F1’s heavy cars at odds with sustainability push – Hamilton

2021 F1 Season

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Lewis Hamilton has questioned how the increasing weight of Formula 1 car squares with the sport’s stated aim of becoming more sustainable.

The minimum car weight set by the rules – including the driver – will rise to 790kg for the 2022 F1 season. That represents an increase of 38kg from this year’s cars and a 50kg rise over the last three seasons.

Hamilton said the increase baffles him. “I don’t understand particularly why we go heavier when there’s all this talk about being more sustainable, the sport going in that direction,” he said.

Formula 1 has set itself the target of being a net zero producer of carbon by 2030.

“By going heavier and heavier and heavier you’re using more and more energy,” said Hamilton. “So that feels that’s not necessary in the right direction or the thought process.”

By 2022, F1 cars will weigh 100kg more than their 2014 counterparts, at the start of the turbo hybrid era. Some of the weight increases can be accounted for by safety measures, such as the halo, introduced in 2017, which weighs around nine kilograms.

Hamilton said that he could not see a sporting justification for the increases, as well as on sustainability grounds. “The lighter cars were more nimble, were nowhere near as big, naturally and so racing, manoeuvring the car was better.

“On the tracks we’re going to, they’re getting wider, like [Baku] is quite wide and in places, of course it’s narrower, in other places. But Monaco was always relatively impossible to pass – now the car is so big that it’s too big for the track.”

Hamilton has previously raised concerns about F1’s rising car weight and the increasing demand it places upon brakes and tyres.

“As we get heavier and heavier, that’s more energy we’ve got to dissipate, bigger brakes, more brake dust, more fuel to get you to the location, and so on,” he said last weekend. “I don’t fully understand it.”

Next year’s Formula 1 cars will weigh around one-fifth less than their all-electric Formula E counterparts. The current, second generation, Formula E chassis weighs almost a ton, up from 903kg when the championship begin in 2014.

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85 comments on “F1’s heavy cars at odds with sustainability push – Hamilton”

  1. Car weight is a problem. Not sure what can be done though. Hybrid power adds a lot and that is necessary to keep the manufacturers happy. They added weight for the halo, allowed for 10kg more fuel, increased the drivers minimum weight so they didn’t look like they had just been liberated from a concentration camp. It all adds up.

    1. Given that the engines are more efficient, shouldn’t we reduce fuel loads back to what they were?

      1. @paeschli Yes. Back to at least the 105 kg of 2017 and 2018, if not even the 100 of 2014-2016. The increase from 100 to 105 had a justifiable reason, but not the later 5 kg increase as it was essentially done only for the sake of it.

    2. greasemonkey
      13th June 2021, 15:10

      There is a hidden lesson in this.

      The tradeoffs in real cars are the same, but battery based proponents leave that part out of their efficiency pitch vs hydrogen or even carbon neutral fuels (which still needs research).

      Same with the safety. More weight, more kinetic energy, more damage.

  2. I wonder what the justification is. For sure there’ll be reasons… Isn’t it usually safety?

    1. It’s a bit of everything really. Safety (Halo, better overall structural stability, less flexibel wings etc.), cost efficiency (less exotic and therefore expansive material should be used), aerodynamics (the car are wider and getting longer), allowing more fuel for more equality. And of course with the next rule changes it’s a bit of a journey into the unknown so they want to play it extra safe.

      It just kept adding up over the years and FIA have to be careful to turn that trend around at some point…

    2. Coventry Climax
      11th June 2021, 21:41

      The heavier the car, the heavier the impact, the more weight is added to keep up the strength, making the car heavier, the impact heavier etc etc.
      It’s the wrong direction.

    3. I am pretty sure that most of it is simply the fact that 18″ wheel are heavier @skipgamer this time. Maybe the minimum driver weight (the thing with the weight going on the seat) also played a role?

      Before that it was safety (halo, side impact bars, side impact panels in the tub etc) as well as cost saving (making it somewhat easier to make parts since there is more weight “available” for them, as well as just simply using less expensive, easier to work materials). And the bigger tyres was a pretty big chunk.

      And off course the end to refuelling, that made cars a lot longer and getting a bigger fuel tank.

