Drivers at the national anthem performance, Hockenheimring, 2018

How F1 will cut shorter drivers’ weight advantage in 2019

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 will introduce new rules establishing a minimum driver weight in 2019, as RaceFans revealed in January.

The goal is to level the playing field between F1’s lightest and shortest drivers. The difference in weight between the two can be as much as 17kg.

As F1 teams are usually able to build cars which are lighter than the minimum weight limit, this does not mean heavier drivers currently have to carry more weight. All the drivers’ cars have ballast added to meet the minimum weight limit.

But as shorter drivers need to add more ballast they can position this in a location which is better for their car’s weight distribution. This puts them at an advantage over heavier drivers.

As heavier drivers usually carry more weight because they are taller, this is a disadvantage they cannot overcome. But a rules change for the 2019 F1 season aims to change that.

From next year the FIA will establish the weight of every driver plus their seat and other driving equipment at the first race of the year. Those weighing less than 80kg will have to carry ballast bringing them up to this minimum level. This will form part of the car’s overall minimum weight limit of 740kg.

To make it harder for drivers to gain an advantage through the positioning of this ballast, its location is specified in the rules. The 2019 regulations state it must be “entirely located to the car between the front and rear extent of the cockpit entry template, attached securely to the survival cell and sealed by the FIA.” Teams can continue to position other ballast elsewhere on the car.

The new F1 rules are similar to those which have been used in other championships for many years. IndyCar, for example, has a Driver Equivalency Weight of 83.9kg (see below).

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Preventing foul play

Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Magny-Cours, 1995
Schumacher’s weight was a focus of interest in 1995
The FIA technical delegate can order a driver to be re-weighed at any time during the championship. This should prevent drivers from trying to gain an advantage by artificially increasing their mass when they are weighed for the first time, then running below the limit after then.

This was a source of controversy when similar rules were used in the past. In 1995 a new rule required drivers to be weighed before the season began. Some drivers were found to weigh noticeably more than they had at the end of the previous year.

The most extreme increase was that of reigning world champion Michael Schumacher, who was found to weigh 8kg more than he had at the end of the previous season. Schumacher insisted his weight increase had been due to a new training regime, though after the first race his weight had returned to its previous level.

F1 and IndyCar driver weight rules

2019 F1 technical regulations: Article 4

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Suzuka, 2018
Hulkenberg is one of F1’s tallest drivers
4.4 Ballast:

Ballast can be used provided it is secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal.

It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate.

Ballast designated for the sole purpose of achieving the driver weight specified in Article 4.6.2 must:

a) Be entirely located to the car between the front and rear extent of the cockpit entry template.
b) Be attached securely to the survival cell and sealed by the FIA.
c) Be clearly identified.

A nominal such weight of 10kg should be present for the impact test described in Article 16.3.

[…]

4.6 Weight of the driver:

4.6.1 The weight of the driver with his seat and driving equipment will be established by the FIA technical delegate at the first Event of the Championship, this reference weight may be amended at any time during the Championship season if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate. This reference weight will be used to establish the minimum weight of the driver and ballast referred to in Article 4.6.2 below.

4.6.2 The reference weight of the driver will be added to the weight of any ballast designated for this purpose and, at no time during the Event, may this be less than 80kg

2018 IndyCar rule book: Article 14.4.2

Start, IndyCar, Road America, 2018
IndyCar has similar Driver Equivalency Weight rules
14.4.2.1 IndyCar specifies the Driver Equivalency Weight. INDYCAR shall notify each Entrant of its Driver Equivalency Weight.

14.4.2.2 Driver Equivalency Weight must bring the combined weight of the Driver and Driver ballast to 185 pounds.

14.4.2.3 IndyCar may weigh any Driver and adjust the Driver ballast accordingly.

14.4.2.4 Drivers over 185 pounds are allowed a Car weight reduction equal to the amount the Driver exceeds 185 pounds.

14.4.2.5 The Driver ballast weight tolerance is 0.00 to + 1.00 pounds. The Driver Equivalency Weight must be installed and secured in the designed location forward of the seat back. This location may only be used for Driver ballast.

14.4.2.6 In addition to the above specified location, a 10-pound (tolerance 0.00 to + 0.50 pounds) Driver ballast weight may be added to the front face of the pedal bulkhead as per approved drawing supplied by Dallara. This location may only be used for Driver ballast and only for Drivers requiring 10 pounds or more ballast.

14.4.2.7 The Driver Equivalency Weight must be a hard-dense metal.

14.4.2.8 Violation of this Rule may result in a minimum $100,000 fine and/or other penalties.

14.4.2.9 All Drivers are reweighed at technical inspection within fifteen (15) minutes after completion of practice session one (1) of a Race Event. Drivers must wear the following personal safety equipment: uniform, underwear (top and bottom), socks, and shoes.
14.4.2.9.1 A Driver late for weigh in loses ten (10) minutes from the end of the next practice session.
14.4.2.9.2 A Driver failing to appear for weigh in may not participate in practice and/or Qualifications until he/she has completed the weigh in.

