The 2022 Monaco Grand Prix and the 106th edition of the Indianapolis 500 were celebrated last Sunday and it was certainly a big, historic day for racing. As Sergio Pérez drove his Red Bull to victory and Marcus Ericsson drank milk after winning the Indy 500, there were surely many fans thinking about which cars are faster, the ones seen in F1 or those from the American series.
It is quite a recurrent theme among racing fans to question whether F1 or Indycar is a better pure racing series, beyond the popularity one might have over the other (Formula 1 is a global series, while Indycar might not be the most popular racing series in the US at the moment).
Formula 1 has faster cars than Indycar overall. Formula 1 engines (1.6 litre, turbo-hybrid power units since 2014) can produce over 1000 horsepower. However, engine manufacturers (Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda, and Renault) not often reveal many details about how powerful their engines can be.
Moreover, Indycar single-seaters are equipped with 2.2 litre, V6 twin-turbocharged engine package, which has been used since 2012.
Formula 1’s top speed in a race was recorded in the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix, when Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes-powered Williams reached 372.5km/h (231.4mph).
Indycar single-seaters often tap into the 240s in terms of mph, which is well over 386km/h. While competing in ovals, the cars of the American series are run seemingly without a rear wing, as they use the lowest possible level of downforce, including in the Indianapolis 500.
Eddie Cheever (who started 132 F1 Grands Prix – the most from any American driver). winner of the 1998 Indianapolis 500, set the fastest lap ever in that event, with an average speed of 379.9km/h in a lap during the 1996 event.
Although Indycar has higher top speeds compared to Formula 1 cars, the latter are made with a high focus on downforce and cornering speed. In terms of corners, Formula 1 is incredibly faster.
The most recent and clear example of how faster a Formula 1 car can be compared to an Indycar came in 2019, when both series celebrated races at the Circuit of the Americas. That year, during Indycar’s event at COTA, Will Power grabbed Pole Position with a 1.46.0 min lap, while Valtteri Bottas put up a 1.32.0 during qualifying for the 2019 US Grand Prix later that year.
In that same 2019 event at COTA, Charles Leclerc’s Fastest Lap time during the race was a 1.36.1, which was also clearly faster than the qualifying time from Indycar.
In another area, Indycar has the same chassis for all cars, developed by Dallara, while each Formula 1 constructor has to build its own challenger. In terms of engines, Indycar has Chevrolet and Honda, while there are four in F1 (the before mentioned Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault).
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