  3. Bring back smaller cars.

        1. +Totally

    1. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 17:24

      They will be next season

      1. Yes, but not quite compared to 2005-2011 or the last time Monaco was really dramatic.

    2. Well, narrower tyres, offering less grip, would immediately shed some of the weight Dave. And scratching the change to larger rimmed wheels as well.

      And why don’t we just make the races shorter, then they would need less fuel, and we can make the cars shorter and with smaller fuel tanks.

  4. Batteries are heavy, what’s the mystery here? I would love to watch lighter more nimble cars too, but these cars are more sustainable operationally than ten years ago, so I don’t really know what Hamilton is talking about tbh. Hazel’s comparison to FE just confirms that. Isn’t Lewis running an Extreme E team?
    What they could do is shorten the wheelbase, that would help.

    1. The ESS of an F1 car was less than 20 kg in 2019. So it should be even lighter in 2022.

    2. Mass of batteries is around 20-25 Kgs apparently(according to Bold value tech). Old V8 NA engines had mass of 95kgs(minimum and we can add those 20-25 kgs of batteries which brings V8 hybrids closer to current V6 hybrids) while for current AMG V6 hybrid its 145 Kgs. Most of the bulk is coming from additional safety measures put in place in last few years and the fixed fuel cell of 120KGs brought in after refuelling ban.

      1. Indeed about safety measures. I’m surprised at the 145kg weight of V6 but I guess they have optimised it over the last 7 years. Another factor is the driver ballast of course which I think increased. Ultimately, it’s easy for Hamilton to criticise the weight but it’s there for good reason, I’m not sure where you would lower it tbh. The cars are still too long though, that’s what I would be working on (and narrowing the front wing, not that it would make much difference weight wise).

        1. @john-h

          And even that 145kg weight (going up to 150kg next season, I believe) is because it’s a mandated minimum. They could get lower if they wanted to.

        2. @john-h And as well we know that these hybrid power units produce the most torque by a long shot compared to purely ICE powered cars of the past, and that means much beefier chassis’ to maintain stiffness under such torque.

          I would think it would only be refuelling and expensive exotic materials that would be the main ways of tackling this issue, unless of course they can do what is needed with smaller cars. But of course refuelling has it’s own issues including transporting refuelling gear all over the world. Exotic materials increase costs so that’s out for now, although I am curious to see if after several years of caps and F1 getting it’s ducks in a row and growing the audience and sponsors and therefore money, perhaps the caps can rise a bit and allow for this.

          As to smaller cars, I suppose it depends on if they can make the cars they need to make to house the power units and account for the torque, and the size of the fuel tank, and have the driver protected as much as they want, etc. Seems a no-brainer to just make the cars smaller like they were, so it must be more complicated than just regulating that.

          My hope and expectation is that even though the cars aren’t as nimble as they were, we will still have great close racing in the new chapter, and as well the cars could be driven in a more nimble fashion, as in, thrown around a bit by the drivers, if they were on proper tires that could handle such racing. The current tires cannot be raced nimbly for they’d quickly lose their operating window. That needs to change. Give them proper tires and clean air independent cars and I wonder what the drivers will say about the racing in spite of the weight of the cars.

        3. Actually the minimum weight of the ICE engine is in the rules. I think all manufacturers can easily make a lighter unit. But it might use somewhat more complicated casting methods? I think the minimum weight did a lot to avoid manufacturers putting too much effort into development of lighter parts to somewhat limit the cost of development @john-h, @robbie

          Also, apart from the safety measures (side impact panes, more sturdy components, the halo) and the relatively big chunk of the hybrid powertrain, the biggest single changes have probably been from ditching refuelling, and most recently from the wider tyres. And off course for next year the change to 18″ wheels means heavier wheels.

      2. What’s up, how’s it going? Sold us out?

    3. The firstthing they should do is shorten the wheel base. Have you seen the size of the bell housing? its longer than the gear box itself! Not only the weight would come down, but passing would be easier. Given the same speed differential, it take more time for a school bus to pass another than a Mini to pass a Mini.

