Formula 1 or F1 for short is the pinnacle of motor racing, with some of the world’s most high-tech and complicated cars. It’s so complex that even the steering wheel isn’t just for turning the wheels, it can do so much more. Of course, complexity comes at a cost, and now you’re probably wondering, what’s the cost of F1 steering wheel?
We’ll give you a hint: the cost of F1 steering wheel can buy a luxury sports car. Yes, it’s THAT expensive. If you’re fascinated by F1 steering wheels and their cost, you’re going to enjoy this post…
F1 Steering Wheel Cost
Let’s get right into it: how much does an F1 steering wheel cost? Unfortunately, since F1 is an expensive competitive sport, the exact cost of certain parts cost isn’t disclosed to the public. Trade secrets and all that.
However, it’s estimated that the cost of an F1 steering wheel is between $50,000 to $100,000. That sort of money will buy you a very nice BMW 430i with all the optional extras you could want.
Why are they so expensive? We’ll discuss that in our next section. And if you’re not familiar with F1 financials, stick around cause we’ll be discussing more the overall operation cost of an F1 team. Spoiler alert: the cost of an F1 steering wheel is very, very cheap compared to the overall cost of the car.
Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel: Why It’s So Expensive
Since F1 cars are so complex, the steering wheel does so much more than just turn the car in the appropriate direction. Here are the reasons why an F1 steering wheel is so expensive:
Reason For The Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel #1: It’s A Technological Marvel
Take one look at the steering wheel and you’ll notice it has a lot of buttons and switches. And these aren’t just to control the audio volume and playback like in a road car. In fact, F1 cars don’t have an audio system. The only “music” F1 drivers can listen to while racing is their race engineers badgering them to manage their tires.
Anyway, the buttons and switches control various things about the car. This includes the differential resistance, engine modes, DRS control, brake balance, gear change, clutch control, and more. There are so many functions that we can’t possibly list them down, so here’s Mercedes-AMG’s trackside electronic systems lead explaining it:
As you can see, an F1 steering wheel is not just a steering wheel; it’s an interface for the driver to control the entire car while racing. Drivers make a lot of adjustments during driving to make sure that they go as fast as they can.
Among many things, it can control the differential, which affects cornering characteristics. This allows the drivers to adjust the differential settings according to each corner in the track and their driving style. It can also control the engine modes, allowing them to save or spend fuel depending on the condition.
Of course, there’s also the large screen as well. The screen displays anything from what gear they’re in, engine speed, tire temperatures, and of course, the speed the car’s currently going.
Basically, the steering wheel is a complex computer unit that allows F1 drivers to control their cars. And the components required; from the materials to the computing unit, are not cheap to manufacture or design. Speaking of materials:
Reason For The Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel #2: It’s Made Of Fancy Materials
Ever taken a look at the optional extras list of a sports car and notice how a carbon fiber trim can cost thousands of dollars? Well, that’s because carbon fiber requires a highly specialized process that costs a lot of money to manufacture.
Since F1 steering wheels are mostly made out of carbon fiber, small wonder the cost of an F1 steering wheel is sky high. But why do they use carbon fiber? Simple: carbon fiber offers a lot of strength, for not a lot of weight.
Compared to aluminum, carbon fiber is about three times stronger. And crucially, they’re around 42% lighter than aluminum, and 5 times lighter than steel. In case you haven’t heard, F1 cars need to be light. We’ve discussed this before when looking at how much do F1 cars weigh. No body positivity movement here.
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While there’s a minimum weight rule for F1 cars, they still need to shave off as much unnecessary weight as possible, including on the steering wheel. Other materials used for the steering wheel include fiberglass, silicone, copper, and titanium.
Note that while carbon fiber is stronger, they shatter and shred if damaged, and repairing them is difficult. This is why carbon fiber trims aren’t always a good idea on road cars, especially for external trims and body parts.
