There are many complicated regulations, techniques, phrases, and methods in Formula 1. Sometimes, we have to ask the question, why? When asking these questions, you may get different answers because the rules seem vague, and sometimes they are hard to understand. So, how many cars are there in F1 and why?
For most of Formula One history, there have been 20 cars on the starting grid for each race. However, the rules state that there can be no more than 26 cars. As recently as 2012, there would be 24 cars sometimes. Back in 1995 was the last time we saw 26 vehicles on the starting grid.
Formula One must stick to the regulations set out by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.) In this article, I will go in-depth and answer as many questions as possible regarding the number of vehicles and teams in Formula One, so I recommend you keep reading.
If you’re looking for some F1 merchandise, check out the awesome stuff at the official F1 store here.
How Many Teams Are There In F1 And Why?
Formula One teams are known as constructors: Mercedes, Ferrari, and Haas are just three of the ten constructors currently racing in F1. There have been many teams over the years. However, since 2012, ten teams have been on the starting grid each season.
It is important to remember that Formula One is a dangerous sport. It can be life or death, so the FIA has to ensure that each driver is as safe as possible. Having too many teams could mean that there are too many cars, but that is not the only reason why the slots are so limited in Formula One. Here are a few more reasons:
- Current F1 teams push back against proposals to allow more teams in a season.
- Safety: Having too many teams in a season may result in too many cars, which could be hazardous, especially on tracks like Monaco.
- It can take years for any team to make it into Formula One; there is a massive process that involves a lot of money.
- Speaking of money, not many companies can afford to enter Formula One as it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to get started.
- Many companies have tried to get into Formula One and have lost money. Toyota is a good example; they ended up pulling out of the sport because they were bleeding money.
A few teams are on the waiting list to get into Formula One. While a date is not set in stone, we expect Porsche and Audi to join Formula 2026. Many fans are excited about this because you expect such massive car manufacturers’ to do well in this sport.
How Many Cars Does Each F1 Team Have?
An agreement was made back in 1981. It has since become a regulation that each Formula One team has two cars. They should have no less or no more than two. The reason behind this agreement is not very clear. However, I do have a few thoughts on why the heads of the sport decided to do this:
- Some constructors have more money than others. So, if there was no limit to the number of cars a team could have, a constructor like Mercedes could have a massive advantage over a not-so-financially stable Williams team.
- Having ten teams each with two cars makes things pretty simple because you know you will most likely have 20 cars on the grid every race.
- Because each team has two cars, the constructors’ cup becomes more exciting. If you have your two cars finishing on the podium every week, you are set to win the constructors cup, but it doesn’t typically work like that. So, you rely on both cars getting as many points as possible rather than just one driver.
It is not just about placing a cap on the number of cars a team can have; the agreement also states that each team must have a minimum of two vehicles. Only in very rare cases do we see a team starting with one. It is no longer about driver injury as teams have reserve drivers. It is more about the condition of the car after practice or qualifying.
As I mentioned earlier on in this article, it is possible for there to be more than 20 cars on the grid, but the only way this will happen is if there is a new team in Formula One, they too will have to have two cars.
Can F1 Teams Have A Spare Car?
Formula One is one of the craziest sports I have seen. I am sure you have noticed it as well; a car can be involved in an accident on the Saturday qualifying or even Friday practice yet still be on track and ready to go on a Sunday. So, it is reasonable to think they have spare cars.
Formula One teams do not have spare cars. Instead, they have highly experienced teams of mechanics, engineers, and other highly qualified individuals working for them. They also have a lot of spare parts. If a car crashes, there’s a high chance that the team will be able to rebuild the chassis before the race.
There are some situations where a team starts with one car or even no vehicles if the damage done is too severe to start the race. Now, a team cannot simply rebuild their vehicle every race because a few rules and regulations may limit them. Let’s take a look at a few of those regulations:
- Each driver is allocated eight engines for an entire season. However, most of the damage done to an engine during a race can be fixed using a few minor spare parts, so it isn’t as big of a limitation as you might think.
- Other parts, such as the gearbox, also have limitations, and unfortunately, those are harder to fix. And so, a driver may go through a few more gearboxes than they do engines in a season.
Can There Be More Than 20 Cars In An F1 Race?
In 1953, a total of 33 vehicles started the race in the German Gran Prix. Today that seems crazy. There were supposed to be 34 vehicles, but Helm Glöckler had engine troubles before the race started. The rules have changed since then, so can more than 20 cars be in an F1 race?
