What happens to F1 car parts now the season’s over?

2014 F1 season

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This is a promoted article for Memento Exclusives

The moment the chequered flag fell on the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, every car on the track became obsolete. New, faster, better models are coming for next year. So what happens to all the old chassis?

Some will be sold. Some will be kept by their teams. The most successful ones – no doubt including Mercedes’ record-breaking W05 – will continue to make appearances at events for years to come.

But what about all the spare parts or old components which were upgraded during the season? An F1 car contain an average of 80,000 components per car, and with 22 cars on the grid at the start of the season that means F1 generated 1.7 million parts before we even start counting spares. Where do they all go?

Many of them will be kept by the teams who designed them, for fear of them falling into the hands of rivals who could use them to clean vital knowledge. That’s why Sebastian Vettel will have to wait a while to get his hands on the championship-winning Red Bull his former team has promised him – Christian Horner doesn’t want the hardware making its way to Ferrari’s factory in Maranello.

It can take several years for a new F1 car part to appear on track from its initial conception. F1 parts are not only pioneering in their design and research and development: they also involve industry-leading production processes and take time to manufacture to the right specification.

For example, brake discs can boast one of the lengthiest manufacturing processes of any F1 component. These carbon fibre discs take up to five months to produce in a delicate and scientific process of compressing and baking.

It’s the job of the operations department to ensure that these newly manufactured components are shipped on time and in pristine condition to the factory for assembly.

The first test of the season is a nerve-wracking time for teams as a high proportion of a new car will be previously untested components. However good a team’s quality assurance processes are, statistically a small number of parts are likely to fail. The majority, however, will make it through to the testing and race rounds and be pushed to the extremes of speed, vibration and temperature. Many parts will run just one race. The teams have to replace components regularly if they want to win races – that’s just a fact of the sport.

Not all the parts on a car are owned by teams. A complicated logistics operation begins once a race ends. Tyres must be scanned, checked in and out and returned to Pirelli at the race location, as F1’s tyre manufacturer keeps the details of its tyre compounds a secret. For engine customers such as Force India, engines and drive trains must be returned to their manufacturers.

Each F1 team has secure storage for their retired components and dedicated people to manage these parts once they are returned from the race. Every component in storage is logged onto the team’s database with its unique component number to ensure everything is traceable. Information about the part’s life and any relevant telemetry will be recorded too.

Once it is deemed a part is no longer capable of revealing secrets to a rival, teams make their parts available to the public. While some are simply mounted on plinths and sold, others lend themselves to more innovative treatments.

Brake discs, for example, can be re-purposed as stylish clocks. One of these clocks, supplied by specialist retailer Memento Exclusives, was offered as the top prize in this year’s Predictions Championship.

Memento Exclusives’ designers work with the teams to find new functions for old components. As well as brake discs, gear ratios are also transformed into clocks. Wheel nuts and exhaust pipes becomes lamps (pictured), wheel rims are transformed into tables, and skid blocks make great mobile phone holders.

If you weren’t able to win the brake disc clock in this year’s Predictions Championship, you can still get your hands on one of these ‘upcycled’ F1 car parts from Memento Exclusives via their website. It’s unlikely any other clock or table you can buy will have had such an interesting previous life.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “What happens to F1 car parts now the season’s over?”

  1. Great article, I found it fascinating. I’ve often wondered what happens to all the millions of parts ect. Now I know! I’d love to walk around one of those parts storehouses. It’s incredible the amount of work that goes into each F1 car, whether it’s a Merc or a Marussia.

    This type of article is great stuff and why I love F1Fanatic!

  2. That lamp looks great!

  3. One of the best articles I’ve read on Formula 1. It’s more informative than analytic. Bravo @keithcollantine

  4. delicate and scientific process of compressing and baking.

    Ooooooo I like baked things! Wait, brake discs aren’t edible? Darn.

    1. Even if they were, would you wait 5 months to eat one? That’s a long time!

      1. if it was good enough, it would be worth the wait

  5. Wow! Awesome stuff, learnt a lot! Excellent article @keithcollantine

  6. Great article. 80,000 components is a lot for one car!

    1. A lot of it is parts in sub-assemblies. Even a resistor on a circuit board counts as a part so you can see how easily the numbers add up. 80,000 only seems a lot but since they are in assemblies and sub-assemblies the mechanics never have to handle or put together that much individual parts.

  7. Subtle plug, Keith. It was still a nice read.

  8. I’ve not seen it mentioned by the F1 media but Lewis was on Radio 1 a few days after Abu Dhabi and said he gets to keep his championship winning W05 and intends to put it in his living room.

  9. Good article!

  10. In the old days many parts were thrown away. I still have the spark plugs from James Hunt I picked up after diving in the garbage bin at Zolder :-) They were still warm….

  11. This write up, lovely though it is, paints a picture of vast store rooms of old parts at the f1 teams. In reality this simply isn’t true. The lastest and most commercially sensitive parts are retained for a few years until they become “old” and crucially the demo cars don’t need the spare parts. E.g. floors, engine covers, other major parts then everything else is either thrown in a big skip and destroyed or shredded up. I’ve seen massive skips at F1 teams this very year it was full, head restraints, side pods, various other bits. I asked as to why these parts must be destroyed and not sold on to the fans and they did not want whole parts being sold rather shred them up and mount them in clear acrylic to make paper weights. Shame.

  12. I remember being at monaco …the tyre companies just left the used ones in the tyre area and the fans took them away for souvenirs

  13. I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of parts are harvested and put into the new car, or how much of the new car is the same as the old car. There must be some parts that will be identical year-on-year, even if these are simply things like displays, LEDs, switches etc.

  14. Another great one Keith, thank you !
    I didn’t know the disks took 5 months to be manufactured, wow !

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