Table of Contents
About Formula 1
Founded in 1950, Formula 1, or F1, is the highest class of international motorsports racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). A full F1 season consists of a series of about 20 or more races that take place in different countries, either on purpose-built F1 circuits – as in Imola or Silverstone – or city streets converted to an F1 track, as in Baku or Miami.
The 2023 F1 grid is composed of 10 teams, each with two drivers, for a total of 20 cars eligible to start on any given race day. The 2023 teams and drivers are listed below.
Red Bull Verstappen, Perez
Ferrari Leclerc, Sainz
Mercedes Hamilton, Russell
Alpine Ocon, Gasly
McLaren Norris, Piastri
Aston Martin Alonso, Stroll
Alfa Romeo Bottas, Zhou
Alpha Tauri Tsunoda, de Vries
Haas Magnussen, Hülkenberg
Williams Albon, Sargeant
Originally founded in 1920, though it’s been through a few governing bodies, the IndyCar series is the highest class of North American open wheel, single-seater racing cars in the United States. A full IndyCar season consists of 17 rounds of racing between April and September. Some races are held on oval circuits, some on racing circuits, and others are held on city circuits.
In 2023, the IndyCar grid is composed of 16 teams and 36 drivers, some of which only compete in select rounds, for example on oval circuits. The teams and drivers in 2023 that will compete in each round are:
Team Drivers Round(s)
Abel Motorsports Enerson 6
A.J. Foyt Enterprises Ferrucci, Pedersen All
Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Herton All
Andretti Autosport Kirkwood, Grosjean All
Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport DeFrancesco All
Andretti Herta Autosport Andretti 6
Arrow McLaren O’Ward, Rosenqvist, Rossi, Kanaan All
Ganassi Racing Ericsson, Dixon, Palou, Armstrong All
Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Malukas All
Coyne Racing with Ware Robb All
Dreyer & Reinbold Hunter-Reay 6
Ed Carpenter Racing Daly 1-7
Carpenter 2, 6, 11–12, 15
Juncos Hollinger Racing Illott, Canaipino All
Meyer Shank Racing Castroneves, Pagenaud All
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Rahal, Harvey, Lundgaard All
12 differences between F1 and Indycar
IndyCars are made to run at constant speeds in order to perform their best. That’s why they race so well in straights and on oval circuits where speed can be built up over time. Formula 1 cars, on the other hand, are made to race on a range of winding circuits. As such, there is more of a focus on cornering and acceleration vs. top-line speed. By comparison, IndyCar aerodynamics force drivers to brake sooner before cornering, and they can’t get to top speed as quickly.
Each circuit is different in F1 and teams bring a different setup to everyone: most often specific adaptation to maximise the efficiency of their cars aerodynamics for that track. Once the race starts, the only change that can be made is the tires. In IndyCar, there are just two aerodynamic packages to choose from – one for circuits and one for ovals – but during the race you can refuel in addition to changing tires. That adds a different element to race strategy than F1.
Formula 1 cars use a turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 hybrid engine. IndyCars use a twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre V6 engine. F1 cars produce more horsepower; above 1000 BHP. No Indycar is allowed to produce more than 700 BHP. Formula 1 engines can be built by teams that are also manufacturers (like Mercedes or Ferrari), or teams can acquire their engines from their choice of approved manufacturer. By comparison, all IndyCar engines must currently be supplied by either Honda or Chevrolet.
#4 Customization and Manufacturing
IndyCars are pretty uniform in nature. The only thing that can be adjusted week to week is the damper, a part of the suspension. Beyond that and the two different aerodynamic setups, there’s not much that changes on an IndyCar race to race. On the other hand, F1 teams must, by rule, manufacture their own cars, so the variation from one team to another is huge. Because of this, F1 cars are much more expensive to design, build and race on different tracks competitively.
Because IndyCars and Formula cars have such different engines and racing purposes, they also require different types of fuel to reach peak performance. IndyCar uses a mixture of 85% ethanol with 15% gasoline. This makes combustion happen faster but also comes with a risk of fire. In Formula 1, they use 99% gasoline, with the remainder composed of additives selected by each team. IndyCar features refuelling during races, which makes pit stops longer, while F1 cars run the whole race without refuelling.
