In a sport where every millisecond matters, Formula 1 teams do everything they can to find an advantage on the track.
Sometimes that comes down to a matter of milligrams.
With pre-season testing around the corner, all ten F1 teams have now unveiled their look for the 2023 season. One of the biggest themes to emerge from this year’s slate of unveilings? The presence of black in each paint scheme. Or, more accurately, bare carbon fiber.
The reason? It all comes down to weight.
Take Mercedes, for example. When they shared their 2023 challenger with the world, the W14 E Performance, Team Principal Toto Wolff outlined how last year’s model struggled with weight, and running without paint in certain areas — instead using the black bare carbon fiber — gave the team the ability to reduce weight. In a press release shared with the media, including SB Nation, Wolff discussed the bare carbon fiber at length:
We have gone with a black livery for the W14 in the name of performance. We have explored every opportunity to save weight, and this is true with the livery. It harks back to the origin of the Silver Arrows; back then, Mercedes had a white car that was too heavy, so they removed the paint and ran to victory with the silver aluminum showing. We have taken a similar approach. We were overweight last year. This year we have tried to figure out where we can squeeze out every single gram of weight so now history repeats itself. You will see that the car has some raw carbon bits, along with some that are painted matte black. Of course, when we changed the livery in 2020 the main driving factor was to support the diversity and equality causes which are always close to our heart. The colour black became part of our DNA at that point, so we are pleased to return to it.
Under F1 regulations cars are required to weigh 798kg (1,759 lbs), including the driver, with an empty fuel tank. Teams, such as Mercedes, struggled to get in compliance with that weight restriction last season and worked around the clock to find ways to shave off a few grams here and there.
One way? Running without paint in certain areas, instead with just the black bare carbon fiber exposed. And as teams struggled during 2022 to get the weight of their race cars down, bare carbon fiber was the answer.
Last March Aston Martin Chief Technical Officer Andy Green told Motorsport that removing paint and displaying the bare carbon fiber saved around 350 grams. “Weight is a big, big issue,” he explained. “These cars are heavy by regulation, and to get down to the regulation weight, it’s a challenge. We went through the whole car from front to back, and we took paint off wherever we could. I think in total we saved about 350 grammes.”
Other teams, such as Williams and McLaren, followed suit. Williams went as far as to consider stripping paint from the entire car:
Williams engineers reportedly asked if they could take all of the paint off the car to help reduce its weight.— The Formula (@TheFormulaF1) May 3, 2022
Williams has already removed paint from several areas of the FW44, believing that it's significantly increased the struggling car's performance.#F1 pic.twitter.com/zcZYScnkil
This is not the first time in recent F1 history that teams have tweaked their paint schemes to reduce weight. Ferrari and Red Bull both in recent years switched from a glossy finish to a lighter matte finish.
When you consider that a full paint scheme can weigh as much as 6kg, finding ways to reduce that amount can mean a big reduction in weight, and perhaps more speed on the track:
#F1 cars have around 6kg of paint (according to Alfa Romeo team manager Beat Zehnder)— F1 Data Analysis (@F1DataAnalysis) February 15, 2023
So the maximum theoretical mass gain is 6kg, or around 0.18s/lap (considering a 0.3s/lap weight sensitivity) if the car still ends up over the minimum mass
A 3kg gain would bring around 0.1s! pic.twitter.com/wGX3qkUfS8
After all, if you can shave off some grams here and there by running without paint, that leaves more room for the really important parts that lie underneath.
And now, with all ten teams having shared their vision for 2023, one thing is certain.
There will be a lot of black on the track.
Starting your week off with another #VF23 angle #HaasF1 pic.twitter.com/SwmeJ8CrOd— MoneyGram Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) February 13, 2023
McLaren fans, your #MCL60. pic.twitter.com/F6YxuSSUUL— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 13, 2023
To Alfa Romeo:
Launch pics just dropped. Enjoy. ♥️ #GetCloser #F1 pic.twitter.com/bZyttBJkMg— Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake (@alfaromeof1) February 9, 2023
And yes, Mercedes:
Back in black. Meet the Mercedes-AMG F1 W14 E PERFORMANCE.— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 15, 2023
We're #AllInPerformance. pic.twitter.com/qKYiQiR6In
It certainly seems like this season, black is indeed the new black in F1.