F1 carbon trend about more than just weight saving

Much of the Mercedes F1 W1's bodywork is plain carbon

Much of the Mercedes F1 W14’s bodywork is plain carbon

Formula 1 is currently witnessing a trend where teams are including more bare carbon into their liveries.

Initially done for weight savings under the sport’s new for 2022 regulations, things have now progressed and the considerations are now more broad.

New technical rules introduced last year saw cars increase from 752kg in 2021 to initially, 775kg.

Speedcafe.com revealed that figure was set to increase further still and finally landed on 798kg following a last-minute 3kg addition.

Even still, teams were struggling to get down to the minimum weight, forcing them to pull every trick in the book to shed the kilos.

Even being just three kilograms overweight could cost as much as a tenth of a second a lap, placing an emphasis on shaving ever possible gram.

Teams in fact aim to be underweight so they can then use ballast, placed strategically within the car, as a set-up tool.

In 2022, that saw teams shaving grams from their cars by removing paint or vinyl wraps.

This year, the trend to have more untreated surfaces has remained, though that is more a design choice than a performance necessity.

“We put a huge amount of effort this year into getting the car down to the weight limit,” said Alpine technical director, Pat Fry.

“Obviously the less paint or less film, whichever version you’re using, helps.

“We are now below the weight limit, so ballasting for us,” he added.

While Alpine has swathes of bare carbon the side of the monocoque, top of the sidepods and engine cover, Mercedes has taken it to another extreme.

Its car is almost entirely bare carbon with team boss Toto Wolff drawing the parallel to Mercedes stripping its national racing colour (white) when its cars were overweight in the 1930s, birthing the silver arrows as the sheet metal beneath was exposed.

It’s a neat marketing line, but the truth is more pragmatic; an unmolested carbon surface is lighter and therefore improves the performance of the package.

There’s also a cost consideration, with race-used parts usually having to be repainted back at the factory after use.

“We’re probably into the small numbers,” said Mike Elliot, Mercedes’ technical director.

“I think when you look at the weight of these cars in terms of painting, it’s not huge.

“Every little bit counts and if you can make a small advantage there, then you do it.

“As for what they look like and how they develop once they’ve been sandblasted, it might actually be hard to deal with the pure carbon than it will be the painted, but we’ll see.”

Formula 1 this year embarks on a 23-event schedule while financial regulations are even tighter.

Teams are therefore looking for efficiencies and performance gains everywhere; both on track, operationally, and most certainly when it comes to the bottom dollar.

By not painting or wrapping panels, they’re saving time, money, and potentially easing the maintenance of those components, all while adding performance to the car.

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