How Much Does a Formula 1 Car Cost? Breaking Down the Expenses

Fraser Masefield@@fmasefieldContributor IOctober 15, 2013

How Much Does a Formula 1 Car Cost? Breaking Down the Expenses

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    Giedo van der Garde's Japan smash would have cost at least £100,000
    Giedo van der Garde's Japan smash would have cost at least £100,000Ker Robertson/Getty Images

    Crashes and smashes are all an integral part of F1 Racing. Opening lap collisions between cars are commonplace and only as far back as the Korean Grand Prix did we see Mark Webber’s race end in a fiery blaze.

    The costs of such accidents quickly mount up and it was therefore unsurprising that Christian Horner was not happy with the length of time it took marshals to extinguish the blaze.

    But one-off crashes and smashes usually require only a few parts to be fixed or replaced. The cost of the total package is an entirely different matter.

    Of course, it’s all relative. Whilst the big manufacturer backed teams such as Ferrari and Mercedes have enormous budgets at their disposal and annual spends of well over £200 million, smaller privateer teams such as Williams and Force India only have around a quarter of the spending power.

    Here is a rundown of the cost of the key components of today’s high-tech F1 machines researched from various sources.

Nose and Front Wing Assembly: £100,000

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    The loss of a front wing assembly is a common occurence
    The loss of a front wing assembly is a common occurenceClive Rose/Getty Images

    In almost every race this season you see drivers either damaging or smashing their front wing assembly which includes the nose cone and front wing, usually while jockeying for position on the opening lap.

    In a recent superb piece for BBC Sport (available to UK users only), Eddie Jordan estimates the cost of the entire assembly at £100,000 and these are regularly replaced.

The Engine: £8 Million

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    Handout/Getty Images

    We have seen two large engine fires this season, the first involving Jules Bianchi in Germany and the second, more recently, affecting Mark Webber in Korea.

    The cost of the damage again using Eddie Jordan’s guide would have been in the region of £150,000. Although the bigger picture is far more impressive with the rules permitting eight engines to be used per season.

    If teams have to step beyond this they face a ten place grid penalty.

    Next season sees the introduction of new regulations with the engines switching from 2.4-litre V8s to 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines with the whole season’s engine train costs for next season estimated to be over £8 million.

Rear Wing and DRS: £50,000

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    The DRS system came in for the 2011 season and whilst it’s rare for them to become damaged except for in side impact smashes, the extra mechanics of the new system makes it about the same price as a brand new Jaguar XJ.

Monocoque – £400,000 Each

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    At the heart of the F1 car is the strong carbon fibre monocoque incorporating the driver’s survival cell and cockpit.

    It is the principal component of the car’s chassis with the engine and front suspension mounted directly onto it.

Tyres: £1,300 Per Set

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    One of the major talking points of the 2013 season has been the controversial fast-wearing Pirelli tyre compounds that have come under no shortage of criticism from teams and fans alike.

    In information supplied by Pirelli to Eurosport, the cost of a set of tyres is estimated at £1,300 per set.

    However, the teams only make a small contribution in overall terms with most of the bill picked up by the Italian rubber manufacturers.

Steering Wheel: £50,000

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    Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

    It seems alarming that such a small piece of equipment can command such a hefty price but the steering wheel is the driver’s most important piece of equipment.

    Not only does it do exactly what it says on the tin, buttons and dials also allow the driver to operate the DRS and KERS systems and adjust fuel mixture and wing settings.

    Buttons also allow the driver to have a drink, talk to their pit crew and operate the pit lane limiter. It’s a mechanical marvel that goes well beyond being just a steering wheel.

Driver Fees: £20 Million+

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    Lewis Hamilton is one of the highest paid drivers' on the grid
    Lewis Hamilton is one of the highest paid drivers' on the gridMark Thompson/Getty Images

    Of course, today’s modern F1 machines don’t drive themselves.

    Whilst some smaller teams still rely on drivers with financial backing to provide valuable funding for the team, the top drivers including Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton command hefty wages with some sources suggesting the latter takes home as much as £20 million a year.

    Not bad work if you can get it.

Other Costs – N/A

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Parts such as the KERS system, gearbox and brake disks are more closely guarded but are some of the more vital and complex components that again run into the tens of millions according to various sources.

    Then there’s the huge cost of transporting such valuable freight around the world including the trucks and motorhomes and the thousands of litres of fuel used over the course of the season.

    Again, no precise costs are available with companies such as Shell and Mobil 1 splitting the costs with teams.

    So even without taking drivers fees, transportation and fuel into the equation, the cost of running a single car over the course of a season is running well over the £10 million mark.