  5. I dont think the weight is the big issue, its the length of the cars now thats just insane. If you look back at 2002 Ferrari that started the “coke bottle” rear end and see how close the rear wheel is to the drivers cockpit, theres now about an extra metre added in there that they can remove. The reason for the added length is that the aero effect works best on a larger surface and a gentler slope works well so hence more car. Just get the FIA to mandate the rules for a max length and be done with it, that will save them a lot of trouble in the future

    1. Indeed. But then Liberty can’t promote the single seat limo narrative to the Bentley/Rolls demographic.

    2. Indeed. It is this length which causes reduced overtaking as it is that much more distance to be covered by a trailing car.

      Someone in a prior article had commented that the length cannot be reduced as it can result in reduced safety. However, as you rightly mention, all the extra length is behind the driver. And hence, reducing that is less likely to result in a more severe driver injury as most accidents happen from the nose or side (except when one driver T-bones the other).

      However, if the length has to reduce, to accommodate the same amount of fuel and equipment, the cars will need to either 1) get wider or 2) get taller or 3) the packaging behind the driver will have to substantially change to utilize all the area which is currently just ‘sculpted out’ and made into a coke bottle shape to improve air flow. Does seem like a fairly costly task.

    3. Im the opposite. I dont care about the wheelbase it’s needed for stability in high speed corners, but this additional wieght all around makes the car slower and less efficient. The weight over the years is mostly coming from thicker safety panels, driver ballast, thicker tyres, and heavier engines. It definitely can and should be reduced. F1 cars are big fat plodding hippos compared to the nimble dragon flies we had before.

  6. Peter Johnson
    10th June 2021, 8:40

    Oh my god. Twenty f1 cars running around a track for half the weekends of the year should not come up in any rational discussion about sustainability. It’s a drop in the bucket the size of a skyscraper when it comes to emissions. How are all the other sports going in their efforts in reducing emissions from fans showing up in their millions around the world? In cars?

    1. This Peter Johnson; just like with just about all big events, the on field/track action itself is not the big energy and environmental issue; it’s likely in the logistics around that, maybe in the R&D and manufacturing (of partly only once-used bits?), and all the people gathering as an audience, needing drink water, facilities, and getting there especially.

      1. I’ve often wondered what the carbon footprint of just making the 13 sets of tires teams have each weekend, let alone toting them around the world. That’s 130 tires every race, and I doubt that’s a drop in the bucket.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      10th June 2021, 11:18

      He’s right about one thing, transport. The combined weight increase of 20 cars and spares has a much higher cost in terms of fuel used to fly them. Aviation and shipping are large contributors.

      1. It’s not even close by comical proportions. I read somewhere that the fuel used by used by the entire grid for a race would just about cover the 1 of the half dozen or so 747s needed to fly the team’s equipment around for the taxi and takeoff phase of the flight.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          10th June 2021, 14:00

          @lancer033 Yeah the transport I think makes up about 45% of F1’s total emissions, while the driving only makes up about 3%

    3. Very much agree with you. I think Hamilton is right to argue for lighter cars, but dressing it up as a ‘sustainability’ issue is a little silly.

  7. I agree with Lewis that car weight and size have gotten completely out of control. You can see the cars are alot heavier and less nimble and far more prone to the pendulum effect.

    Besides these continual weight increases have a snowball effect on the size and manoeuvrability of the car. More weight requires more downforce, and to generate more downforce you need a longer and wider car. Which then requires heavier wheels which requires heavier suspension and on and on it goes.

    Set minimum weight at 590 kg and let the teams figure it out.

  8. Not just F1… Every time I see an enormous SUV on the road, I laugh… we’re forever being told that we need to be more concious about the enviroment, save resources, be more “green” yet manufacturers keep dumping those enormous cars on the road where we don’t need them…

    I know it’s the customer that wants a big car, but they make absolutely no sense. The customer isn’t always right.

    They then start selling electric SUVs… As if going electric didn’t bring enough problems, you’re fitting batteries and a range limited motor into a big, heavy car, making it even more heavy. Which brings costs up everywhere, not just materials and energy used, but road maintenance and safety, because a heavy car is more difficult to stop and has more mass so accidents are worse.

