The designs of Formula 1 cars have always shifted and changed as the series moved through different eras and as technology developed. The last decade has seen F1 cars grow ever larger, however, to the point where they're now almost as long as a Chevy Suburban.
As a guide, today's rulebook states that 2023 F1 cars must have a wheelbase of 3600 mm (141.7 inches), while being no more than 2 meters wide (78.7 inches), and no more than 0.95 meters high (37.4 inches). There are no specific regulations on maximum length, but most teams have built cars to fairly similar dimensions. As a guide, the Alpine A523 measures 5.62 meters long, or approximately 221.3 inches. For comparison's sake, a new 2023 Chevrolet Suburban measures just a touch longer at 225.7 inches.
It's been this way for some time. A popular comparison floated around the internet in 2020, showing that the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance was on a par with the contemporary (last gen, 2020) Chevrolet Suburban in length. The former was reported to be over 224 inches long, right in line with the Suburban which measured 224.4 inches from nose to tail.
The sheer length and size of today's F1 cars has been cited as a reason why the series has struggled to generate overtaking action on track. This has become a particular talking point regarding the Monaco Grand Prix. Passing on track is largely considered impossible in the modern era under normal conditions.
In comparison, the 1993 Monaco Grand Prix saw a full 29 overtakes on track, a record not since beaten. Back then, while the width limit was still 78.7 inches, cars like the McLaren MP4/8 stood just 174 inches long.
It's not just size, either. F1 cars have also bloated significantly in the weight department. Where F1 had a minimum weight requirement of 505 kg (1113 pounds) in 1993, that has ballooned to 798 kg (1759 pounds) in the 2023 series.
There are reasons behind the growth, of course. As F1 has made cars safer and more technically complex, the formula has had to allow dimensions to grow in turn. At the same time, there is a desire to slim down the cars where possible, with the series casting an eye over this for the upcoming 2026 regulation changes.
In the meantime, though, it's wild to think that a lithe F1 car stretches out as long as a large roadgoing SUV. It shows just how much the series has changed over the years.
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