By Stefan Kristensen
May 20, 2022

How Many Gears Does an F1 Car Have?

Formula One (F1) racing cars are equipped with one reverse gear and eight different forward gears. The upgrade in the number of gears found in an F1 car has been in effect since 2014.

If you’re interested in the inner workings and gears of F1 cars, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll give you all the information you ever wanted to know about the gears in an F1 car. 

In this article, we will address why F1 cars have nine different gears as well as how often F1 drivers shift gears during a race. Additionally, we will cover where the gearbox is located on an F1 car and when the change in the number of gears in an F1 car came about. 

Why Does an F1 Car Have So Many Gears?

In F1 racing, drivers need to be as fast as their cars in order to exert control over their vehicles at such incredibly high speeds. F1 cars are semi-automatic so the drivers shift gears all the time and the race tracks are designed with curves. 

Navigating curves at extremely high speeds during a race requires a driver to find the perfect balance between maintaining their velocity so they don’t fall behind the pack and slowing down enough to handle the curve without crashing. F1 cars are built to be very lightweight for this reason and the number of gears helps give the drivers the control they need. 

Having a selection of eight different forward gears allows F1 drivers to make minute changes in the engagement of the engine to handle quick changes such as tight passes around a curve or weaving in and out of competitors to pull ahead with finesse. 

How Often Do Drivers Shift Gears in an F1 Car?

The number of times an F1 driver shifts gears during a race depends on the race track and the duration of the race. On average, F1 drivers can shift gears less than once a second during a race. The ability to switch between so many gears at such a fast rate requires concentration and skill.

The gears need to be able to change smoothly since F1 drivers are constantly shifting. In a Grand Prix race, F1 drivers may shift gears in excess of 3800 times during the race. The average number of gear shifts executed per lap of any given F1 race is between 41 and 57 times. 

The need to shift gears at such a high rate makes F1 cars more than just race cars. They are instruments of precision that respond to the manipulation of their drivers. The rate at which F1 drivers shift gears is astounding and makes the sport one of the most thrilling ones to watch. 

Where Is the Gearbox Located in an F1 Car?

While F1 drivers shift the gears up front, the gearbox itself resides in the back of the vehicle. Although the controls and the gears themselves are located on opposite ends of the car, the technology of electronic and computer vehicle systems today allow for seamless shifting and immediate response by the car. 

The reason why the gearbox is situated at the back of an F1 car is to help with weight distribution. F1 cars are built for speed and therefore aim to be as light as possible to fly around the track. However, there are some heavy parts, and these need to be evenly distributed around the car to help the driver have better control. 

The engine, the driver, and the gearbox are the heaviest parts of the vehicle and are distributed accordingly. The gearbox makes up a substantial part of the car having nine different gears to shift between. Engineers have mastered the weight distribution and speed of the gear shifting to allow F1 cars to perform at their peak. 

Did F1 Cars Always Have Nine Gears?

F1 cars have changed a lot since they first arrived on the racing scene in 1950. Originally, F1 cars only had four gears that drivers would shift in the standard H pattern. However, over the past seventy plus years, the number of gears and the pattern of gear shifts has changed dramatically. 

Up until 2014, F1 cars had double their original amount of gears with seven forward gears and one reverse. An additional gear was added after that so the current F1 cars have nine total gears. The shifting pattern of the gears has also changed from the original H pattern. 

 Now F1 cars have a semi-automatic transmission so that gear shifting is smooth and fast. This is essential for the F1 drivers during their races so that they can make fast decisions and negotiate the cars around tight curves and weave around other competitors to get to the head of the pack. 


F1 racing has been one of the most thrilling racing motorsports for over seventy years. In that timeframe, there have been a lot of changes to the design of the F1 cars, especially concerning the gears. Originally, F1 cars only had four gears, but now they have nine. 

With a semiautomatic transmission, F1 drivers need all nine gears to help them navigate the race track around their competitors, any hazards that may arise, and the multiple curves on the track. F1 drivers shift gears on average between 40 and 60 times per lap of any given race which means their rate of gear shifts is approximately more than once per second. 

Since F1 cars have so many gears, the gearbox is one of the heaviest components in the car so it must be placed accordingly to aid in proper weight distribution. The gearbox is located at the back of the car but with the technology of computers and electronics, it communicates almost instantaneously with the driver’s control of the car. 

F1 cars are machines of precision and speed. Eight forward gears (and one reverse gear) allow them to maintain high speeds for thrilling races and smooth rides. 

Written by Stefan Kristensen
I have been passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many technical features, strategic plays, humans and their stories that all together drives this amazing sport to make it as interesting as it is.
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