F1 Cars Won’t Run LED Wheel Covers in 2024 After All

Added weight and complexity are likely to blame for F1’s idea to run LED wheel covers.

byLewin Day|
F1 photo

Formula 1 had grand plans to introduce flashy LED wheel covers for the 2024 season. Now, haters of the gaudy and glowy can rejoice, however, as the idea has now been scrapped per the FIA regulations set for the new year.

As covered by RaceFans, rules were prepared last year to allow illuminated wheel covers to be used in the sport. Thus far, no team has ever run the covers in a race weekend. They have been seen just once, when McLaren ran a test set of LED wheel covers at post-season testing at Abu Dhabi in 2021. The allowance has now been struck from the 2024 technical regulations, as per the first draft released by the FIA. The regulations remain in place in 2023, though it seems unlikely any team will run them this season.

Formula 1 reintroduced wheel covers for 2022, returning after a ban that stood from 2010 onwards. In practice, teams have gone for basic wheel covers, with some teams like McLaren applying stickers for sponsor logos.

Had teams adopted illuminated wheel covers, they could have been used to convey information to spectators in a visual fashion. As an example, simple block colors could indicate tire choices or a driver's sector times in qualifying. Using the persistence of vision display techniques could allow the covers to display graphical or textual data, like lap times or race positions.

One of the biggest concerns around the technology was the added weight penalty. F1 teams are already struggling to bring their cars down to the minimum weight allowed under the current rules. Some have gone as far as removing paint from certain body panels to reclaim every last gram. Under those circumstances, adding LED displays simply isn't going to happen.

Endurance racing is a good example of where LED display technology has really taken off. Cars in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship competition use LED displays to display a car's position. The World Endurance Championship uses three "leader lights" to indicate which cars are first, second, and third in their respective class. In the large mixed fields of these events, the displays are a huge boon to fans, particularly those at the track.

The smaller and more distinct field of F1 has thus far not justified such LED displays. As the video above by RedExions shows, there is good potential to use LED wheel covers in a way that interacts with fans, though it's hard to say such small (or possibly low-res) displays would be visible from a distance. It's a technology with an added cool factor, sure, but for now, the idea has been firmly deposited in the "too hard" basket.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com