    Goverments keep punishing people that have old cars, forbidding them from entering city centres and all, yet they happily allow manufactuers to sell whatever they feel like. Even the smaller SUVs make very little sense.

    1. Quite right. Also remember that heavier vehicles chew up the tarmac quicker.

      1. “The enemy just entered the room. We need three people to rush through the door and deal with him.”

      2. “qUiTe RiGhT. alSO ReMeMBeR ThAt HeavIEr vEHiclES cHEW uP tHe TArMAC qUicKEr.”


    2. To be honest there are speed bumps everywhere now in cities, and if you want a car that can go over these comfortably, you want a SUV.
      So now we have these big wide SUCs being widely used in cities, all because the introduction of speed bumps on every corner. These speed bumps leading to increased pollution (more CO2 due to reacceleration, more brake wear, more noise pollution because of reaccelaration, more suspension wear…).
      These things are a disgrace.

      1. That is complete nonsense @paeschli. The huge increase in market share of SUV type vehicles has almost 0 to do with speed bumps.

      2. Have you ever tried to go over a speed bump in a sports car @bascb ? Some are so badly constructed that they will destroy your floor even going at 2 mph.

        1. @paeschli – that many sports cars are not built to go over speed bumps at any speed doesn’t have anything to do with your BS claim that one needs an SUV to travel cities.

          Maybe you live in a different world, but hardly anyone drives a sports car relatively speaking. All normal cars, which the large majority of people who drive are travelling in will traverse speed bumps quite fine, if they don’t go at too high a speed.

    3. @fer-no65

      Exactly my thoughts! 7 Seat Electric SUV are for the lack of a better word, an oxymoron.

      I’m off the belief that big cities should be free of cars. Easier said than done, as most big cities, especially the newer ones, have been designed around the car.

    4. I think i recently read that almost the whole effort of increasing green energy sources is offset by the increase in SUV type vehicles @jaymenon, @fer-no65

      1. sorry, I misspelt your name there @jaymenon10

  9. Why don’t they just lower the minimum weight? I’m sure that the teams will come up with weight saving solutions if there’s an incentive to do so. It will propel innovation many industries can benefit from and sure there’s a cost cap, but the cost cap was always going to force teams to make choices on where to put their budget anyway.

    1. They stopped that sort of innovation partly bc. of cost (and use of rather toxicly exotic materials, which then weren’t as available to mid/back of grid teams); also, safety is a big part, as is giving the drivers a minimum weight so that they don’t have to starve themselves to not be over that; the Halo is already at mimimum that they could get it save, similar with the impact structures (which are tested to sustain an impact, and teams already work to make them as light as possible); the PU saves a lot of fuel-weight, so yes, it is heavier to start with, but w/o refuelling, they would have to start a lot heavier with lighter, simpler, old fashioned screaming guzzlers. So, easily said, but not done so much.

      At most, it is an indictment of the 2017+ rules about faster, wider cars with bigger tyres – all of that weight carried around at a faster pace and not making the racing between them better – w/o it they’d probably be well below 80-90kg of fuel for most races, I’d bet.

      Of course, as I say above: most of the environmental impact of F1 isn’t running these cars on track. It is the logistics, maybe the building of new tracks (esp. if then discarded hardly ever to be re-used, see India, or South Korea, or eh, Turkey sort of), and especially, as with all major events, the audiences getting there, and being fed, etc – that’s the most likely the biggest single impact (and why F1, apart from flying/boating stuff around the world, isn’t hugely worse than olympics).

      1. They stopped that sort of innovation partly bc. of cost (and use of rather toxicly exotic materials, which then weren’t as available to mid/back of grid teams);

        This, I think, is the key for me. I totally get that the weight of the cars increased over the years because of safety innovations, the driver weight and so on. I wouldn’t change any of that, because I think they’re valuable developments. But what I don’t get is why we should limit innovation because of costs, now we have a cost cap. Let the cost cap be the limit and let teams decide where to invest their money. Maybe they (for instance) choose to run a bit heavier if they prefer spending their resources on a more powerful engine. Let them decide and see what happens.

        Of course, as I say… …isn’t hugely worse than olympics).

