Formula One: Money, Money, Money (Part 3) Component Costs

Ryan WoodAnalyst IJuly 29, 2008

Welcome to the third and final installment of the Formula One Information Guide to Money. We have taken a look at Team Budgets in Part 1, Making Money in Part 2, now we take a detailed look at Component Costs in the last of the Money, Money, Money series.

Let's begin with a look at a basic Formula One car and explain how this article will work.

Below, shows a Formula One car, each area is labeled with a number. This number corresponds to a section of this article, starting with the most expensive part, down to the least expensive.


1. Engine (£107,000 each)

A Formula One Engine must last for two races in the 2008 season. This means teams will get through an average of 10 engines a season per car. This figure can be higher if a team suffers from engine failures on a regular basis and must change it more frequently.

As we saw in Part One of this series, over £100 million is spent on development and production at a Top Five team. A Formula One car can output 900bhp from a 2.4 litre V8.

At £107,000 each and an average of 10 engines per car. A team will spend £2,140,000 on engines for their two cars.

2. Gearbox (£65,000 each)

Gearboxes must now last for four races in a season. Formula One gearboxes are highly technical, and contain complicated software which allow the car to change gear in less than 0.01 seconds, 50 times faster than a human eye can blink. A typical gearbox has 7 gears, which can be changed through ratio settings to allow a car to have higher top speeds, or acceleration. 

A team will get through five gearboxes per car, making this the second most expensive item. Total

seasonal cost for a team, £650,000.

3. Monocoque (£58,000)

The Monocoque is a single shell design constructed of Carbon-Fibre. This provides the car with its shape, and many of its safety features. Development of the Monocoque is heavily scrutinised, and costs millions of pounds. Each car is almost identical with a quality margin of just 0.5mm difference. 

A single Monocoque is needed for each car at a cost of £58,000 each, although development and design costs are much higher. Over a whole season it is likely each car will suffer a heavy crash in which the Monocoque will need to be changed. An average team will use two for each car at total cost £232,000.

4. Telemetry (£53,000)

The telemetry used in a Formula One car is custom-made for each team at a cost of £53,000 per car. Telemetry allows a team to monitor hundreds of settings, readings, tyre pressures, fuel levels, tyre wear, engine output, exhaust gases, and can also be used to discover why crashes happen. 

With each car needing Telemetry software and Telemetry sensors, the total cost is £106,000.

5. Steering Wheel (£20,000)

Steering Wheels are highly complicated pieces of hardware, with over 23 dials and buttons, controlling over 120 different functions and weighing just 1.3kg. 

In 1991, McLaren engineer John Barnard developed the current Formula One steering wheel we most commonly see today, although minor changes such as LCD screens have been incorporated. This allowed Nigel Mansell, the driver at the time, to change gears without moving his hands from the wheel, making changes much quicker.

A F1 steering wheel is constructed from lightweight carbon-fibre and rubber grips; it takes more than 100 hours to construct. The total cost over a season is £40,000.

Below we can see an image of a BMW Steering wheel used in 2006, and what each button controls.


6. Front Wing (£10,700 each)

The most prominent aerodynamic parts of the F1 car are probably the Front and Rear Wings. Costs do vary between teams, as some teams have relatively simple front wings, and others such as McLaren have layered wings with over-cone strips. They can be adjusted to give different aerodynamic settings, by adding or taking turns out.

A team will go through 10 front wings in a season per car, but as we have seen with Nakajima, this number can increase. The total cost, based on 10 for each car over 18 races, is £214,000.

7. Rear Wing (£6,500 each)

Similar to the front wing, the rear wing is a prominent part of a Formula 1 car. It provides downforce to keep the rear wheels from sliding around, and it provides aerodynamical grip.

A team will use an average of 10 rear wings per car, over a season. Total £130,000.

8. Exhaust System (£5,800 each)

The Exhaust system is changed every other race, or whenever an engine is changed. We have seen with Raikkonen earlier this year that exhausts can cause minor damage to a car, and the engine if they break or work insufficiently. 

Teams will use 10 exhaust systems over a season, at a total cost of £116,000.

9. Fuel Tank (£5,300)

Formula One fuel tanks are very different in construction to your car's tank. They are constructed of puncture-proof Kevlar (the same as bullet-proof vests), and can change shape if pressure is applied to any part of the tank. This is vital in stopping fuel leaking over the track when a car crashes. The tanks will differ in capacity between teams, and are capable of holding 180 litres.

A team will only have to use one tank per car over a season, as they are very strong and rarely damaged in crashes. Total cost is £10,600.

10 - Under Works (£4,200 each)

The Under Works, which are connected to the barge-board, has the job to channel the air cleanly under the car, and out the back. A team will go through 10, five for each car through a season, as they are often scraped, and damaged underneath. The total cost is £42,000.

11 - Bodywork (£4,200 each)

Other than the Monocoque, other body panels are added to the car, to provide extra aerodynamical grip and speed. Each car has an average of four extra aero devices which are not incorporated into the Monocoque. These pieces average £4,200 each.

Total cost is £33,600; however, more pieces may be added over the season increasing the cost.

12 - Steering Column (£2,100 each)

Earlier, we saw the steering wheel, which costs a huge £20,000. However, this does not include the steering column, which connect the wheels to the steering wheel. This is constructed of two main parts, the Pinion Gear and the Track Rod. There is, of course, the power steering unit. The total cost for both cars is £12,600.

13 - Dashboard (£1,700)

The dashboard on a Formula One car isn’t quite what we’d call a dashboard. It contains just one dial. This dial tells you speed, gear and performance. The performance indicator measures a certain distance, and then tells the driver how quickly they drove it, compared to the last lap. Another indicator on the dashboard is a sequence of lights which tell the driver the optimum time to change gear. [Fact - The McLaren is one of only two cars to have a dashboard, and it weighs just 100g] Total cost £3,400.

14 - Suspension (£900 each, 20 parts needed)

Suspension is the hardest part of the car to set up; it can determine how much under-steer and over-steer is on the car, and how effectively the car looks after tyres. Suspension is made up many parts, such as pushrods, pullrods, rockers, torsion bars, springs, shock absorbers, and packers. Around 10 parts make up one side of the suspension for an F1 car, so each car has around 20 parts connecting the car to the wheel. The total cost for suspension is £72,000.

15 - Wheel/Alloys (£700 each)

A little different to the alloys we have on our cars at home, but they have the same job. They keep the tyre connected to the breaks, and the car. An F1 team will go through 72 wheels, four for each car, which allows them to be changed at every other race.

The total cost for 72 wheels is £64,800.

16 - Brake Discs (£600 each)

Each car has four wheels, and therefore needs four disc brakes. A team can change disc brakes quite easily, and will sometimes change them between testing and race day. An average team will get through 240 disc-brakes a season. That's 120 on each car.

The total cost is £144,000.

17 - Tyres (£310 each)

We all know that there are two different tyre compounds (hard and soft), and three different tyres (dry, wet and super-wet). But did you know that each car is provided with 448 tyres over a racing season?

With each tyre at £310, and each car using 448, a team has to fork out a total of £277,760.

Total cost of Formula One cars;

2 cars - £4,278,760

Each - £2,139,380

So, if you're thinking of buying an F1 car, you best have a nice and healthy bank balance. They’ll set you back over £2 million.

Remember: These are all estimates (fairly accurate). Due to the nature of Formula One, firm figures are never released.

I hope you have all enjoyed my ‘F1 Info Guide, Money, Money, Money’ series, please feel free to star this article, and comment. Thanks.


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