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These Are The 10 Most Expensive Parts On A Formula 1 Car

These rear-wheel, single-seater, open-cockpit cars which cut the air like a scalpel cost so much to make and maintain, that the FIA set a $145 million cost cap for the 2021 calendar year. Besides bringing a better competitive balance and making the sport fairer, the cap was also meant to carefully preserve the unique technology and engineering challenges presented by Formula 1.

It’s no surprise that most road-legal cars that are made to be ludicrously fast today heavily borrow some of Formula 1 innovations to be able to blow the doors off their competitors. It’s one of the reasons automakers like Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes, Aston Martin, and McLaren take part in the sport. Each year, these teams change their cars to become faster and safer for the drivers, which involves developing very advanced parts that cost thousands of dollars just to engineer. Adding the fact that most parts use rare materials like titanium as well as light and strong materials like carbon fiber which cost lots of money is the reason Formula 1 car parts aren’t anywhere close to being cheap.

In general, constructing just the basic parts from scratch — main components like the chassis, power unit plus a few other parts — requires over 16 million dollars. In this article, we break down the cost of the 10 most expensive parts on a Formula 1 car to show why this sport is considered the pinnacle of motorsport.

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10 Steering Wheel – $70,000

These Are The 10 Most Expensive Parts On A Formula 1 Car
Via: YouTube – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

F1 cars use specially-designed steering wheels which cost $50,000-$100,000, they’re constructed from carbon fiber. To be comfortable enough for drivers, they have silicone grips. At the back, there are gear-shifting paddles plus a clutch on the lower right used to launch the car from a standstill. From the front steering wheel, drivers can control over 40 functions using components DRS and ERS buttons, toggles, and switches for functions like brake bias and more. Like most modern cars, there’s a color screen that helps in displaying most of the digital information about the car, but it’s much smaller.

Part of the reason an F1 steering wheel costs so much is because of the special wiring on the car’s column that ensures the steering wiring fits in without a risk of the connectors misaligning. It has to be easily detachable and attachable to the car’s column (should take under 5 seconds) to help the driver get out of the cockpit easily.

9 Rear Wing – $130,000

2021 McLaren Formula 1 Car

Rear wings set back constructors almost $150,000. These wings have to meet a set rigidity so as not to flex or bend, hence give a car a speed advantage on straights. The main functions of a rear wing include giving it better balance, helping to reduce drag and turbulence at the back of the car, which ultimately helps to increase downforce.

The 2021 Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Car Rear Wing

A legal feature that adds to the cost and is integrated into all rear wings is the popular but widely-criticized DRS aid, which was introduced to add more wheel-to-wheel combat. When a driver who is 1 second behind a car wants to overtake, they press the DRS button on the steering, the top element of a car’s rear wing opens up which reduces drag giving the behind car a speed advantage.

8 Fuel Tank – $150,000

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow Formula 1 Car

F1 cars no longer refuel during a race because they now have a fuel tank capable of holding 30 gallons of fuel. It has fuel bags that are shaped and designed to exactly fill the space between the drivers’ seat and engine to prevent any collapse in a period of low fuel during a race. The bottom of the fuel tank is made wider than other parts to lower the center of gravity of the car.

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Lance Strolls 2021 Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 Car
Via: Wikimedia Commons

In terms of materials used, the F1 car fuel tank is made from Kevlar and polyurethane to make it indestructible, as a small rapture can result in fire damage and fatal accidents. Since the tank is a high maintenance part, a price tag of $150,000 isn’t shocking. These cars use gasoline, and the fuel adds over $500,000/season in costs depending on races on the racing calendar.

7 Hydraulic Control System – $200,000

The RedBull Formula 1 Car Front Wing

Implementing a hydraulic control system costs F1 teams the equivalent of a brand new 2022 Bentley Flying Spur ($200,000). This extremely complex system is responsible for controlling 9 other subsystems in the car. Money aside, the system pays F1 teams back in terms of performance and convenience, as a driver’s chances of making a mistake are greatly reduced.

RedBull and Mercedes AMG Formula 1 Cars

The modern hydraulic control system is the reason current Formula 1 cars now have power-driven steering and a steering wheel that includes the DRS system button, hand changing clutch, and paddle shifters.

6 Brakes – $200,000

The RedBull Formula 1 Car Braking

Brakes in Formula One are advanced pieces of technology that can slow these cars from 200mph to 40mph in a mere 4 seconds, reaching temperatures of 1200 degrees without warping or having brake fade. There are large brake ducts and over 1500 holes for cooling. These brakes cost more than 100 times those used in a road car, despite being made to last only 250 miles.

