The Surprising Reason F1 Race Cars Cost So Much

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Love F1 racing? Learn about the cost of the engine, how much they really spend on tires, and more.
Updated April 11, 2024
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If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the car-racing industry, the Netflix docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive is an excellent and eye-opening look at the drivers, managers, and vehicle owners making headlines.

Yet, it really makes you wonder: How much does it cost to make the cars that live at the top of the greatest car racing competitions across the globe?

After learning the basic reasons behind these costs, you will quickly discover that Formula 1 racing is not for people who want to eliminate money stress.

The cost of a single car

vetkit/Adobe businessman counts money in hands

Each F1 car is going to have its own individual price tag. But these massively detailed vehicles packed with industry-leading innovation can easily cost around $12 million to $15 million each.

That means that a team with several vehicles on it can cost many millions in total.

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The most expensive parts

Benjamin Gelman/Adobe sport car motor

Each component of these vehicles is carefully selected, designed, and engineered. You may think the steering wheel, at a cost of about $50,000, is the most expensive component. However, you would be way off.

The combination of the chassis, engine and transmission make up the most expensive part of the car. In fact, it’s possible for the trio together to cost slightly more than $10 million.

The tires

Viks_jin/Adobe formula 1 racing car maintenance technical team

There’s nothing more mesmerizing than watching a team change out tires during a race with precision and speed. So, how much do these tires really cost?

Perhaps not as much as you might think. Most often, the tires cost around $2,700 to $3,000 for a set of four.

That may not seem like a lot, at least compared to other parts of the car. But when you consider that each driver needs about 13 sets of these tires for a Grand Prix event, it’s easy to see just how fast this replaceable component will increase costs.


The chassis

art_zzz/Adobe BMW Formula E sports car

A car’s chassis is certainly one of the most expensive components, since it’s virtually the frame that holds the car together. A standard vehicle couldn’t handle the intense pressure and force that F1 cars endure.

It’s expected, then, that these vehicles would have a very expensive chassis, and that’s the case. A chassis can easily top $700,000.

The steering wheel

danieleorsi/Adobe pilot inside cabine of his vehicle

On F1 vehicles, the steering wheel is nothing like what you will find on a standard vehicle. It’s a built-in computer, capable of transmitting data at incredible speeds to allow for impeccable decision-making by drivers and managers.

An F1 steering wheel vehicle can top $50,000.

How much the hydraulics cost

Tan Kian Khoon/Adobe a1 grand prix

The hydraulics in your vehicle help create a smooth ride. When they start to go bad, you feel it with every pothole you hit. So, you can imagine the importance of an F1 vehicle’s hydraulics.

It’s no wonder this is one of the most expensive components of a vehicle, with an average cost of around $170,000.

Pro tip: It’s safe to say that most of us won’t purchase an F1 car anytime soon. So, focus on the car in your garage and try to lower its cost by finding a way to save on car insurance.


The front and rear wings

davidhewison/Adobe 2023 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix

An F1 vehicle’s aerodynamics also reflect the value of these cars. The front and rear wings on a vehicle going as fast as 300 kilometers per hour have to be incredibly efficient.

The front wings, with the nose cone, are likely to cost around $300,000. The rear wings come in at about half that value.

The gearbox

Supermelon/Adobe F1 driver inside his car

Flying around the track requires a seamless gearbox, one that can shift with ease. For F1 cars, these are mostly automated to eliminate any slowdowns. These vehicles must have eight forward gears and a single reverse gear.

On an F1 car, expect the gearbox to ring up at $600,000. However, the price can be much lower or higher depending on the car’s design.

The brakes

davidhewison/Adobe Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix

The brakes are critical when you think about slowing down. They must protect the driver.

You can expect, then, that the brake discs and pads for the average car will cost around $78,000. Discs and pads also get changed out frequently between races, pushing up the overall cost of the car.


Why are these cars so expensive?

Minerva Studio/Adobe surprised businessman reading a document

There are plenty of reasons why these costs are so high, but it all comes down to winning a race. F1 cars have to incorporate innovative, lightweight, and effective components to ensure success.

The vehicles also have to be designed to be safe.

Bottom line

Alex Ruhl/Adobe man watching formula racing on smart tv

When you see the turmoil, drama, and competitiveness of the racing industry, you know that F1 vehicles are powerful and highly expensive.

What’s more, these vehicles are constantly upgrading their parts throughout the season, routinely increasing the cost of them.

If you plan to keep more money in your wallet, you are probably better off forgetting about an F1 car and heading to the dealer lot for a Honda Civic instead.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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