Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Hamilton: Bring back lighter cars to increase overtaking

2018 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says F1 racing would improve if the weight of the cars was reduced.

The minimum weight limit has risen to 733kg for 2018 partly due to the addition of Halo to the cars this year. Hamilton explained how this has affected the feel of the cars for drivers at the launch of the new Mercedes last week.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
2018 pre-season test one: Bonus picture gallery
“The cars are getting heavier and heavier each year and that does obviously affect the braking zones,” he said. “There’s various challenges in that the brakes are obviously at the limit, they’re not really developing much further than they have been the last couple of years. The technology’s kind of limited at the moment in the carbon industry.”

“So that becomes more and more of a challenge of cooling. But I think the team have handled it very well from last year’s experience with the heavier car. It is going to be quicker so I think the physical level steps up a bit which is in the right direction. But the cars, I hope they cars don’t get much heavier than they are.”

As RaceFans revealed last month a new minimum weight limit for drivers will also come into force in 2019.

“Again next year the seat and the driver can be 80 kilos,” said Hamilton. “So I can be a body-builder next year, basically, get the beach look I want.”

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Heavy F1 cars need “significant” weight cut in 2021 – Lowe
“There are parts of the lighter cars, the more nimble cars that I prefer of the past: Easier to overtake, easier to manoeuvre in combat. With the heavier cars it gets slower and the heavier they are they’ll just continue to get slower in that respect.”

Hamilton said he’d intensified his training regime for the new season because he expects this year’s cars to be more demanding to drive.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape that I’ve been – I mean I say that every year but I train differently each year,” said Hamilton. “This year the cars are quicker you need to be stronger.”

“Right now I’m a little heavier than I will be for the first race. From now until then it’s about cutting fat percentage down, keeping strength.”

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2018 F1 season

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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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  • 39 comments on “Hamilton: Bring back lighter cars to increase overtaking”

    1. But every car weighs the same, so makes no difference to overtaking.

      1. No, that’s not how it works.

        1. @realstig – I agree that @dave-f is oversimplifying but so is Lewis.

          1. He’s not oversimplifying, he’s presuming people will understand the point. He’s not talking about overtaking as relative (maximum) speed differences on straights say, but about power to weight ratios and car balance, making lighter cars more manoeuvarable, as well as larger braking zones with heavier cars, making overtaking at corners more difficult. That’s why he talks about ‘close combat.’

            1. Richard Cantelo
              5th March 2018, 8:18

              Well summarised David.

      2. A lighter car will weigh the same at the start and end of a race, yes, but a lighter car allows the team to more freely move the ballast around to improve the handling of their car.

        1. Surely the opposite is the case: a lighter car would have less ballast, so balancing the car becomes more difficult. I agree with Dave (@dave-f), if all the cars are the same weight then really there’s little to differentiate the cars except for power unit performance. For example say you have 3 cars come out of a corner and all have the same power unit, then all three cars will accelerate the same regardless of whether the weight is what it is now or what is was 10 years ago.

        2. @Scottie (& all)
          1) Lighter cars aren’t achieved if you allow excess ballast.
          2) Every car will have almost the same ballast.

          LH mentions reduced braking points, but again that’d be similar for the other teams.

          On a couple of occasion last Year LH said he couldn’t even get into ‘close combat’ let alone overtake, even though he was following a slower car. The ‘dirty air’ it produced meant he lost downforce & couldn’t get a slipstream. The best solution to increase overtakes is to neutralise this wake. This will mean either very strict design parameters at the rear, or even FIA standard parts, similar to FE.

          Could you please explain how I’m oversimplifying

          1. I get the feeling you guys are missing a point where cars are designed to be as far below the minimum weight as possible?

            The FIA states the minimum weight of a car must be X kgs. The more a car is below this X weight, the more ballast they must use to meet the rule. Having more ballast to run can be a great advantage as you cam place it anywhere you want in a car.

            So for instance, Car 1 is 10kg lighter than car 2.
            So car 1 has 10kg more ballast to run to meet the minimum weight regulation.

            Car 1 can put that 10kg extra weight more to the front or the rear of the car to help with either traction on acceleration, or to help manage tire wear. Car 2 will struggle to manage achieve the same result and take longer to finish the race.

            Does that make sense @dave-f @drycrust ?

            1. Hi @scottie
              Maybe you didn’t read the article. LH is asking to “Bring back lighter car*s*” He wants the FIA to reduce weight to *all* cars. So again, your point, although accurate, is moot to making it easier to overtake.

            2. Ahh, I see, yes, fair enough @dave-f

              I read the article, but in all the discussion, I lost the perspective!

      3. But mass * velocity still equals momentum– And since the brake technology isn’t changing, more mass means longer brake distances, so less opportunity for overtaking by out braking your opponent– which is not only Hamilton’s specialty, but also a major factor on most modern Tilke tracks.

        Also means more wear on brakes, more wear on the MGU-K, and a car that handles more like a boat than a race car.

        1. for overtaking by out braking your opponent– which is not only Hamilton’s specialty,

          not going to disagree

          but also a major factor on most modern Tilke tracks.

          not going to pretend that works well as it is now to begin with.

    2. Heavier cars have longer braking distances so should be better for overtaking in theory.

      1. Hmmm. I think I’ll go with Hamilton’s take on this. I suspect he has more experience overtaking in F1 cars.

        1. Hmmm. I think I’ll go with Hamilton’s take on this. I suspect he has more experience overtaking in F1 cars.

          I highly doubt HAM’s wrong but Tilke has more experience designing F1 tracks than other designers probably had when they designed e.g. Spa and can’t quite agree with that logic.