Reason For The Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel #3: It’s Customizable
The final reason why the cost of an F1 steering wheel is so expensive is that it has to be tailored to each driver’s requirements. Even within teams, the two drivers may have different steering wheel designs.
Yes, the basic shape is usually the same, typically following the request of the first driver. But the second driver may customize the button or dial layout in the steering wheel to their preference, adding to the design, development, and manufacturing cost.
For example, some drivers may prefer to have the clutch paddle sit below the gear paddle (if you’re not sure how gear changes work, our deep dive into do F1 cars have a clutch pedal should be handy), while others may prefer the opposite. Some drivers may prefer to have the diff entry control on the right side, while others on the left.
Racing, much like road driving, often relies on muscle memory. Some F1 drivers may move to a team where the existing driver had different preferences, requiring the team to redesign the steering wheel to fit the preference of their new driver.
My favorite story about the F1 steering wheel design is how Lewis Hamilton redesigned the Mercedes steering wheel. He told the team to remove the flat-bottom part of the steering wheel, as it’s an unnecessary element that just adds weight.
You’ll notice the bottom part of the handles of an F1 steering wheel isn’t connected to the bottom part of the steering wheel. This reduces the materials needed, and ultimately, the overall weight.
While Lewis probably didn’t invent this design, it shows how much customization goes into an F1 steering wheel and how it can add to the development cost.
Formula 1 Car Price
So, that’s the cost of an F1 steering wheel. But how much does the entire car cost? Again, no exact specifics are available. But it’s estimated that teams need around 12 to 20 million dollars to build just one car. We’ve covered this in detail in our write-up on how much is a F1 car.
Note that teams spend so much more in a season, as they need to replace parts throughout a season. This can be due to damage, wear and tear, reliability issues, and/or track requirements. To learn more about how much strain these cars go through, do refer to our guide on how fast do Formula 1 cars go.
If you’re wondering how much money you’ll have to prepare to buy an F1 car as memorabilia or a living room ornament, then good news! Plenty of historic F1 cars have been sold off in an auction for much less than that.
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For example, Michael Schumacher’s 2001 Ferrari F2001—a creative name, we know—was sold off for a very reasonable $7,504,000 by RM Sotheby’s. Sounds like a lot, but this is a historic car that helped Michael win the 2001 championship, and the particular chassis that was sold was the car that won the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.
Overall, great value. Okay, so not exactly pocket change for most of us. But at least they’re cheaper than the cost of a modern F1 car and the cost to run them. Speaking of which, here’s a quick breakdown of the cost of each part:
Parts Of A F1 Car
F1 cars are so complex that there’s no way we can list down every single part. But here’s a list of the major parts in an F1 car and how much they cost:
- Power Unit. This is what propels the car and it consists of parts such as the turbo, MGU-K, and MGU-H (energy recovery system for the hybrid system), control electronics, energy store, and of course, the engine itself. An entire power unit typically costs $10 million to $14 million.
- Front and rear wings. They greatly affect the way the car handles and its top speed, as the F1 car relies heavily on aerodynamics. The front wing is more complex in design, so it can cost up to $150,000, while the rear wing usually costs $85,000.
- Transmission. Do you think the $4,500 you had to spend on your transmission rebuild was expensive? Well, an F1 car’s transmission can cost up to $600,000. Unlike a road car’s transmission, they are incredibly complex and have to be strong enough to handle the immense power of the engine.
- Hydraulic System. F1 cars rely on hydraulics to operate the brakes, transmission, and power steering. The entire system cost about $200,000.
- Chassis. Since the chassis is made from carbon fiber, each chassis approximately costs a hefty $600,000.
- Fuel Tank. An F1 fuel tank can hold 30 gallons or 242 lbs of fuel, and each of them costs around $150,000.
Those are the major parts of an F1 car excluding the steering wheel. Of course, there are other parts as well such as the braking system ($30,000), the driver’s seat and suspension system ($48,000), and the tires ($2,700 per set). Note that these are estimates, not exact figures.
