

 

Steering wheel

Mercedes Steering wheel

An F1 steering wheel will cost around $50,000

FREDERIC LE FLOC H / DPPI

F1 steering wheels are constructed mainly from costly carbon fibre and also have silicon grips.

McLaren Applied Technologies supplies the standardised ECU which the steering wheel is based around, which limits each to 20 buttons, nine rotary switches and six paddles. However, every button and switch function is customisable for each team’s needs.

Despite its small size, the multitude of possible technological adjustments to the wheel make it extremely valuable.

Cost: $50,000 (£35,000)

 

Hydraulics

F1 DRS

An F1 car’s hydraulics control its DRS system – seen in action here – amongst many other things

Grand Prix Photo

An F1 car could quite simply not function without its hydraulics system, which controls nine subsystems of the car:

  1. Power steering
  2. Clutch
  3. Gearshifts
  4. Reverse gear
  5. Differential
  6. DRS system
  7. Brake by wire
  8. Throttle
  9. Inlet valves
  10. Turbo Wastegate

Not only is the system highly complex, implementing it is extremely difficult, driving up the cost of the system.

Cost: $170,000 (£123,000)

 

Brake discs and pads

Brake discs car cost

A lot of investment is needed to get F1-standard stopping power

FREDERIC LE FLOC H / DPPI

Depending on how intricate the machined cooling holes are, an F1 brake disc can cost between $2000 (£1420) and $3000 (£2120).

The pads are cheaper, coming in at $780 (£550) each.

Calipers would come in at around $5600 (£4000) each, while master cylinders – used to generate fluid pressure – would come in at $5400 (£3800) each and disc bells, which hold the disc to the axle, cost ($2800) £2000 each. The accelerator and brake pedals cost just over £7000.

A whole F1 brake system can therefore set you back as much as $66,000 (£55,000).

Cost: $78,000 (£55,000)

 

Tyres

F1 tyres car cost

A set of F1 tyres will cost $3000

Grand Prix Photo

Bespoke F1 tyres are not cheap.

Designed for optimum performance for a limited number of laps, they are produced by Pirelli. The Italian firm’s slick ‘Dry’ tyres are available in either soft, medium or hard compounds — the exact specification of which can change from race to race.

Softs offer the most grip but their performance drops off before hard tyres, which offer a slower laptime but more durability.

Pirelli also produces Wet and Intermediate tyres for damp conditions.

PS: “I was actually in a meeting with [Pirelli Head of F1] Mario Isola this morning and we were talking about costs. He said it costs €600 (£520) per tyre.”

Cost: $3000 (£2080) per set

 

Additional costs: Wheel bearings / chassis wiring looms / driveshafts

55 SAINZ Carlos (spa), Scuderia Ferrari SF21, starting grid, grille de depart, during the Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell emilia Romagna 2021 from April 16 to 18, 2021 on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, in Imola, Italy - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

A single wheel bearing will cost £1,100

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

We’ll spare you the full list of ancillaries required to make a Formula 1 car run, but the long list of small components quickly adds up.

PT: “One that might surprise you is a chassis loom, that would cost £25,000. A wheel bearing would costs £1100 each, whilst driveshafts cost about £7000.”

Additional costs: $51,000 (£36,000)


Total cost of an F1 car : $20.62m (£14.58m)