      2. Bigger balls results in braking at the limit during an overtake attempt.

        1. @seth-space, unless you think you have have magic testicles that can increase the coefficient of friction of the brake material, you can only slow the car down as much as the brake will allow you to do so to begin with – we’ve seen how many drivers thought that they had “bigger balls” when trying to outbrake a rival into a corner, only to realise that what they’d actually done is balls it up instead.

      3. This is what I was thinking as well. Isn’t it more likely that you can make a mistake or have more difference in braking performance if the distance is longer? I.e. if the braking distance is 50 metres, braking one or two metres earlier or later doesn’t really make a difference, but if you have to modulate the brakes and judge the braking point at 150 metres you can possibly overtake.

        What I would propose is to make the cars lighter and to make brakes not as efficient as they are now (then again, that wouldn’t be the cutting edge thingy F1 wants).

        1. That’s the theory. Years ago it was discussed that increased braking distances would improve overtaking. Shorter distances give less opportunity. I don’t remember loads of overtaking when cars were much lighter and not as aerodynamically sophisticated. I put this down to a Hamilton throw away comment.

        2. Michael Brown (@)
          3rd March 2018, 19:11

          @kaiie Instead of making the brakes less efficient, the brakes can be smaller. The brakes will be both lighter and less powerful.

    3. Even if we lighten them up, which would be nice, this wouldn’t fix cars not being able to run in dirty air, right?

      1. I suspect lighter cars to be affected by dirty air far more than heavier cars

        1. Yes, but it would be like previous seasons with lighter cars and therefore won’t affect the drivers. However, these new heavier cars would be new for the drivers but I don’t think it will help the drivers in any way.

        2. No its the other way around. For any given cornering speed a lighter car needs less force to achieve it (f=ma) and so less downforce is needed. If less downforce is needed then that car will be less susceptible to the problem of dirty air.

    4. The only thing that needs fixing to improve overtaking chances is the ‘following another car closely’ problem. Reducing the overall car+driver weight would make zero difference if the difficulty of following due to how the cars are designed aerodynamically remained to the same extent as it’s now and has been for a long time.

    5. I notice that LH cites the lighter cars ‘of the past’ which I take to mean earlier in his career, and I just wonder with today’s level of downforce if they made the cars lighter he would be able to say the same thing.

      He does contradict himself, not that it’s a big deal at all, when he says these heavy cars are more challenging which is the right direction, but wants lighter cars which will be easier to drive. Isn’t that then the wrong direction? Oh I’m not suggesting the cars need to be even heavier, but anyway as with many I agree it is the extreme dependency on clean air that is the ultimate issue.

      Ahead of 2021 they have a great opportunity to combine several great ideas into one and come up with better cars all around. I hope for them to be lighter, less aerodynamically dependent, and creating less wake at the same time, throw in more ground effects, and likely some better iteration of the halo, or possibly an aeroscreen.

      1. He doesn’t contradict himself: he’s saying that the team has worked (over the winter) with braking on the heavier car and made it quicker (presumably the braking), which will make it more physically demanding, which he says is good.

        1. Ya I’m just saying the mild contradiction is that these new and heavier cars going back to last year are by design more physically challenging for the drivers, which is the right direction, but he would prefer lighter cars, and those are easier to drive. I don’t think he means the braking will be quicker, but the cars will be…presumably because of stability in the regs and the softer tires on offer. So my interpretation is that the higher speeds and therefore G’s in corners, plus the added weight of the cars, on softer tires, will tax the drivers more. Lighter cars don’t do that. I think his point about braking is just that the added weight changes how they will brake because the brakes are already maximized.

          1. Hmm, yeah, you may be right. I took the quote to mean they could cool the brakes better so could use them harder, but maybe he didn’t mean that all.

          2. plus the added weight of the cars, on softer tires, will tax the drivers more

            personally softer tyres aside I don’t see how a heavier car is going to change how much the drivers are taxed, at least in terms of the centripetal force hitting the drivers (since ma, m being driver mass, still remains the same)

    6. F1 cars should be lighter, there’s no question about it. They are approaching road car weights now. 730+ kilos is a lot for a racing car. That being said, in the refuelling era cars were inherently lighter and they also ran lighter bevause they carried less fuel but that didn’t improve overtaking at all. In fact, it was worse. So I don’t think weight is that much of a problem in that sense.

      Then again, I’m not Lewis Hamilton. He is great in wheel to wheel racing so if he feels it’d be better with less weight I’ll believe him.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        3rd March 2018, 19:15

        For perspective, the minimum weight for an LMP1 car is 870kg

    7. Lewis, maybe you could give Max or Seb a call and ask them how to overtake? you seemed to have trouble overtaking Alonso in a Honda too last year too, thats what happens when you are too scared to take risks in fear of losing the WDC.

      1. He didn’t have much trouble overtaking Vettel. And he won the title. So he doubt he’ll be rushing to take your well-meaning advice.

    8. Thomas Johnson
      3rd March 2018, 1:06

      Jimothy,
      Respect Lewis, and the risk he takes. F1 is not a country road!!!!!!

    9. i have an idea! drive the cars with a remote control and you have 60-70 kg less weight

    10. Visually the current cars do not loom heavier. With all the sculptured sidepods etc they look lighter if anything. Currently faster than ever and looking on tv there is no way to tell if they are lighter or heavier unless we are talking free practice and someone’s got a lot more fuel you can see the lap Times, when at a race you can see large differences in weight during practice.

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