14.4.2.10 Driver ballast changes are subject to the following:
14.4.2.10.1 A Driver weight change of plus or minus 3 pounds: Car and/or Driver weight will remain unchanged, and Entrants may not change their Driver ballast.
14.4.2.10.2 A Driver weight change of more than plus or minus 3 pounds: Entrants must change their Driver ballast before the current Race’s Qualifications.

14.4.2.3 A Driver weight change of more than plus or minus 7 pounds: Entrants may be subject to penalty

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 35 comments on “How F1 will cut shorter drivers’ weight advantage in 2019”

    1. at the first race of the year

      Eh, so what’s to stop all short, light, drivers from making sure they have just a bit more muscle, or water, which they can late sweat off, at that first race, only to lose that weight before the next race and thus be under 80kg in total? No real disadvantage, as a) everyone in similar position will be doing it, b) they’d only risk being at that 80kg anyway at worst. And after that they’d again have an advantage, at least over those unfortunate enough to be too tall/heavy to do it. I expect a lot of drivers at exactly 80kg :)

      1. Ah, and then I finished the last bit of that and read FIA luckily did think of that this time, good :)

      2. @bosyber
        If you would bulk up and then shred the extra mass, you would still have the specified 80kg at (more or less) the same location, bc that location is now codified within the regs.

        And none of the drivers is even near 80kg (I think Hulk is around 75kg), and I don’t expect them to come to that too. I don’t think there’s much of an advantage in being at 80kg if you’re 1.75m (which is about the average height of the drivers); you’ll be just overweight for the job.

        And on top of that: in the article under ‘Preventing foul play’, they mention an ‘anti-cheat-procedure’.

    2. A good decision. I don’t see anything bad doing this. Sure the car is getting little heavier again but this time it is for good reason.

      1. Why is it for good reason? Your physical characteristics are generally important in sport and give you advantages and disadvantages. For instance in Athletics I was at an advantage if I was selected in Lane 1 for indoor meets in the 400m as I was shorter and therefore not affected by the tight corner. I would also then have the advantage of seeing the field in front of me. Tall basket ball players have an advantage…

        Are we saying that Tall Basketball players should have to run around on their knees in an effort to make it more fair for 5ft players wanting to do well in the sport? Should we put weights and stilts on jockeys to make it fair?

        1. Simply because this isn’t athletics.

          It’s not simply that taller drivers have a natural disadvantage, it’s that shorter drivers are turning a natural advantage into a technical one with an advantageous car setup.

          1. To use the athletics analogy to clarify my opinion though, I’d use my own sport of middle distance running.

            I’m tall which is generally a disadvantage. I have no qualms with that, that’s fine. However, if through pure luck and genetics my shorter rivals were permitted to wear track spikes and I wasn’t, then I’d definitely be kicking up a stink.

            1. Agreed. You can’t do anything about a driver being tall or heavy, but you can stop the shorter/lighter drivers from gaining an advantage by placing the ballast anywhere they want.

              We are talking about ballast on a race car here. It’s different to sports like tennis or running, where there is unfortunately not very much that can be done.

        2. Disadvantaging tall basketballplayers would decrease their ability and the level of play. Giving ballast to light drivers only improves the competition without taking anything away from anyone’s ability.

        3. Are we saying that Tall Basketball players should have to run around on their knees in an effort to make it more fair for 5ft players wanting to do well in the sport? Should we put weights and stilts on jockeys to make it fair?

          F1 already has minimum weight. Only thing this rule change really changes is that it defines minimum weight for the driver in addition of the minimum weight of the car. As for other sports boxing and mixed martial arts also use weights to prevent bigger fighters having an advantage. Are you against weight limits in boxing and combat sports as well?

    3. Gotta love Schumi’s dedication, hh.

      1. Indeed. When there is a loophole, exploit it.

      2. It’s not that special though. Every sport that has any kind of weighing or weight limit does the same thing. Boxers and mma fighters have been doing it forever before every fight.

        1. Yeah but apparently he was the only one in F1 with that amount of dedication. Which was also clear from his fitness level.

    4. I prefer indycars rules, much better thought oit. The f1 rule, as always will be open to being cheated. So what will be the penalty for not weighing enough be? Reprimand?

      1. Disqualification, I’d say. No different from Haas running a floor in violation of the technical regulations.

      2. I’d expect a straight disqualification (exclusion). Off the top of my head the last time someone was found to be under the minimum weight rule was Paul di Resta at Silverstone in 2013, and he was excluded:

        https://www.racefans.net/2013/06/29/di-resta-sent-to-back-of-grid-as-car-fails-technical-check/

    5. I had always wondered how they compensated for driver height. There has to be 6 inches (or more) between shortest and tallest. It’s definitely a good decision to restrict the location of the ballast.