        I agree with all of this! I’ve been wondering before if it would be interesting to divide the calendar into different blocks, based on continents. (for instance: spring – south east asia and australia / summer – Europe and Middle East / autumn: Americas). That way you could save travelling costs, create sponsor opportunities (different livery for each block?), sportive goals… but I guess that’s a different discussion :)

  10. These heavy limousines we call F1 cars in recent times are completely against what a racing car is all about. They should be light and nimble, not big and heavy.

  11. More weight, more downfore, even more load on the tyres, on the brakes on crash barriers.

  12. Keeping everything else the same, I wouldn’t be suprised if lighter f1 cars would be worse for the climate if it meant using more exotic (light) materials.

  13. Well Hamilton, just stop driving, that is greener.

    1. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 17:28

      At least he is trying to do something and bring the topic to the attention of people and F1 and as for your statement that would need to include all drivers then correct?

    2. That’s somewhat simplistic @maxv. I mean, another driver would just take his place.bmore effective is to try and change things on the inside, however as above these PUs weigh quite a bit. Bringing back refuelling is an option of course.

      1. @john-h sure, but he is the one having an issue with it. Also an overly simplistic view he has on it. He can leave and no longer be associated with it.

        Let’s get real, it’s a Gass guzzling circus, that even if it was electric would polute the planet flying around. Do I care, no.

        1. Fair enough @maxv. I mean it’s entertainment at the end of the day so is it worth it, well what is? There’s a balance surely, it’s never going to be particularly sustainable but it sure can do better than it is doing (things have improved massively in the last 20 years, for example not making hundreds of engines that are thrown away). To just go for the head in the sand approach is the easy way out, much harder to face up to problems and attempt to address them, however naive Hamilton is.

          1. @john-h I hear what you are saying and you have a point.

            Guess I am just tired of virtue signaling celebs with no real knowledge about it. Especially Hamilton gets me going with his conflicted hypocrisy.

          2. He definitely doesn’t do himself any favours @maxv agreed. I have to admit when I saw that one planet t-shirt I just sighed.

      2. Well, who knows, @john-h. Since Lewis stopping would probably have a significant impact on the audiences (people attending races is probably the most polluting part, next to wind tunnel use and transport of the whole circus) so it might actually help make for a decrease in environmental footprint of the sport!

  14. There is zero road relevance with those engines. Governments pushing to extinction of ICEs will very quickly lead to BEV only sales. So why not just take F1 as what it is. Just sports. Give these cars a low weight, high power engine, efficiency will come as a bonus.

    1. Exactly. Efficiency in a racing engine – indeed, any engine – is its own reward.
      Not only would I still watch F1 even if it had no mass manufacturers – I actually think it would be better without them.
      And if the racing and entertainment is good enough, the marketing space will always remain attractive to manufacturers anyway.
      Manufacturers have always produced marketing and R&D pieces with little concern for relevance – racing cars, prototype/show cars, etc… It’s all about advertising the brand, and that isn’t going to stop.

      Unfortunately, the sticking point is that the FIA exists to represent and serve manufacturers interests…

  15. I can understand for the Halo, banned refuelling and increasing weight to make sure the bigger drivers aren’t penalized for something out of their control. But whats the justification for increasing the weight this time?

    1. @lejimster82 I think the 2022 increase is partly due to the bigger 18″ tyres, Partly due to some additional safety improvements & partly due to some of the restrictions/banning of some of the more exotic/expensive materials teams/manufacturer’s have developed/are looking at developing.

      I watched a video last week on The Race youtube channel which detailed the weight increases over the years & explained the reasons for each increases. Was very well explained & well worth watching.

  16. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest – nay, assert – that an F1 car could quite easily be constructed within the current budget cap, utilising the current safety systems and specs and incorporating the existing engine and still come in under 650kg and 5m long/2m wide.
    It would almost certainly be less aerodynamically efficient/productive and less dynamically stable, leading directly to slower lap times – but then, if everyone was doing it….

    I’d take exciting cars with slower lap times but great racing ability over the current limousines any day.
    F1 is a constantly changing formula – what do the administrators want it to be?

