Today's Formula 1 cars are bigger and heavier than ever before.
Last year, the sport's rules allowed for a maximum weight of 798kg. Even that was a small increase on the original 795kg limit, as teams found it difficult to shave off the pounds. At the start of the 2022 season, only Alfa Romeo's C42 managed to come in under that ceiling.
With that in mind, it was interesting to watch as their newest livery was unveiled on Tuesday. For the final season in which the Sauber team will race with the Alfa Romeo branding, they will take to the track in a C43 with a dark red and black paint job which Martin Brundle has already had a moan about.
Actually, that's not quite correct. The red parts are paint, but not the black – a significant part of the car's exterior is made up of exposed carbon fibre. And they won't be the only ones to do it.
Why? Because they need to save weight. Trimming off a couple of layers of paint admittedly will only save a few grams, but it all makes a difference when you consider that so many teams turned to that very same solution last year as they struggled to shed the pounds.
Aston Martin were shaving paint off their sidepods last year. McLaren changed their livery to turn their orange airbox back to black. Every other team – except for those wizards at Alfa Romeo – had to make small concessions wherever possible to try to make their machines lighter.
Since 2008, the weight limit for F1 cars has been raised by more than 200kg. This has happened in increments and predominantly in response to major rule changes and safety upgrades, such as the ban on refuelling, the introduction of the halo and increased size and weight of wheels.
So far, we have seen four car livery reveals ahead of the 2023 season, and they have all show dark colour schemes. Alfa's is the one with the most exposed carbon fibre, but upon closer inspection the others all have it on show as well. And the trend will likely continue, with Mercedes hinting at a return to a black livery again.
With the need to save weight so important, more teams will have to incorporate black into their car designs. Not only does that make them all darker and more dull to look at, but it also creates an issue – as Brundle referred to – when it comes to quickly identifying them when out on track, especially on an overcast or rainy day.
But the impact it has on the aesthetics is not nearly as important as the safety issues presented by these hefty lumps of remarkable innovation. Grand Prix Drivers' Association director George Russell recently spoke out about his concerns in that regard.
He told Autosport : "The big one is the weight. The weight is extraordinary. At the moment, the low-speed performance is not great. 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.
"You're going to have a greater impact if you're going the same speed with a car that weights 800-odd-kgs or over 900kgs at the start of a race, compared to one 15 years ago when they were at 650kg. And I'm sure there's analysis going on about striking that right balance because I don't know where the line is drawn.
"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."
It's not just the weight which creates a problem. The sheer size of the cars makes it harder to overtake, raising the risk of contact when such attempts are made. Not to mention, it has made some of the venues on the calendar, most notably Monaco, much less entertaining just because of how little room there is to move past another car.
F1 boss will not be keen on redesigning the cars so soon after a major change in how they look. But in the interest of both safety and to create a better racing product overall, they should take a serious look at how they can make these machines as small and as light as possible.2023-02-08T09:00:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd