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Bodywork and dimensions

McLaren MP4-27, side view. McLaren Studio Images, McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, England, 1 February 2012 McLaren MP4-27, overhead view. McLaren Studio Images, McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, England, 1 February 2012

The size and dimensions of Formula One cars are tightly controlled by the regulations. They must be no more than 180cm wide. The length, height and shape of the car are effectively governed by other specific parameters. For example, bodywork between the front and rear wheel centre lines must not be more than 140cm wide.

The strict regulations mean that the teams inevitably end up with very similarly sized cars. A typical car will be in the region of 463cm long, 180cm wide and 95cm high.

With the exception of the rear wing (see below), moveable bodywork is not allowed. Furthermore, any system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car's bodywork is prohibited.

Cars may be equipped with moveable rear wings which allow the driver to control the wing's angle of incidence (within specified limits) from the cockpit (commonly known as a Drag Reduction System, or DRS). However, during the race the system is electronically governed and is only available when a driver is less than one second behind another car at pre-determined points on the track. The system is then deactivated once the driver brakes. In combination with ERS, this is designed to boost overtaking.

Certain sections of bodywork, such as the front wing endplates, are required to be sufficiently thick to prevent tyre damage to other cars.

Bodywork that flexes excessively could in theory be used to gain an aerodynamic advantage. Therefore specific sections of the bodywork, such as the front wing, must be sufficiently rigid to pass the FIA’s ever more stringent deflection tests.