Formula 1 Budget Cap
We can’t talk about F1 car costs without talking about the budget cap. Of course, feel free to skip this section if you already have an understanding. We’re including this section just to cover all the basis for new F1 enthusiasts—welcome, by the way!
Similar to many other sports, F1 has introduced a budget cap rule since 2021. As with any budget cap rule, the purpose here is to help level the playing field. If you’re curious about how costly F1 can be, feel free to head over to our detailed look at NASCAR vs Formula 1.
The big F1 teams have consistently gotten richer; they win more races, and they finish higher up in the championship, so they get more prize money. Not to mention more lucrative sponsorship deals. Meanwhile, the backmarker teams are left to struggle and—more often than not—end up selling their enterprise.
The unlevel playing field also means that the grid order rarely changes over the years. For example, Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari, and Red Bull have consistently been at the front of the pack for the last decade. This, of course, reduces interest among spectators.
So, the budget cap is there to prevent the big teams from spending more than the small teams and help prevent them from getting too far ahead of the competition. This means regardless of the resources they have, they can’t just spend their way to win the championship.
The F1 cost cap is currently at 145 million dollars per season. This budget cap includes car parts (except for the engine), most of the personnel’s salary, garage equipment, and transport expenditure among others.
But does not include driver salaries, wages of the three highest-paid staff members, marketing budget, license fees, legal fees, and other costs that don’t directly affect the team’s operation.
F1 Steering Wheel Replica
Functionality aside, F1 steering wheels are very cool-looking and would make for a great decoration in any gearhead’s bedroom. Since most of us don’t have $50,000 to spend on a steering wheel, are there replicas that you can buy?
Why yes, dear readers, there is an option. Here are several options:
1. F1 Authentics
Formula 1 themselves have an official site called F1 Authentics that sells all kinds of F1 memorabilia for the most hardcore, loyal, and wealthy fans. Yes, you still have to be considerably wealthy, as a steering wheel replica will cost you around $5,000.
Admittedly they’re very cool. But for that kind of money, we can’t help but think maybe the money’s better spent on official helmets signed by the driver, or maybe an F1 car’s wheel that’s been repurposed as a coffee table.
If you don’t have that sort of money, then another option is to buy a wheel for a racing rig or sometimes referred to as a sim racing wheel. And the market leader when it comes to sim racing wheels is Thrustmaster.
Unfortunately, the only F1-style sim racing wheel they make is Ferrari. And so far, they’ve only made replica steering wheels of the 2011 Ferrari 150º Italia, and the 2020 Ferrari SF1000. So, tough luck if you’re not a Tifosi.
Since this is a sim racing wheel for gaming, there are slight differences from the real thing. While the dimensions are identical, Thrustmaster has had to change some of the buttons, dials, and markings so consumers can use them to play their favorite racing game.
Still, it’s a cool option. Even if you don’t have a sim racing rig, it would still make for really cool decor. And they’re much cheaper than the F1 Authentics; the 2011 version now can retail for under $200, while the more recent SF1000 wheel usually retails for around $399.
3. Other Sim Racing Wheels
Unfortunately, Thrustmaster is currently the only licensed sim racing wheel manufacturer. But if all you want is an F1-style steering wheel either to display or use for your racing rig, there are plenty of options out there.
Another renowned manufacturer is Fanatec. They have a lot of licensed GT3 steering wheels, such as from BMW, Porsche, and McLaren. But for F1 steering wheels, you’ll have to make do with their F1-style, unlicensed wheels such as their ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5.
If you don’t mind smaller brands, VPG is a small team from the UK that manufactures F1-style sim racing wheels. Their two most popular products are the V-RSPG, which is based on the steering wheel of the Porsche 911 RSR GT3 race car. And the V-PF1, a largely faithful replica of the steering wheel from the Mercedes-AMG W12.
