Understand how absurd F1 is by looking at wheel nuts

F1 wheel nut and gun

Take moment right now and think about the most important piece of a car. The engine? The frame? Suspension parts?


It’s the lug nuts. After all, if one of the four wheels falls off, the thing is no longer a car—it becomes a trike. A poor one at that. Look no further than Formula 1, where any little thing can be an advantage, and you’ll see that lug nuts can be quite simple and also quite complex. After watching a video posted by Driver61 on YouTube, we gather a new appreciation for the humble lugnut. We also got a good scale for how F1 budgets rack up so darn fast.

The idea is simple: Use a threaded fastener to hold the wheel in place. Studs pressed into the wheel hub accept nuts that are used to clamp the wheel onto the vehicle. Multiple studs and nuts ensure redundancy and that wheels will not fall off. That’s all fine and dandy ’til you are looking at changing wheels as part of a timed pit stop in a race. Suddenly, less is more—all the way down to a single lug.

Most automotive enthusiasts are familiar with centerlock wheels after seeing tire changes on race cars like those in the Formula 1 pit boxes. But the single lug nut has evolved. The drive was originally a simple hex, which meant the socket on the wheel gun only had six specific positions that allowed it to engage. When refueling was abandoned—along with the cover time it provided for tire changes—tenths of a second started to matter even more, and the nuts began to take a different shape.

The center remained roughly the same, with a coarse thread cut into the aluminum nut. The outside began to look more like a spline-drive, however. If the hex only gave six spots for the wheel gun to hit, these new nuts allowed for more than double the engagement. But all those points of contact come with a tradeoff, as several frustrated F1 drivers and their teams can attest. The pneumatic impact guns that remove the wheel nuts during a pit stop are powerful enough that if the wheel nut is engaged unevenly or the trigger is pulled before the socket is fully seated, the aluminum—yes, aluminum—wheel nut will get “machined,” which essentially means that all of the ridges designed to engage the socket get wiped off in an instant. It took over a day to get the wheel off of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes after this happened to him at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix.

So there are pros and cons to having a single lug nut per wheel, and we didn’t even touch on the required manual retention that prevents the nuts from unthreading themselves due to acceleration and braking forces. Those who love odd trivia are well aware of manufacturers who made right- and left-hand threaded lug nuts for the two sides of the car in the hope of keeping the lugs tight. Single lug designs continue to use that directionality, although we have since concluded it was negligible on non-performance applications.

Custom Designed Rotiform CMP three-piece wheels use Stanceworks centerlocks and are fitted with Falken Azenis RT-660 tires on this custom Porsche. Brandan Gillogly

Single-lug wheels are an interesting concept that proves just how far we can develop something if the desire is there. The technology is not only in Formula 1 but other racing series, too, and even a few limited-production street cars. Talk to a Porsche technician about the torquing process before you jump on the idea that we all should have this tech on our cars, though. If it is too much to ask to deal with over-torqued lugs when the owner’s manual calls for 100 pound feet, most DIY and at-home wrenchers are not prepared for the over-400 pound feet required for center locks. And if you don’t want your car to be a tricycle, you gotta do it right. See, the most important part of a car is also one of the simplest.




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    It’s that same shit in NASCAR now. It’s just another dumbass change to the “race” cars that makes no sense.

    When one second per pit stop can mean the difference between first and fourth (or worse) place, it makes a lot of sense.

    If it takes one second or ten, it doesn’t matter as long as everybody is following the same rules.

    “Foot-pounds.” NOT “pound feet.”

    First, it’s English, not some bass ackwards Euro language. Say Newton meters all you like – that’s metric, so doing it backwards is natural. But, you’re measuring the force, in pounds, not the moment arm. It’s foot-pounds. Second, “pound feet” sounds stupid.

    I’m sure you have heard about Ford’s lug nut recalls on millions of vehicles.

    My wife’s 17 Mustang GT eventually had lug nuts recalled. By that time I had already replaced them with solid steel aftermarket lug nuts. They were starting to fail when you tried to tighten them to the required torque, which on this car is 150 ft lb.

    This is not a joke.

    I have an ’18 GT350R, same problem with the crappy lug nuts, but I have not heard of a recall.

    The GT350R may have better lug nuts. The problem is that they are not solid, they are clad with a thin stainless piece. The stainless is soft, and deforms from the torque i takes to tighten the lug nuts. Plus, 150 ft lb is about 50% more than most cars. The lug wrench supplied is far to small and weak to deal with that torque, so I carry a breaker bar and stout socket, just in case.

    I’m quite familiar with the problem. One careless tire shop with an impact wrench will almost guarantee you will never get them off with the factory lug wrench. I replaced mine with after-market parts a long time ago. My point was that, as bad as they are, Ford has NOT issued a recall for them.

    Very interesting. Even NASCAR- that bastion of “old school” has gone to the single center lock design. Personal experience (with wheels coming loose and even one coming off and passing me) is that I prefer the multi-lug deal- may be a slower change for tires but way safer in the long run.

    Who even cares about NAPcar these days…..follow the leader boring races and then there is bubba boy who has ruined it further by interjecting a fake noose and giving the finger on national TV without repercussions. We past fans hope it folds! Attend a dirt race if you want pure racing!

    I have the letter from Ford in the file for the car. NHTSA has a “Do Not Drive” notice posted for Broncos due to loose lug nuts. The company that does my lawn got recall letters on7 Super Duty trucks.

    Cant speak to the recall however I can slag to the fact they’ve had a law suit due to the stupid acorn caps that may a well be made out of aluminum foil.

    Center-Locks for racing where time in the pits can win or lose races……..GOOD.

    Center-Locks on a street car………your out of your mind. A simple flat now becomes major surgery and expense as opposed to your regular lug nut wheels. If it’s a Porsche, nothing lights up a Porsche service managers eyes more than when you limp your center-lock 911 off a flat deck.

    Bottom line………..center-locks on a street car are a PITA!

    I remember a beefy guy bending a stout lug wrench on a 60’s Chrysler until an old man told him that it was left-handed.

    Anyone remember brass hammers and wrenches? The old school sports car winged knockoffs worked pretty good. So did the wrench and hammer on the non-winged hex knockoff. Borrani wires. MG and Jag wire wheels. Some winged knockoffs on Corvettes too. Most race cars had them outside of the U.S. Alfa Romeos, Ferraris. Somehow they weren’t a problem unless the hub spline got worn. That usually happened if you left them loose. 3 hits with the brass hammer tight. With practice you could get them off with one. Easy.

    In today’s cars with 4,6 or 8 lug nuts or more over tightening can be just as bad as under tightening. If you are cornering especially down hill and therefore using your brakes quite often then your hubs get hot and when you heat up metal it expands. If you over tighten your lugs then there is no room for expansion and your studs will break and your tire will fall off. At times you won’t even realize what happened till you see your tire pass you up.

    My 70 MGB GT had wire wheels and a center lug. Needed to use a “spanner” as it was called to tighten and untighten the nut. Never had an issue.

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