F1 vs Indycar. Here’s all you need to know about the differences between two of the world’s premier single-seater championships.
At first glance, IndyCar and Formula 1 cars might look broadly similar. But while both series use open-wheel race cars, the contrast between them are many and varied. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the key differences between two of the biggest and best-known single-seater championships in the world.
What is Formula one?
Formula One (more commonly known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
The FIA Formula One World Championship has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. The word formula in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants’ cars must conform.
A Formula One season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix. Grands Prix take place in multiple countries and continents around the world on either purpose-built circuits or closed public roads. Formula One is one of the premium forms of racing around the world and draws huge audiences.
A driver participating in a Formula One race should hold a valid Super Licence issued by the FIA. The performance of the drivers and the constructors of the car are evaluated at the end of each race by a points system. At the end of a season, the FIA aggregates the points scored by each and awards two annual World Championships: one each for the drivers and the constructors.
What is IndyCar?
IndyCar is an American-based auto racing sanctioning body for Indy car racing and other disciplines of open wheel car racing. The organization sanctions two racing series: the premier IndyCar Series with the Indianapolis 500 as its centerpiece, and the developmental series Indy NXT. IndyCar is recognized as a member organization of the FIA through ACCUS.
Main differences between F1 vs Indycar
F1 and IndyCar have several similarities. Both are elite open-wheel, single-seat racing championships that employ some of the best drivers in the world. However, what makes these two series stand out is the differences between them.
While the cars in the IndyCar Series and F1 World Championships may look similar, they are vastly different and have vastly different specifications.
The cars in IndyCar are almost identical. They use the same chassis and aerodynamic kit, with the engines coming from either Chevrolet or Honda. Everything else racing teams build and develop to give themselves an edge in races.
F1, on the other hand, has a distinct car design from each of its ten participating racing teams, while the power units are built by Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault or Mercedes.
As far as speed goes, F1 cars can maneuver around tracks faster, but IndyCars have a higher top speed. Indy cars can hit speeds upwards of 240 mph during a race, while F1 cars max out at around 220 mph.
When it comes to driver safety, F1 uses the Halo to protect its drivers from head injury. The IndyCar Series uses a mix of both the Halo and a Red Bull-developed “aeroscreen” to protect its drivers from head trauma from flying debris.
An additional key difference between how the cars are constructed is that F1 cars have power steering, while IndyCar Series cars do not. Because of this, it is much harder to steer in the IndyCar Series, making it a lot more physically taxing on the drivers.
Schedule and Point System
The IndyCar and F1 season run at about the same time.
The 2022 IndyCar season was 17 races long, starting in late February and ending in mid-September; the 2022 F1 World Championship was 22 races long, starting in mid-March and ending in mid-November.
As we mentioned earlier, IndyCar currently doesn’t have any races outside the North American continent, while F1 races are held across five different continents and 20 different countries. This restricts how much F1 can expand as far as venues and courses, with so many moving parts across so many different locations over such a long season already being enough of a challenge.
The formats of the driver fields are very different as well. Every single F1 race starts with 20 drivers, while IndyCar races can have as few as 24 starters and as many as 33 starters (for the Indy 500). Because of this, F1 and the IndyCar Series have two very complex and distinct scoring systems.
In F1, the points system for placement works like this:
- 1st place: 25 points
- 2nd place: 18 points
- 3rd place: 15 points
- 4th place: 12 points
- 5th place: 10 points
- 6th place: 8 points
- 7th place: 6 points
- 8th place: 4 points
- 9th place: 2 points
- 10th place: 1 point
- 11th-20th place: 0 points
One point is added to the driver with the fastest lap if that driver also finishes in the top ten of that race.
In 2021, F1 introduced sprint qualifying at select tracks over the course of a season (for 2022, it happened at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Austrian Grand Prix and São Paolo Grand Prix), in which drivers engage in a 100km race around the track.
Eight points are given to the sprint winner, with every position behind them receiving one fewer point. Positions 9 through 20 gained no points.
In IndyCar, the points system for placement works like this:
- 1st place: 50 points
- 2nd place: 40 points
- 3rd place: 35 points
- 4th place: 32 points
- 5th place: 30 points
- 6th place: 28 points
- 7th place: 26 points
- 8th place: 24 points
- 9th place: 22 points
- 10th-25th place: Starts at 10th place with 20 points, and every position back earns one fewer point down to 25th place with five points
- 26th-33rd place: 5 points
One point is added to the driver in the pole position (except at the Indy 500). One point is given to a driver for every lap they are in leading position, with an additional two points going to the driver who led the most laps at the race.
The Indy 500, however, is a special case. At the Indy 500, 12 points are awarded to the driver that qualified in the pole position, with every position behind them receiving one fewer point. Positions 13 through 33 gain no points from qualifying. The Indy 500 is also a double-point event, meaning that any point total that a driver or team would gain normally is doubled.
For example, if a driver qualified in 15th but finished fifth without leading any laps, they would win 60 points instead of the standard 30.
By regulation in Formula 1, each team must manufacture their own cars, they are only allowed to acquire engines and transmission, the rest is on their own so each car is different, while in IndyCar there are two fixed engine suppliers (Honda and Chevrolet) and one chassis (Dallara), so each team chooses what it buys, which obviously makes it cheaper and causes us to have dozens of cars with the same characteristics on the track.
Formula 1 cars are made for mixed circuits, that is, they are fast cars on the straight that accelerate very easily and can also take, thanks to their aerodynamics, curves at higher speeds, while IndyCars are made for constant speeds like ovals, so when they go to circuits, their aerodynamics require them to brake earlier and harder before cornering and they have a harder time accelerating. An F1 can go from 0 to 200 in just 4 seconds, an IndyCar takes twice as long.
In Formula 1 each circuit is different, so the teams choose the aerodynamics according to the track and once in the race, they can only change tires, while in IndyCar there are only two aerodynamic packages, one for the circuit and one for ovals, while in the race you can change tires and also refuel, which causes more creative strategies and equality between teams.
Also, as if that were not enough, Formula 1 uses the DRS system that retracts the rear wing to overtake the rival, while IndyCar uses the Push to Pass button that for a few moments throws up to 40 extra horsepower to achieve overtaking.
Formula 1 has been using 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid engines ranging from 800 to 1,000 horsepower for a few years, while IndyCar uses 2.2-liter V6 biturbo engines between 550 and 750 horsepower, which is why they do not accelerate as fast. fast, but can achieve higher top speed.
In addition to the obvious safety measures, the drivers protect their heads in Formula 1 by a halo, while IndyCar, in addition to the halo, adds an aeroscreen which prevents any trash or debris from harming the driver.
For many years, IndyCar has used a mixture of 85 percent ethanol with 15 percent gasoline, which makes combustion faster, although there is a problem in case of fire, the flame is invisible. In Formula 1, high-octane gasoline is used at 99 percent and the rest are additives to the taste of the team.
Is an Indy car faster than an F1 car?
Based solely on top speeds, then IndyCar wins out – Scott Dixon took pole for the 2022 Indy 500 with a 234mph run. The ‘usual’ top speed for a Formula 1 car is around 205mph, although Valtteri Bottas hit 231mph while slipstreaming at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City in 2016.
Are F1 cars more powerful than Indy cars?
An IndyCar machine produces 550-700 horsepower, with a top speed over 240 mph on the straightaways at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Scott Dixon’s pole qualifying speed for the 2022 Indy 500 was 234.036 mph over 4 laps on the 2.5-mile oval. Cars go from 0-200 mph in about 8 seconds. F1 cars can produce 1,000 horsepower.
Who makes more money F1 or Indy?
F1 drivers are the highest-paid athletes in motorsports, taking home $11.4 million on average across all 20 drivers on the 2022 grid – a figure set to slightly reduce this year with high-earners Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo stepping away.
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