Obviously, these are unlicensed. Nevertheless, it looks authentic and the build quality is stunning. The V-PF1 in particular is a must-have for any sim racer that loves the Mercedes-AMG F1 team.
That being said, VPG will cost £1,999 or around $2,400, which isn’t a surprise since it’s a small team that manufactures these in small numbers. Additionally, you’ll likely have to wait around 6 to 8 weeks before they deliver it to you unless you can find one already in stock.
Despite the high price, the unlicensed design, and the long wait time, VPG is a very compelling option for those that want something other than the Thrustmaster. Check out this post from Sim Racing Setup for more options.
Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel: FAQs
Got any more questions about the cost of an F1 steering wheel and F1 in general? We try to answer as many questions as we can:
How Much Does An F1 Car Cost
An F1 car costs 12 million to 20 million dollars on average. Note that this is the cost to build one car, and teams will spend more throughout the season to replace parts as necessary.
How Much HP Does F1 Car Have
There are no specifics, and it can differ between engine manufacturers. But estimates suggest that F1 cars can make up to 1,050 horsepower in their most powerful settings. When they’re in a fuel-saving setting during a race, they still make around a very healthy 870 horsepower.
How Much Do F1 Tires Cost
The average cost for a set of F1 tires is around $2,700. Teams bring a total of 13 sets of tires for each race weekend for each driver. This includes two sets of hard compound tires, three sets of mediums, and eight sets of soft tires. Teams also bring four sets of intermediate and two sets of wet tires just in case of rain. This brings the total cost per weekend to about $51,000, although note they don’t always use all the tires each racing weekend.
Are F1 Cars Automatic
F1 cars use an 8-speed sequential semi-automatic transmission. This type of transmission allows F1 drivers to change the gear without using the clutch while at speed. But they can still control the clutch should it be necessary, such as during a corner exit. Additionally, launching the car from a standstill also requires drivers to operate the clutch.
Does F1 Have Power Steering
Yes, they do. However, it’s hydraulic rather than electronic. Formula 1 wants to reduce as many driver’s aids as possible to help ensure it’s the drivers that win the race, not the cars.
How Many Cylinders In A F1 Car
Current F1 cars now have a V6 engine, six cylinders divided into two banks. With a capacity of 1.6L, a turbocharger, and an energy recovery system to recharge the batteries for the hybrid system.
Do F1 Cars Have Pedals
Yes, they have a gas pedal and brake pedal. The clutch is operated through a paddle on the back of the steering wheel so the driver’s feet only have to control the throttle and braking. The clutch paddle is typically only used for the launch from a standstill, thanks to the semi-automatic sequential transmission. At speeds, the drivers can change gears by simply pulling the gear shift paddle.
Cost Of F1 Steering Wheel: In Conclusion…
So, the cost of an F1 steering wheel is typically anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000 depending on the team. They’re expensive due to the complexity and expensive materials needed for the steering wheel.
As mentioned, an F1 car’s steering wheel functionality extends beyond just turning the front wheels. It acts as a control device for the driver to change settings in the car, such as the differential, brake bias, engine modes, radio unit, and more.
While it’s expensive, the steering wheel is quite cheap in the grand scheme of things. The average cost of an entire F1 car is around 14 to 20 million dollars, with most of the cost coming from the complex power unit. And this is just the cost to build one car.
Throughout the season, teams will have to change various components either due to damage, wear and tear, and/or track requirements. They also have several different chassis to fit the needs of different race tracks (some tracks require straight-line speeds, and others require more cornering performance).
Overall, Formula 1 is a very expensive endeavor. While there’s a $145 million budget cap, teams can spend up to $480 million per year when you include their staff and marketing costs. At the end of the day, it’s mostly just a marketing exercise—especially for the manufacturer teams.
While this seems like a lot of money to spend on marketing, the return on investment can be greater should they succeed in Formula 1. Of course, with big rewards, also come big risks.