    6. Good news for hulkenberg

    7. I can see it now, Formula M (mass) created to give tall or heavy people a fair chance in F1. Life is unfair. You play with the hand dealt. Being short gives you a leg up in driving, ridding. Being tall gives an advantage in Basketball. Being heavy and muscular suits Rugby and combat. I’m going to set up a clinic to cut/add bits from people and stretch them to make everyone the same. I’ll also offer gender alteration and skin colour fixes to please the SJWs. What the hell is happening on planet earth? People are unique, deal with it!

      1. I’d rather watch a race between the most talented racers among the whole population than between the most talented racers among the smallest/lightest 10% of the population.

        1. Problem with that line of thinking, @krommenaas, is that who says the most talented driver of all time isn’t 6’10”? After a certain cutoff point, you can’t fit a human being in a car without completely redesigning it, so the sport inherently discriminates as it is.

      2. Life is unfair

        Fine then new rule: randomly disqualify a team at the start of each race weekend because “Hey! Life’s unfair!”

        Your comment is grade A stupid.

        Being tall gives an advantage in Basketball

        Maybe it escaped your attention but this isn’t basketball.

        Being heavy and muscular suits Rugby and combat

        Maybe it escaped your attention but this isn’t rubgy.

        I’m going to set up a clinic to cut/add bits from people and stretch them to make everyone the same. I’ll also offer gender alteration and skin colour fixes to please the SJWs. What the hell is happening on planet earth? People are unique, deal with it!

        What on earth are you on about? Seriously a whole paragraph of petulant ranting. Can you come up with one sensible well thought out reason that this is a bad idea?

        1. Martin. Insulting others to make a point? Not brainy enough to criticise without personal attacks? Says a lot about you. Ever thought of a brain transplant?

          Re-read my post SLOWLY. Life is life. You are born unique. As a consequence you will be better at something’s than others. Tough if you are tall and want to be jockey or fit in an F1 car. Too bad if you are 5 foot nothing and want to join a top basket ball league. Adding weights to make a light person heavy to make the race fair sounds great, but where do you draw the line? Everyone cannot be good at everything, that is life. Hamiltion for example would suck on a Rugby pitch as he is a light and small person. If he wanted to scrum for England should we put him in a heavy suit to overcome his lack of bulk? Or insist that everyone else goes on a diet to make it ‘fair’? Should Usain Bolt wear hobnailed boots to slow him down so it’s ‘fair’ to other less gifted runners? Cars should be built to a weight. If you can get it to work with a light pilot more power to your team.
          That is why life is unfair. You are born with abilities and cannot be like everyone else. So adults live with it and don’t try to equalise everyone. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

      3. insulting people by referring to them as Social Justice Warriors is absurd in this context. in fact, it’s absurd in any context – it seems like a good thing to be!

    8. Stupid implementation is you look at things in absolute terms.
      A taller driver has a wider weight distribution spread. His long legs can subtly increase his forward mass beyond the race seat, towards the front of the car, whilst the shorter driver will now have his mass concentrated closer to the rear of the car.
      You can’t over compensate for peoples natural dimensions, because someone will always be at a disadvantage.

      1. The shorter driver can place the extra ballast anywhere he wants currently, including where you perceive the taller driver “gets an advantage”. The taller driver currently loses in every scenario.

        This rule is very much justified.

    9. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      18th October 2018, 13:27

      Bad timing for Lando!

    10. I wonder why horse racing has never altered its rules to allow 6’2″ jockeys to compete on an even basis with 4’5″ jockeys?

      Regarding F1, we now understand from recent incidents that the FIA takes no responsibility for certifying that F1 cars comply with regulations BEFORE they race. They could make the reg specify the actual race weight of the car including the driver and check that weight prior to the start of the race. They could just weigh the car with full tanks and the entered driver prior to the start and KNOW the car is legal BEFORE it races.

      This business of the FIA knowing a car is technically illegal, allowing it to race and provide a show, and then disqualifying it is bogus. Even NASCAR routinely does a basic scrutineering of the cars prior to the race. Is F1 so much less sophisticated than NASCAR?

      1. Probably because animal protection laws, not to mention public opinion, frown on attaching lead ballast to a horse.

        1. you guys should google “do race horses carry extra weights”

    11. As a 88kg animal I feel offended by this rule. Real drivers have curves

    12. Means Nico and Max have advantage maybe too big to say that but the disavantage they had is gone.

    13. Perhaps not everything should be regulated…

    14. As usual, Toro Rosso has them all outfoxed. They don’t seem to want to keep *any* drivers in their cars.

    Comments are closed.