Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at odds in debate over lighter cars

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, shake hands. Australia, April 2023.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, shake hands on the podium. Australia, April 2023.

It’s not lighter cars that the drivers want, it’s smaller ones says double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.

Earlier this year FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem revealed he’d like to see the sport lose weight come 2026 with its new engine regulations, a turnaround on Formula 1’s recent trend.

This season the weight of the cars has been set at a minimum of 798kg, a huge increase from 2008’s weight of 585kg with that having been the final season before Formula 1 began to incorporate hybrid systems and all their bulk.

“One thing I would like to see is very clear: we need a lighter car,” Ben Sulayem told Motorsport.com. “I believe this is better. I come from motorsport, where lighter cars are safer and they won’t use the same amount of fuel.

“It will be hard to achieve, but everybody wants it. So I am pushing because I come from rallying, where nothing is worse than having a heavy car.”

But according to Alonso, the weight is not the biggest problem the drivers are facing, they’re not happy with the actual size of today’s ground effect aerodynamic cars.

“I don’t think it [lighter cars] would change much the show,” said Alonso. “I think it’s more the size of the cars than the weight of the cars, which makes things a little bit more difficult, overtakings, fights into the first couple of corners in the race, it is difficult now to position the car, just because the size of it, not because the weight of the car.

“So I think it’s going to be difficult to really reduce, significantly, the weight of course, as the hybrid engines, they will always be heavier than the normal engines and the safety on these cars is a lot higher as well.

“I know there is some interest in going into that direction. Let’s see what they can do. It will be always welcome and it’s always more fun to drive light cars, but at the end of the day, I think it’s more the size of them that makes racing a little bit more difficult.”

Earlier this season Alonso was penalised for being out of position on the grid with the Spaniard’s AMR23 having wheels over the white painted line at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

But while he feels it’s size not weight that’s the issue, Lewis Hamilton says he likes the dimensions.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 teams refusing eye-watering buyout offers of ‘almost billions’

Are lighter F1 cars on the way with next rules reset?

“I think the dimensions are pretty good. I quite like the size of the car but obviously there are some places where it is tight,” said the Mercedes driver.

“But I think it is the weight that has definitely gone too far. Our wheels this year are a ridiculous weight. And there’s just no need.

“We’ve had light wheels in the past, and then the cars, just the braking zones are longer but I definitely think there’s some good changes they can make for the future. It’s not my decision, obviously.”

Sergio Perez agrees the sport could do with making changes to the tyres, but also the cars.

“Well, I think the dimensions of this car, probably they have an impact in places like Monaco, where it just gets harder to do racing,” he said. “But other than that, I do think that the tyres, the size of the car are probably a little bit too big.

“Although we can follow a bit better, it seems a bit better to protect, defend your position. So I would welcome a lighter car as well but I don’t think it’s a main issue to me. It’s also the size of the car that is hurting a bit the racing side.”