If you’ve been keeping track of the 2023 car reveals this off-season, you’ve probably already spotted a significant trend – Exposed carbon. It’s already been going that way with the 2022 regulations and cars struggling to get down to the minimum weight limit, but Mercedes’ car reveal was the most extreme version yet. A livery that was 80% unpainted carbon fibre, with Toto Wolff admitting the return to the black of 2020 was mainly to save weight.
It’s easy to see why some think this trend has gone too far. When the regulations for 2023 were published, the FIA originally said the minimum weight limit was down to 796 kilograms, but went back up to 798 because the tyres are now heavier and more mandatory electronics have been added. So teams might have been reacting by shaving more paint off the cars.
The weight of the paint on a full car is about 6 kilograms, so having a car that’s 50% carbon is 3 kilos of weight saved, with no real drawbacks besides maybe an annoyed marketing department. And that 3 kilo drop could be worth as much as a tenth of a second per lap, a big performance gain without sacrificing anything in terms of setup.
Some F1 teams have invested in their own paint shops (Red Bull’s is a closely guarded secret) to try to develop the colours they want for the car while also saving weight, but others are clearly struggling here. So what if F1 could somehow mandate a standardised paint rule? Because aesthetically, it might not be a great look for TV come Bahrain if we see large patches of exposed carbon everywhere! Where else could the teams save weight?
We could see teams use lighter materials, or different variations of carbon fibre parts that are lighter but also more fragile. Back in 2017 for instance, Mercedes went too far and had to use heavier versions of their original aero designs because they kept shattering against kerbs.
You could also encourage the drivers to lose some of the weight themselves – It’s why Carlos Sainz has to hold back on the Antipasti heading into Bahrain! – But that’s controversial. Drivers already lose several kilos of weight while driving in a 90-minute race, so asking them to slim down too much could be medically dangerous, a sporting element that Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts have also had to deal with. In any case, there’s a mandated 80kg weight limit for drivers and their seats in F1, so if a driver loses too much body weight their team will just have to add ballast to the seat anyway, which defeats the object.
Without chucking hybrid engines and wide-track cars in the bin, finding a solution to F1’s weight problem isn’t going to be easy. But what do you think? Should the sport be encouraging teams to take drastic measures to get weight off the cars? Should F1 car paint be standardised? Let us know in the comments, and subscribe for more videos! Thanks for watching!