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F1 vs IndyCar – Similar but different

Only Formula 1 and IndyCar could claim the top step of the podium as the fastest single-seater, open-wheel racing formula on Earth; yet with both sports garnering a worldwide audience well into the millions, is it Formula 1 or IndyCar that truly reigns supreme?

And how you should know which championship will bring you the greatest enjoyment to follow this year.

The cars used in Formula 1 and IndyCar are both built to compete under a strict set of rules aimed at keeping the sport accessible, safe, and competitive. Of the two, it’s F1 that allows teams a much higher spending budget for the season.

Therefore, F1 cars are able to accelerate faster than IndyCars, carry more corner speed, and can brake with greater force than Indy.

F1 car on track

F1 vs. IndyCar – Which is Faster?

The main element that sets F1 and IndyCar apart are the rules they must abide by. The rules dictate everything, from the specification of the cars to the way racing is conducted out on track.

The FIA allows F1 teams greater control over the design of their race car, and greater sums of money can be spent on creating a fast, competitive car; because of this – F1 cars outperform IndyCar in nearly every metric.

If we’re talking about average speed over the course of a lap, you could argue IndyCar has faster races:

TypeTrackAverage Speed
IndyCar Indianapolis 500190mph
F1 Monza GP Circuit163mph

Of course, comparing a lap around a banked oval to a high-speed circuit with chicanes and 90-degree bends is like comparing pineapples to cheese, so let’s look at some other factors.

F1 vs IndyCar – Which has higher top speed?

The crazy selection of aero-goodies F1 cars are blessed with allows them to corner at unimaginable speeds thanks to buckets of downforce keeping the cars glued to the track, but all of that focus on cornering grip does mean the car’s straight-line abilities suffer somewhat.

With their twin-turbo V6 engines and considerably less downforce to slow them down in a straight line, IndyCars can clock speeds of up to 230mph during a race and are able to run much longer race distances than F1 cars.

F1 cars have been clocked at 220mph during races, but it’s rarer as many of the race tracks on the F1 calendar simply don’t have a straightaway long enough for them to maintain such speeds for more than a couple of seconds.

How much does a current F1 car cost?

In 2021, F1 teams had to adhere to a spending budget of $ 145 million in a bid to “level the playing field” and create closer racing that many fans desperately called for.

The objective of the budget limit was to prevent the top teams with huge budgets, like Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari, from spending ludicrous sums of money on the development of experimental new parts in order to make their car faster – something teams on a tighter budget couldn’t dream of doing to such an extent.

Despite the budget cap, however, the entry fee is still eye-wateringly expensive – the cost of a 2021 F1 car is between $ 15-20 million dollars, and that’s just for the car! Tires, transmissions, spare bodywork, etc., all costs the teams more. On top of that, accident repairs often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Think about that next time you see an F1 car bouncing through the gravel, shedding exotic components and carbon fiber in its wake.

How much does a current IndyCar cost?

One of the things that seems to make IndyCar racing much closer and more exciting to watch is the lower budget for teams to enter and the more widespread use of standardized parts than in F1.

Certain components like the IndyCar chassis, for example, are made and supplied by an external manufacturer, Dallara, saving the teams a huge chunk of cash compared with if they had to design and build their own chassis to race with.

As it stands, a 2021 IndyCar costs around $ 3-4 million. Tighter restrictions on team budgets mean accidents and repairs can have a huge impact on the running of the team. On top of sponsorships, teams, and drivers win prize money for races.

However, reckless driving and other behaviors that can result in drivers incurring fines can quickly eat away at their hard-earned prize money.

F1 vs. IndyCar – Which races are on better tracks?

When it comes to the race events that make up the season calendar, the main differences between Formula 1 and IndyCar are the variety of circuits and their location on the globe.

F1 races are typically held on international race circuits in countries all around the world, ranging from purpose-built classics like Monza and Zandvoort to exciting street circuits like Baku and Monaco. F1 does not feature any oval race tracks on the race calendar.

IndyCar, in comparison, visits 17 different race tracks exclusively in North America and Canada. The championship schedule consists of speedways like Indy, street circuits like Long Beach and Nashville, and road courses like the legendary Road America. Racing is close and varied, with such a great selection of race tracks throughout the year for fans to enjoy.

For those more familiar with F1 tracks, IndyCar serves a fresh blend of fast and technical tracks that we often don’t see in Europe, that create intense racing much different from what we see in F1. Likewise, as an American or Canadian that’s used to race tracks back home, in Formula 1, there’s a plethora of iconic race circuits to sink your teeth into.

F1 vs IndyCar – Which has faster pit stops?

Pit stops in Indy take several seconds longer on average than in Formula 1, and that’s not because the pit crew is slower. During a pit stop, the pit crew has to refuel the car as well as change the wheels and tires. Cars need to be refueled to go the distance as IndyCar races can stretch to 3+ hours. Between 6-8 seconds is the average pit stop time in IndyCar.

In Formula 1, every stage of the pit stop process has been perfected and rehearsed to death by the teams. Each crew member knows exactly what they must do and must execute the action with precision and speed – as a result, F1 pit stops take 2.5 seconds on average!

F1 cars have been banned from refueling during the race for quite some time, and therefore, teams only change tires on the car or replace front or rear wings during a pit stop.

The ban on refueling during the race came into force by the FIA as tragedies such as the raging inferno of Jos Verstappen’s Benetton in the 1994 Hockenheim GP (which he survived) saw a greater need for driver and team safety to consider.

Do F1 drivers ever switch to IndyCar?

Although IndyCar features a season of race events on North American tracks, it’s a global race series in the sense that drivers, team staff, and sponsors from all over the world come to put their skills to the ultimate test.

Over the years, we have seen drivers make the leap from Indy to F1, with a memorable example being the Colombian, Juan Pablo Montoya, who, in 2001, with the BMW Williams team, quickly made his arrival known with a phenomenally exciting debut season.

It goes the other way, too, with drivers like Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson, and Takuma Sato all having driven in both Formula 1 and IndyCar. Interestingly, Takuma Sato, who never had much luck in F1, found real success following the switch from F1 to IndyCar; Sato is now a 2-time Indy 500 winner – the equivalent in F1 of sealing a victory at the highly-coveted and exclusive, Monaco Grand Prix.

The Final Verdict

We made it to the finish line, and it seems like after a hard-fought battle – there is no winner. Formula 1 and IndyCar are both special in their own right, and that’s why they have such committed worldwide audiences.

IndyCar is chock full of drama, excitement, and closely-fought rivalries where drivers are really allowed to duke it out like the good old days, making each race event a time to remember.

F1, on the other hand, is fantastically sophisticated, bringing futuristic technology and surreal race circuits together in a world championship that so often ends shrouded in controversy, jubilation, and misery.

We hope we’ve made it a little easier for you to decide whether IndyCar or F1 are more to your liking, or perhaps both! Who will you be rooting for in 2022?