Surprisingly, the rules state that the limit for the number of vehicles allowed to start a race in Formula One is 26. However, each team in F1 is only allowed to have two cars, and there are only ten teams. So, until another team in Formula One, I doubt we will see a race with more than 20 cars.
Having more than 20 cars in a race does seem exciting. We would see more action, tighter races, exciting midfield battles, and much more. We would also have much closer championship battles, and more cars and teams could diversify podium finishes.
However, having more cars on the track would come at greater risk. Those risks include more risky race starts. Once the cars spread out a bit more after a lap or two, that is where a lot of that risk begins to fall away.
Which F1 Race Had The Fewest Cars?
Most fans watch Formula One because it is exciting. This article mainly covers the number of vehicles racing in each race. However, I want to briefly discuss which races had the fewest starters and how having too few cars on the track can negatively impact the sport.
Only six cars started the race in the 2005 American Grand Prix in Indianapolis. The tires for the day were not up to standard, so 14 vehicles sat in the garage while only six cars raced. As we saw on that day, having few cars can have a tremendous negative impact on the sport:
- With so few cars on the track, fewer people will watch the sport.
- Having so few cars means no exciting battles are happening in the middle of the field, in the front, or at the back. The vehicles are too spread out.
- Podium finishes will become more predictable, and so will the entire sport.
CNN wrote a recent article discussing the 2005 Indianapolis Grand Prix. I highly recommend reading that article as it covers everything you need to know about that day.
F1 Race With The Fewest Finishes
In the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, we saw the fewest finishes. Twenty-two vehicles were supposed to start the race. However, only 21 made it to the starting lineup. The conditions were wet, and Michael Schumacher had already crashed out of the race in the first lap.
As the race continued, there was collision after collision, accident after accident, and vehicle problems never seemed to end. By the end of the race, only three vehicles crossed the finish line.
As bizarre as the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix was, it was still exhilarating. Having three finishes instead of only six starters is two completely different things.
I recommend checking out the highlights below to get a better idea of what happened in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix:
How Many Drivers Are There In An F1 Season?
In an F1 season, more drivers are signed up than cars. You have the drivers and also the reserve drivers. For the 2022 F1 season, there are fourteen reserve drivers. That means that there are a total of 34 drivers for the season.
The number of reserves changes each year. Not all teams have a dedicated reserve driver. Instead, they sign deals with other teams to use their reserve. For example, Mclaren will use Oscar Piastri. The Alpine reserve for the 2022 season.
There are multiple reasons a team will sign a deal with another to use their reserve driver for a season. Some of these reasons include:
- It is financially beneficial for both teams. One team is compensated relatively while the other does not have to have the driver on their payroll.
- The reserve driver may be in high demand but stuck under a contract with a specific team.
Sharing a reserve driver is risky, and I don’t think it is an excellent idea. Yes, you save a bit of money, but what happens if that driver is being used?
Since the start of the 2020 Formula One season, we have seen more reserve drivers on the track than in previous years. That is to be expected considering the events of 2019 and the safety precautions taken for those events.
Can F1 Teams Have 3 Cars Each?
It may seem logical that if an F1 team can afford to have more than two cars on the grid, they should be allowed to. However, The structure of the sport has been perfected over a few decades. The sport is competitive because of that structure. We should expect the sport to continue to be improved as time goes on.
If there were no limit to how many cars a team can have, the competitive nature of Formula would be negatively impacted, at least in my opinion. With that said, if it were possible to have all teams use three cars, I could see the sport holding its competitive while being more exciting for the fans.
People overlook the logistic issues each team faces for every race weekend. Once a race finishes on a Sunday, teams don’t simply take a break until the following weekend. Instead, they immediately pack up and start heading to the next destination.
They do all this while fixing any vehicle issues that may have come from the previous weekend. So, it should make sense to have a spare car, or even two, right? As we have already discussed, F1 teams do not have extra vehicles.
How Many Safety Cars In F1 And Why?
In this article, we have discussed, in-depth, the number of vehicles each race has in Formula One. I want to take it one step further and discuss one of the most important cars in the sport, the safety car. There is more than one, and these cars are fast, trust me.
- The most famous F1 safety car is the incredible Mercedes-AMG GT R. It has been used in previous Formula One seasons and is still used in the 2022 season.
- However, there is more than one safety car. Aston Martin recently signed a deal, and so the Aston Martin Vantage is also a safety car.
