George Russell has spoken about his concerns over how heavy Formula 1 cars now are, emphasising in crashes they now resemble a “bus” rather than a “Smart Car” upon impact.
The significant regulation changes in 2022 brought about considerable changes to how Formula 1 cars are built and how they look, but additional safety measures and the weight of certain parts raised the minimum weight of the new generations of car by 43kg in time for the new season.
Most of the grid still came in above that new minimum 795kg weight, with a compromise of 798kg agreed between the teams as the least a car and driver could weigh together at the end of a race.
But since the end of the refuelling era in 2009, when the minimum weight was just 605kg – 193kg lighter than it was in 2022 – Formula 1 cars have become significantly larger to accommodate the fuel tanks required to run full race distances, along with the heavier turbo hybrid engines, and additional features to make the cars safer, such as the Halo, all adding more weight to the cars.
The minimum weight has gone up incrementally season by season, but Russell, who represents driver interests as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, believes there will come a point where the cars may be too heavy to be considered safe during crashes.
The Mercedes driver acknowledged there are “a lot of positives to take from this regulation change”, though the additional mass the cars now have is his main gripe.
“The big [issue] is the weight,” Russell told Motorsport.com.
“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 weighs 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.”
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