Weight Balance is also a F1 specific tuning option and works hand in hand with the ballast. But the best current F1 designs with their special materials like titanium, carbon and magnesium may leave a car weighing something like 450kg. These days, the 450kg may be made up of a 90kg engine, a 50kg monocoque, a 40kg gearbox and the same weight for the four wheels, an 11kg rear wing and so on, with the average driver contributing about 70kg. And a modern F1 clutch turns the scale at around 900 grams. That's a long way below a classic from the past, like the Mercedes-Benz W196 which Fangio drove to win the championship 50 years ago. It was something like half as heavy again.
It's the business of adding weight to bring the car back up to the minimum allowed of 642 Kg (for 2013) by applying very expensive ballast (tungsten plates) in precise though hidden places, usually but not exclusively on the underside of the monocoque. In a complete season, a team may use ten sets of these plates, at a cost over the year of something like a half of a million dollar.
After adding Ballast to the car, you are able to adjust the weight balance of the car. You can have either more weight in the front or the rear depending on how the car is behaving. The minimum weight permissible from 2013 is 642 kg, including the driver, fluids and on-board cameras. The advantage of using ballast is that it can be placed anywhere in the car to provide ideal weight distribution.
If you find the car oversteering, you could adjust the weight balance towards the rear, giving you more weight and grip in the rear. Likewise, if the car is understeering, move more weight balance towards the front.
Mandated weight distribution ruled for 2011 to 2013
Along with the supply of Pirelli tires they will be matched to a mandatory weight distribution. Due to changes in their structure, Pirelli's 2013 tires are around 2kg heavier per set (4 pcs) than in 2012. For 2013 cars minimum weight has been increased by the same amount, from 640 to 642kg. As a consequence, the weight distribution requirement has also been revised to minimum figures of 292kg - 343kg front to rear. The specified minimum axle weights, equate to a weight distribution ranging between 45.5 - 46.7% on the front axle and 53.3-54.5 on the rear. This is a few percent more then the typical 2012 loadings.
Mandated weight distribution ruled for 2014
And then, after very extensive rule changes for 2014, with new engines and heavy and complex ERS system, car minimum weight limit has been raised from 642kg to 690kg to take into account the fact that the engines will be heavier as a result of a switch to 1.6-litre turbos with extensive energy recovery from this season's 2.4-litre V8s. Again weight distribution was changed to 311kg on front axle and 366kg rear, which correspond with 45.5 - 46.7% on the front axle and 53.3-54.5 on the rear.
From the FIA 2014 technical regulations:
"4.1 Minimum weight : The weight of the car, without fuel, must not be less than 685kg at all times during the Event. If, when required for checking, a car is not already fitted with dry-weather tyres, it will be weighed on a set of dry-weather tyres selected by the FIA technical delegate."
“4.2 Weight distribution :
For 2014 only, the weight applied on the front and rear wheels must not be less than 311kg and 366kg respectively at all times during the qualifying practice session. If, when required for checking, a car is not already fitted with dry-weather tires, it will be weighed on a set of dry-weather tires selected by the FIA technical delegate."
Originally agreed for the 2011 cars to have a limited range of adjustment for weight distribution for a single year to cover the introduction of Pirelli’s, this regulation has proved successful and has now been extended.
This kind of weight distribution puts an emphasis on light drivers. With heavier driver that means less freedom on weight distribution and playing with ballast. The rules are the way they are (after 2011) because the teams keep voting them that way, so they can't do much other than say 'well, that's what we asked for'. This problem will be even more noted during 2014 because new 1.6 turbo engines are turning out to be heavier than anticipated and teams are still struggling to meet the minimum weight limit as a result. So having a taller - and therefore heavier - driver can put a team at a disadvantage because it means they are likely to be over the weight limit. The issue matters because 1kg of weight equates to about 0.035 seconds a lap on an average circuit. That means a smaller driver such as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who weighs 68kg, is at an advantage over a taller one such as Sauber's Hulkenberg, Jenson Button or Mark Weber, who all weighs 74kg, to the mark of 0.2 seconds a lap if the team cannot reduce the car by the amount of their weight difference. And even if they can, the taller driver is at a disadvantage because his weight is high up in the car, which also affects Center of Gravity and therefore performance. It's an unfair advantage you really shouldn't have just by being born smaller because you lose a lot of tools to adjust the car. As a result they will not have as much - or any - ballast to place elsewhere in the car because you're so limited. People say the weight distribution is fixed so there is no problem, but there is still allowed 1% which is a lot in F1 and you can move it around and put the ballast where you want.
The sport has moved on a long way since Carel Godin de Beaufort raced in the late 1950s and 1960s. He was of such a size - he at one time topped 100kg - he was nicknamed "Fatty Porsche".
Solution is to raise the weight limit but in Formula 1 self interest always prevail. Teams that think it's OK (teams with smaller drivers) will block any change to get some advantage. They should look at trying to help the bigger guys in the future.