Both of these vehicles play an essential role in each race weekend. They provide a level of safety that cannot be rivaled. Both cars are more than capable of leading the pack of slower-moving F1 vehicles.
It is unclear which safety car gets used at any given time. However, I am sure that all of the technical information is covered in whatever contract both car manufacturers have.
Now, adding these two cars into the mix brings the total number of track-ready vehicles to 22. Also, it means that technically, Mercedes and Aston Martin both have three vehicles.
Does The Safety Car Count In F1?
No, the safety car or any other non-racing vehicle does not count in F1. They cannot race, and they cannot get points for any team. With that said, their presence is significant as they provide a lot of value:
- Safety cars offer a few controlled laps when racing becomes dangerous.
- Safety cars are supplied by manufacturers that manage to sign a deal with the FIA.
- To get the contract, safety cars must meet specific criteria, such as top speed, acceleration, handling, etc.
- The contract is highly sought after as it provides advertising for the manufacturer. For example, Mercedes and Aston Martin use vehicles that the public can purchase. Some people who can afford it might have their interest sparked after seeing the car on the track.
These vehicles are part of the logistic challenges faced by Formula teams and organizers. Remember, the safety cars and medical vehicles are kitted out to serve a specific purpose. So, it is easier to ship the vehicles to a race location rather than to use a new car for every race.
How Many Medical Cars Are In F1?
Another vehicle that gets overlooked is the medical car. Many people think of safety cars, but the medical vehicle is different. It is fast, but not nearly as fast as the safety cars. Also, it is filled with medical equipment and has one driver with a doctor in the passenger seat.
As far as I know, there is only one medical car at each race. It is often accompanied by an ambulance that brings extra equipment to whatever incident the medical car is attending.
The medical car is usually a Mercedes. So, if we decided to get technical (again), it means that Mercedes has four track-ready vehicles at each race. However, they still only have two F1 cars.
The medical car is just as important as the safety car, maybe even more so. It does not get used as much, though. I recommend checking out the video below to learn about this vehicle that is often forgotten.
How Many Engines Can A Formula 1 Car Have?
After each race, the Formula One engine suffers some wear and tear. After a few races, many of the parts may need replacing, and in some cases, a car will need a new engine, but an F1 team cannot Simply put a new engine in the car whenever they feel like it. Some rules and regulations need to be followed.
Each Formula One driver has eight engines allocated to them. That does not mean that they physically have eight engines ready to go. The team will have all the parts needed to build an engine when needed.
With that said, every Formula One team carries enough spare parts to every race to fully rebuild an engine so it is rare that an F1 vehicle gets a new engine built from the ground up during a season.
How Much Does An F1 Car Cost?
It is important to remember that there is a financial cap that each team has to meet. For the 2022 season, it sits just below 100 million dollars. That budget is not just for the car; it is for all the operations, including logistics and so on. It is unclear if that budget includes salaries. Also, estimating how much the F1 car costs is tricky, but we have a rough idea.
It is estimated that a Formula One car costs around $20 million to research, develop and manufacture. One of the most minor costs would be that brake pads coming in at roughly $50,000. The highest cost is the engine coming in at an estimated $12 million.
Following the engine, the chassis is also one of the heaviest costs coming in at approximately $500,000.
You can buy a second-hand Formula One car. If you want to buy one that has raced or can race, you are looking at anywhere between $5 million to $10 million. For a show car, you can pick these up for as little as 100,000 dollars. However, you are buying an expensive piece of art, at least in my opinion.
Do F1 Drivers Get Free Cars?
Formula One drivers have many sponsors. A driver will almost always use a sponsored car when seen in public or at a race weekend. It is important to remember that not all Formula One teams are car manufacturers, such as Red Bull and Haas. But they still have engines in the car, and those engines are due to partnerships.
So, you might see a driver like Max Verstappen driving a Honda because that is the engine used in a Red Bull car, at least at the time.
With that said, Formula One drivers have impressive car collections. Even if it’s from a manufacturer they compete against, that doesn’t mean they won’t own the car. So again, looking at Max Verstappen’s car collection, he owns a Renault, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and much more.
Whether Formula One drivers get free cars would be near impossible because you never know, but it is safe to say that they often get sponsored cars when landing at race destinations.
Regarding how many vehicles are in F1, I think I covered everything you need to know. I wanted to go in-depth because I feel there is much to discuss. It is not enough to ask how many. Instead, I tried to answer as many questions as possible while staying on topic. Hopefully, you know everything you need about how many cars are in Formula One.