F1 insights: Which driver has to race the F1 test chassis and who gets a new one?
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Mar 2017   |  2:31 pm GMT  |  37 comments

At JA on F1 we have always tried to help the fans get closer to the sport and from time to time that means channeling a question in a reader post to F1 team insiders to get an authentic answer.

We had just such a question this morning on the F1 testing analysis post from a reader called OffCourse.

While I know that an F1 car comes apart and goes back together on many occasions and of course all the parts won’t be the same, especially the PU and gearbox after testing but do you know who in each team gets the test car chassis etc… or are they effectively retired and each driver gets everything new?

Daniel Ricciardo

Answer: First of all nowadays it is not like a few years back when there were differences between chassis and drivers would try a couple over a season and find one better than the other (although we have seen examples of a team replacing a chassis for a driver during the year if things are not going well).

Composite production is much better controlled now with laser cut pre-preg sheets and detailed ply books describing the lay up of the composite material in huge detail. That being said there is often a small weight difference between chassis which you normally attribute to a little excess glue not being cleaned up here and there and the amount of filler and paint used in the final finish.

In terms of the chassis number then and the choice for the drivers – practicality tends to dictate things; for most teams in the recent years they tend to shake down two chassis in the two winter tests (or across filming day or full-car dyno and the first winter test).

Esteban Ocon

There are several reasons for this – firstly the production happens in series so the second one often comes out once the program at the track or dyno for the first chassis has started.

Secondly if you have an upgrade package for the second test it makes sense for your factory to build the second car with those new bits so all of the pre-fit is done in the factory with all the right people, before you send it on to the track for the second test.

Thirdly it gives you a chance to ‘shake down’ both chassis :– nowadays the build is so precise that there aren’t many things that you would expect to go wrong – potentially a bracket here and there which mounts on a ‘bag surface’ rather than a mould surface (and the accuracy of positioning therefore isn’t quite as good so you would prefer to check everything fits) or a hole which has been missed out in production, etc, so nothing major but it pays to check before you get to the race.

In terms of who gets which chassis – it varies and it’s common to have ‘pick a number from a hat’ scenarios as well as situations where one driver is heavier driver than the other so the team have given the very slightly lighter chassis to that driver.

Lance Stroll

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How interesting. There really doesn’t seem to be a lot of detail out there about the physical practicalities of putting together top level racing cars. I know a few F1 spanner jockeys, but when I can convince them to talk shop we rarely touch on the mundane practicalities.


Well. That was exciting.


Thx to James Allen and team for spending time providing us readers with answers. This subject was both insightful and informative


Wow, so Rosberg’s chassis was heavier than Hamilton’s, and he still took the world title! …amazing 😉


I would imagine the ‘extra weight’ be converted to ballast. So I wouldnt have thought his car would be heavier, just a lower CofG. Which is definitely a positive, just not as influential overall.


Clarkes, Lewis’ car was lighter than Nico’s in Malaysia, once it had shed a few engine components….


If a chassis isn’t broken and has all the necessary attachment points for the ‘new’ parts, I can’t see there being any real problem over who gets which chassis. It’s the ‘attachments’, the bargeboards, front wings and the like that affect a car more than the body they’re connected to.

Obviously, Stroll is certain to be lumbered with the chassis he’s bent a couple of times in testing. I bet Massa has black spotted that car to ensure he’s not going to get it.


Good to know they also use filler on bodywork in F1. Didn’t know, or expect that.


I was surprised by that, too, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. They’d make all the panels individually, then make a nice smooth, filled join between the bits that don’t need to be taken apart.


Very interesting. Can you please help to explain the shakedown process for an engine, then? I’m trying to come to grips with how Honda can build an engine that runs on a dyno flawlessly (one presumes) but then fails miserably upon installation in the car. Two readers attempted to answer this question in a different post, but I’d like to hear something definitive.


It’s a bit strange. From the outset, I heard engineers express surprise that Honda hadn’t already picked up these problems from the outset. I can only assume that their compressor crank started to produce a lot more vibration once it was subject to all the bumps and g-forces from being run in the car. Though IIRC, they had come through a filming day without issue shortly before the first test.

You can only conclude that Honda have pushed the envelope so much for this year, they don’t fully understand what’s happening in their power unit.


Probably missed this detail somewhere along the line, but don’t think we’ve seen any follow-up on the suspension “clarification” issued by FIA. It would be interesting to learn how Charlie Whiting and company now view the various designs with Winter that testing in the books. Any chance of an update on this bit of detail?

Thanks for all of the insight these last couple of weeks – very much appreciated.


@ GB…I too requested that james give us a ‘heads up’ on this matter but there has been no response. Surely an item of such importance to a cars performance warrants an article even if it is not ultimately definitive!


