Auto Service World
News   August 1, 2023   by Auto Service World Staff

Understanding F1 Gearboxes: How They Shift Gears at Lightning Speeds


Did you enjoy the F1 car race in Miami last year? If you have, then you must be crazy about this exciting sport, just like us.

Behind each F1 car, hundreds of people combine existing cutting-edge technologies, developing them and pushing them to gain extreme speed, better control, and use aerodynamics in their favor.

Unlike normal race cars, F1 cars can use their engines 20% more efficiently. Let’s crack the mystery of F1 gearboxes and how it enables vehicles to shift gears at lightning speeds!

What enables F1 gearboxes to do so is the use of a high-tech automation process (sequential transmission) and sensors that relay the messages between the car parts and the team that is building the car. Let’s take a look at what makes an F1 gearboxes so fast.

How is An F1 Gearbox Different?

The center component of a transmission system of any vehicle or car is known as a gearbox which helps to transmit torque while keeping in the lubricating oil and keeping the dirt out.

The F1 or Formula 1 gearbox has a few distinct features, which makes it perfect for racing cars rather than the normal gearboxes.

There are a few structural and technical differences between normal gearboxes and F1. F1 is constructed with only 1 clutch, whereas other gearboxes and even those used in traditional racing cars contain two clutches.

If you ever get a chance to visit a race and observe a Formula 1 racing car, you’ll find the paddles to change gears behind the steering wheel. Drivers need to select the desired gear to give a signal to the powertrain for transmitting the enormous power to the gearbox.

The F1 cars are not fully automated since the driver needs to change the shift through the hand-controlled clutch. It became easier for the driver to shift gears fast because they didn’t need to lift the throttle to shift.

However, it is still an area that a driver needs to have high-reflex and knowledge of timing and mode to change gear.  After selecting the gear, the computer attached to the gearbox changes the gear fast without changing speed, control, or power.

How Fast Can An F1 Car Run?

Using a semi-automatic gearbox in sequential transmission like f1 cars helps to change gears significantly faster than manually changing by hand. Furthermore, it improves efficiency and control.

Usually, racing sports conduct three events for racing, and the middle one is the qualifying session. In 2022, the fastest speed was recorded in such an event in Mexico. The driver was Kevin Magnussen, who successfully accelerated the speed to 351.7km/h.

However, the top speed record holder in a final F1 race is Valtteri Bottas. In the Mexican Grand Prix in 2016, he increased his speed to 372.5km/h.  

How are F1 Gearboxes So Fast?

For more than 30 years, racing car engineers have been researching and pushing technologies to make speed faster and avoid accidents. They have made changes in the structure of the car by adding wings.

For example, last year, Plews & Edelmann announced the release of a full power steering system. This power steering line includes not only new gearboxes but also pumps, coolers, filters, and hoses as well.

So, let’s take a look at all the factors that help the F1 gearbox to move faster.


There are two paddles in the F1 car through which the driver changes the gear (which is semi-automatic sequential). The paddles are located on the steering wheel.

The left paddle is for downshifting, and the right one is for upshifting. The transmission happens in seconds because the shifting of the gear to the up and down positions is right next to each other, unlike the true manuals.

In the manual system, the driver needed to advance the gears in theoretical position (for example, 1st to 3rd to 6th). This is why the F1 car is known to have a sequential system.


Another effective factor that helped the F1 cars to access this high speed ignoring the devastating facts of accidents for losing control, is the Brakes. The brakes of F1 cars are made of carbon composites.

These brakes are capable of withstanding as high as 1000 degrees Celcius temperature of a moving car on a race track.

The brakes never lose effectiveness, and the manufacturers rely on them to take full responsibility for stopping the vehicle when necessary.

You may often witness a case on the track during a race in which the teammates of the driver of a front car tell him to brake if the car behind him is faster to avoid any accident.

Weight and Engine

All the F1 cars have the same engine, a 1.6L turbocharged V6. This engine produces around 850 horsepower.

And since the weight of the car is not as much as a regular car, the engine producing a low torque figure is enough for the car to accelerate. 

How many gearboxes are there in F1?

The current guidelines for F1 cars are maintained by all the manufacturers participating in a race. The cars have 8 forward gears and 1 reverse gear, which is mandatory in every car.

How fast is the F1 gearbox shift?

While driving in a Grand Prix race, a driver may need to change gears more than 3800 times for a 2-hour long race at a speed of, on an average 300km/h. You can only guess how fast the gear shift needs to happen to run through every angle of the track. It is less than 0.5 seconds.  


We have tried to crack the code behind the exceptional speed of F1 gearboxes. We hope that knowing all this will make watching the F1 car race will be much more fun for you.

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