    1. Amen!

    2. I agree. I don’t think it can be beyond the grasp of the best auto engineers in the world to develop a car which is a little lighter and shorter, and possibly more attractive.

      I too am not worried about lap times being slower than today’s. The important thing is competitive racing not just speed for the sake of it.

      1. S I’m sure it’s more complicated than that. I think it starts with the massive torque these power units produce, and therefore how beefy the chassis has to be to handle that. And yet despite the weight the cars are using a third less fuel than pre-2014. As well they have rightfully only wanted the cars safer and stronger for the drivers too.

        I say let’s give them proper tires that they can actually push with, and that should increase how nimble the cars feel all the while of course they won’t feel as nimble as if they were 100kg lighter, but still, the tires are such a limiting factor currently and that needs to change. Proper tires and the reality that the weight decreases as they burn off fuel would be the easiest way to deal with cars that need to weigh what they do but should be nimble, being F1 cars.

  17. 99 kg compared to 2014, to be precise, and Halo came in 2018.
    Overall, I’m not pushing for decreasing the minimum car+driver weight, but I hope it’d stay the same for at least two consecutive seasons for a change as 2015-2016 is the most recent occasion. The same things should be achievable with a stable figure too, not only by increasing. I’m surprised about FIA’s indecisiveness, though, how often they’ve changed the reference figure more than once before eventually setting it for the given season. For example, 768 kg was the original for the next car concept’s first season (ahead of 2019 US GP) before changing it to 775 and, most recently, the present 790. They should’ve kept the initial number or at least the second one. The same also concerns 2015 (701-702), 2017 (722-728), 2019 (740-743), 2020 (744-746 or 745-746), and this season (749-752) following the COVID-affected carryover.

  18. Simple solution: refueling.

    1. YES!
      Even regardless of size or weight, this is a beneficial strategic element.

      1. it was really boring…

        1. @maxv The cars were really boring, not the refuelling

    2. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 17:32

      They won’t bring back refueling as it’s to expensive to drag round a rig and it’s also dangerous and doesn’t bring any excitement to the racing. To many fires, remember Mass when he pulled the hose our and sped off taking out a mechanic on his way.

  19. Here’s hoping the simplified aero will at least reduce the cost of close pursuit in the “dirty air” wake and appreciably increase the frequency and quality of wheel-to-wheel combat!

  20. F1MadFan1970 (@)
    10th June 2021, 17:32

    They won’t bring back refueling as it’s to expensive to drag round a rig and it’s also dangerous and doesn’t bring any excitement to the racing. To many fires, remember Mass when he pulled the hose our and sped off taking out a mechanic on his way.

  21. Complaining F1 is not sustainable with slightly heavier cars when they are flying cargo jet after cargo jet with all the gear around the world, is the same as doing token social justice gestures and then promote Saudi-Arabia with a race there. Utterly meaningless.

    1. F1MadFan1970 (@)
      10th June 2021, 18:55

      It’s not meaningless as it’s about carbon offset. I see people complaining about refueling are the same complaining about freight and it’s just more weight and more freight. You also went off topic to complain about the Saudi race which has nothing to do with emissions.

      1. @mikejohnherbert Pointing out an argument disabling hypocrisy is not off-topic. It’s about as on-topic as it gets.

        1. F1MadFan1970 (@)
          12th June 2021, 21:30

          Like I said off topic.

  22. RocketTankski
    10th June 2021, 19:11

    Take the heavy batteries and electric motors out, make a lightweight plastic engine fuelled by renewable biofuel. Plant a bunch of trees to offset carbon. Make tyres less explodey. Use less tyres.

  23. F1 and sustainability is a joke concept.

    Lewis selling his private plane did more for sustainability than 100kg on his chassis.

    Cars are to long… And to heavy.

    Granted all that extra weight is there for good reasons.

  24. Formula E cars have increased in weight since the first series because of the major shift to a battery which can last the whole race. What justification does F1 have for the extra, apart from the Halo, and perhaps a bit for heavier stronger
    tyres? I understand not wanting to discriminate against heavier drivers, but that is best covered by a minimum combination weight for the seat and driver, rather than the overall mass of the car.

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