Six out of 2019's ten F1 teams are based in England. The one headed and partly owned by Toto Wolff started out in 1970 as Tyrrell, only to became BAR and then Honda. When the Japanese giant finally decided to cut its losses, Ross Brawn, Honda's Team Principal, bought the team and paired Honda's brilliant 2009 chassis with Mercedes power, winning the championship in its first, and only, season. That's when Daimler stepped in with the big money. Today, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is a five-time F1 World Constructor's champion, with a team of 1450 people working towards a sixth title.
As part of Mercedes-Benz's 150 Years in Motorsport celebrations, we were invited into a strictly no photo area at Merc's F1 headquarters in Brackley, England, where a mysterious employee drives a red Ultima GTR. We came out with some numbers that may give you a better understanding of why F1 is so outrageously expensive.
To balance costs with redundancy, Mercedes-AMG Petronas builds five carbon-fiber tubs per season. Each take 25 days to construct, and another 25 to finish. Talk about acres of pre-preg carbon fiber. The team also needs to build a number of fiberglass mockup cars for promotional purposes. Each of those cost $330,000 to make, time they don't want to spend on building show cars.
Roughly 80 percent of the race car will be modified by the end of the season. Every little bit helps, and the further below the minimum weight the team can go, the more carefully placed ballast they can use. The ballast is made from Densiment, which is a very dense alloy of tungsten, nickel, molybdenum and iron. Most of the other metal parts are billet-machined from titanium, since Mercedes says the 22 lbs of weight they save equals 0.3 seconds off a lap time.
But be it titanium, aluminum or stainless steel, Mercedes-AMG Petronas machines around 30,000 metal parts per season. It has 24 CNC robots for the job, 11 of which are five-axis millers that can run for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The roughly 1000-hp V-6 power units come from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains in nearby Brixworth, which may be familiar to you as Ilmor Engineering. It will supply AMG One powertrains as well, which are based on the 2016 W07's technology.
An F1 car consists of roughly 70,000 parts, but before everything can be finalized and produced in order to come together in Brackley, scaled-down models take multiple trips to Mercedes-AMG Petronas's larger wind tunnel. Because just like Williams, Mercedes has two, which are available for hire.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas also has five autoclaves. That's quite impressive, knowing how Rimac has to make due with two for now.
Here's what makes up Daimler's F1 team: 950 highly qualified people in Brackley, another 450 in Brixworth. Two wind tunnels, five autoclaves, 24 CNC milling machines, 70,000 parts per car, five tubs per season. So far, five F1 Constructors Championships, one Driver's trophy for Nico Rosberg, and four for Lewis Hamilton, the driver who knows how to turn all this effort into victories, season after season.
But who drives that Ultima?