FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem is eager to see lighter F1 cars when the next ruleset is introduced in 2026.
Formula 1’s next big rules revolution is set for the 2026 season, with new engine regulations already in place.
But the chassis regulations to go with them are yet to be finalised, with agreement from pretty much every party involved in the sport that the cars need to be made lighter and not continue to get heavier, as they have done in recent years.
The 2023 F1 car weight is set at a 798kg minimum, thanks to introductions in recent years of hybrid systems such as energy stores and recovery systems, as well as safety devices such as the Halo.
This is a huge amount more than the weight of the 2008 F1 cars, the last year before the introduction of the first hybrid system, when cars weights were set at a minimum of 585kg. They rose to 605kg for 2009 with the introduction of KERS, and the weight has been steadily climbing ever since.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem: I’m pushing for lighter cars
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has revealed that he is a vocal proponent for reducing the weight of the F1 cars for the new ruleset.
“One thing I would like to see is very clear: we need a lighter car,” he told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.
“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.”
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali agreed with the FIA President, saying it’s up for discussion.
“One of the points that has always been a debate has been the weight,” he said.
“As you know, with the hybrid engines, with the batteries, the weight is getting higher and that is something that is not really in the nature of F1. So, it’s a topic for discussion for the future.”
Lewis Hamilton doesn’t “fully understand” heavier cars
Aside from the fact that heavier cars make low-speed performance more difficult, there’s a drawback in that impacts become more severe as the mass of the car increases.
There’s also the issue that heavier cars create more energy that is needed to disperse, as well as needing more fuel to move at high speed – something that is at odds with F1’s push for greater sustainability with a target of 2030 set in order to achieve ‘Carbon Net Zero’.
“As we get heavier and heavier, that’s more energy we’ve got to dissipate,” Lewis Hamilton said of the heavier cars.
“Bigger brakes, more brake dust, more fuel to get you to the location, and so on,” he said. “I don’t fully understand it.”
Teammate George Russell, also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, was in agreement, as he spoke to Motorsport.
“The weight is extraordinary. At the moment, the low-speed performance is not great,” he said.
“We keep making these cars safer and safer, but obviously the heavier you make them, when you have an impact it’s like crashing with a bus compared to a Smart Car.
“If you just keep making it heavier, heavier, heavier, stronger, stronger, stronger – actually you get to a point where you cross over that [line] that too heavy is actually not safer.”