Appreciated, K. With the additional interest registered in the “+” column, perhaps they are already at work on the details. We can hope, anyhow.


Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport has recorded the Mercedes and Ferrari ‘power units’ at between 109 and 110 decibels during recent Barcelona testing.

The sports newspaper said that is just 6 decibels louder than at the start of the new engine era in 2014.


An increase of 6dB relates to 50% louder.


You’re forgetting that Db is a logarithmic scale. A 3Db increase is twice the volume!


Actually, a 10dB difference is twice the volume. A 3 dB difference means there is twice the sound *energy* (such as Watts from a stereo amplifier), and is a small but noticeable increase in volume to the human ear.


This is why I come to this site – relevant and insightful comments.


Must have been a slow news day 🙂


“Just” 6 decibels is quite a lot though considering decibels are logarithmic.


In absolutes, that’s twice as loud or half the distance from source.

In reality it’s closer to 7-9db to perceive as twice as loud.

Either way, that’s a good improvement in volume.

Shame they still sound ‘modern’..


“there is often a small weight difference between chassis” James, what sort of weight differences are we talking about here, surely it can only be a matter of a few grams?


It can end up being fairly high. Say a chassis is 50kg (educated guess), 40kg of that may be composite (the other will be metallic inserts, honeycomb core, adhesive, etc…). Pre-preginated carbon fibre has a resin weight tolerance of ±5% (approx). So just based upon that the chassis’ could have a difference of 4kg. You will get some more variation based on a lot of factors, but F1 process control is pretty good. That said you may see a further variation of a few hundred grams from extra glue, core crush, etc…. So I would expect the biggest potential difference to 4.5kg, but more likely they will be much more similar than that, approx 1kg would be expected.


I would think that if one chassis came out 4kg heavier than another then even one of the poorer teams would consider rebuilding it. That’s a lot of ballast that goes down the drain which could mean a number if positions on the grid.


Absolutely! I dont dissagree. But like I said, you would probably expect the weight difference to be more around the 1kg mark. I’ve engineered Formula E rear subframes and even though their total mass is approx 13kg, we experienced ±400g across the 8 that we built. My guess is they used the lightest ones first 🙂


Surely if the difference is that big, they’d build another chassis, and another, until they had two at the desired minimum weight? Obviously everyone can’t afford that, but the big teams could.


Yeah, the limitation becomes time. Each team will only produce 1 chassis mould. The turn around time, if you were to work days and nights with an efficient layup process, would be approximately a week until the component is out of mould and you can start another one. Im sure you wont see a difference as big as 4kg, although the pre-preg suppliers put the large tolerance on resin weight, they dont generally go near them (averaged across the roll length).


Amazing to think Jenson button competed all of 2009 – practice, qualis, races – in the same chassis from Melbourne to Abu dhabi……brawn didn’t have a replacement car for the vroom from frome so it was very much a case of jb driving a percentage game. Of you shunt of Jenson, you won’t race next weekend…..


2009 was a remarkable championship, all the more so for factors like this that simply aren’t an issue for the front-running teams in virtually any other year. I think people do Button a grave disservice when they claim he ‘lucked in’ to his WDC. To take a car that was more than a little rough around the edges, take charge of the first six out of seven races against a teammate who was no slouch (and had won eight Grands Prix to Jenson’s one), and fight a successful rearguard action when the Red Bull started to fly was really quite remarkable. To do all of that without so much as knocking the front wing off the car (in the first year when enormous tea tray front wings first appeared), is incredible. He had one chance and he took it with both hands, and that’s the difference between a champion and a capable nearly man like Coulthard or Webber.

People overstate the speed advantage the Brawn car actually had, too. He started with 0.7s in hand and it steadily decreased from there. To put that in context, Mercedes were 1.4s clear of Williams in the first qualifying session of 2015.


Very much agree and support that kind of thinking with all F1 champions. After all its not just about one particular season but the journey from a little boy starting from gokarts and growing up and getting yourself upthere competing with some of the best drivers in the world. Some of them even used to be your idols. Then beat all of them and be the champion.


Jenson was also the first ever driver to win 3 races with the same engine… using that same car.


Doesn’t he own that chassis now?


He definitely owns _a_ BGP001, but there’s conflicting information out there on whether it’s the one he actually drove. Most of the reports about the court case just say he got “an original BGP001.”

If wikipedia is to be believed they only made 3 Merc-engined chassis in total for the whole year. Lucky they had 2 sensible drivers, and not, say, Maldonado and Kobayashi.

Fernando 150% Alonso

He won it in court as far as i remember


Correct he now owns it.

Makes you realise that without any updates from mid season, one chassis and limited parts what pressure he was under to keep scoring enough points to win the championship and keep teams like red bull and mclaren behind!


I wonder how much Bernie charged for the hosting fee 🙂

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