Formula 1 Car Brakes

Their high costs are a result of the pads and discs used, which are formed from a pricey composite material reinforced with carbon fiber. The manufacturing process for both — which is not done at scale — is also nowhere close to being cost-efficient. Compressed fibers for making the pads and discs have to be put in a furnace at over 1000 degrees Celsius to turn out reliable.

5 Exhaust System – $230,000

Ferrari Scuderia Formula 1 Car Exhaust

Wondering why it costs so much? Well, an F1 exhaust system not only extracts the used gases from the engine, but it’s also used for optimizing and exploiting engine and turbocharger performance. Tight packaging of the exhaust system is also very expensive. The upside is that it results in aerodynamic advantages, which can boost the car’s performance because of a more compact bodywork.

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Renault (Now Alpine) Formula 1 Car Exhaust

More exhaust system costs are added by designing the Motor Generator Unit system (MGU) around it. Because exhaust gases in F1 cars can reach 1000 degrees Celsius, the MGU harvests energy from the heat plus breaking energy generated on corners and stores it as electric energy in the Energy Store (battery). F1 drivers can then get an extra 300 hp for defending and attacking other cars on straights by pressing the ERS (Energy Recovery System) button.

4 Front Wing – $300,000

Ferrari 2021 Formula 1 Car Front

The downward-pointing front wing and the nose cone — the rectangular strip which connects the wing to the chassis — are used for reducing drag and providing more downforce. This is achieved by directing the air around the car, upwards around the upper bodywork, and away from the front tires. Both are referred to as sacrificial crash structures despite costing teams a whopping $300,000. Most cash-strapped teams spend around $200,000 for both.

2021 Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Car

The reason for that name is that they’re both almost guaranteed to get damaged in case of a crash, unlike the monocoque. And it’s by design; during a crash, they’re designed to get broken in a controlled way to lower the impact energy of negative deceleration, hence prevent fatal crashes.

3 Drivetrain – $1 Million

The Mclaren F1 car 2020
Via: Wikimedia Commons

The whole drivetrain which includes the clutch, driveshaft, differential, and gearbox costs F1 constructors over 1 million. A significant amount of that — over $600,000 — is used on the carbon titanium-made gearboxes bolted to the back of the engine — and behind the driver.

Via: RedBull

Interestingly, F1 cars don’t have fully automated gearboxes — with features like launch and traction control — that most people are used to; they use highly sophisticated semi-automatic sequential gearboxes (8 front gears and an extra reverse gear). Drivers have paddle-shifters under the steering wheel for seamless 2 to 3ms switching. Despite a driver’s fast action being key, the car’s sensors and the electronic throttle control are the parts that actually perform the fast shifts for brutal acceleration.

2 Monocoque – $1.2 Million

McLaren Formula 1 Car Top

Monocoques used in F1 cars cost between $707,000 and up to $1.2 million. Monocoques are made as a single integrated chassis that houses the driver’s protective shell and also where parts like the front wing and the halo get bolted to. Since they almost entirely use carbon fiber for the construction, it’s the reason they end up costing so much. Also, they use 12 layers of carbon fiber mats to be virtually indestructible under most extreme crashes. It is claimed that an F1 monocoque is twice as strong as steel and 5 times lighter.

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2021 McLaren Formula 1 Car Monocoque

A very important part of the monocoque that has saved countless driver’s lives is the titanium-made Halo ($20,000) introduced in 2018. It protects a driver’s head from air-borne debris, guardrails, walls, and other cars during crashes. In general, the highest monocoques weigh barely 77 lbs. Despite this, the minimum weight permissible for an unfueled car with a driver inside is 1,631 lbs.

1 Engine – $11 Million

RedBulls Formula 1 Cars Engine

Formula 1 cars made from 2014 use a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 engine capable of 12,000 rpm reliably. The new V6’s produce more power and score better in efficiency than the previous 2.4-liter V8 engines. Most F1 teams are very secretive about engine power figures, but in 2019 Renault (now Alpine) claimed theirs could produce 1000hp.

A 2018 Formula 1 Cars Power Train
Via: Formula1.Com

F1 engines set back constructors over $11 million. Notably, these figures are not just for the internal combustion unit only, they’re for the whole power unit which also includes other ancillary components like Control Electronics, Turbocharger (TC), MGU-K, MGU-H, and Energy Store. Crashes can result in millions spent replacing power units and even grid position penalties. To prevent teams from overspending on power units, the FIA has an engine cost cap of $15 million.

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