IndyCar tires are supplied by Firestone and have been since the 1996 season. For oval track races, IndyCar teams must all use the same type of tire. For road circuits, they have a choice of red (softer), or black (harder) tires. F1 tires have been supplied by Pirelli since 2011. For all races, teams have three tire compounds to select from, of which they must use at least two. F1 cars also have the option of using specially developed tires for wet circumstances, called intermediates and full wets.
Passing another car requires additional speed. To achieve that, IndyCar has a ‘push to pass’ button that provides an extra 60BHP when the driver activates it. Each driver gets 200 seconds of push to pass each race that they can use any time they choose, to overtake, or defend. By comparison, Formula 1 uses a Drag Reduction System (DRS) to provide extra speed, but DRS can only be activated on certain parts of the track, and only if a driver is within one second of the driver in front of them.
#8 Driver Safety
While both racing series have stringent protocols for managing driver safety, F1 cars feature an open cockpit with a halo above to protect drivers in the event of a rollover. In addition to a halo, IndyCars add a cockpit aeroscreen that protects the driver from the elements and any debris that might be flying around on the track. Both IndyCar and Formula have strict contingencies for accident and fire management, on the track and in the pit era, and all races in both series are strictly governed.
#9 Qualifying and Starting Position
For F1 races, qualifying comes in three 18-minute rounds: Q1, Q2 and Q3. In each, drivers compete to set the fastest lap time. After Q1, five drivers are eliminated. After Q2, five more are eliminated. In Q3, the remaining 10 drivers compete one more time to see who can drive the fastest lap. The winner gets to start at the front of the grid in P1 on race day, with the second fastest in P2, etc. all the way down to P20, the last starting position on the grid.
In IndyCar, the qualifying format depends on the race. For oval races, drivers get two timed laps, with the average determining their qualifying time. For races on street circuits, the first qualifying is split into two groups, with the six fastest in each group going through. The fastest 12 are then whittled to the fastest six, who then have a shootout for starting positions one through six, with everyone else starting in order of their top qualifying lap.
F1 races are held on both specially designed racing circuits and street circuits all around the world. IndyCar races are held on purpose built tracks and city circuits only in America. The two series rarely share the same circuit on their race calendar. The last time was in 2019 when both Formula 1 and IndyCar conducted a race at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas. Monza is considered a classic F1 track. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval is considered a classic IndyCar track.
Drivers in both series are very skilled, though the top F1 drivers are generally considered the best in the world. No driver can participate in both the F1 and IndyCar simultaneously. In each series, drivers must be under a seasonal contract, be it long or short term.
Do F1 drivers race in IndyCar?
In the past, some drivers have started out in one of the racing series, only to switch to the other in a coming season. Nigel Mansel, and more recently Roman Grosjean, both switched from F1 to IndyCar. Mario Andretti started in IndyCar and switched to Formula 1.
#12 Prizes and what F1 and IndyCar drivers get paid
F1 drivers make a lot more money. It’s not entirely sure how large the numbers go but Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is believed to make up to $50 million per season. F1 drivers are really paid by what they’ve done before more than what they do. There are race bonuses up for grabs, but generally in F1 your contract is your contract. IndyCar drivers get much less in terms of a guaranteed contract income, and are much more reliant on placing well in races to collect prizes, and earn sponsorships.
Would an IndyCar Beat an F1 car?
It really would depend on the circuit that the two cars were racing on. IndyCars are ultimately capable of a higher speed than F1 cars, but they take much longer to accelerate. In fact, an F1 car can go 0-200 MPH in about four seconds, while it takes an IndyCar twice that long. Because F1 cars have more down force and different braking, they are also much faster when cornering. So, on a straight, long line, or around an oval for a while, an IndyCar might beat an F1 car. On a traditional racing circuit or city circuit, the F1 car would probably win every time.
Who are the best IndyCar and F1 drivers?
While choosing a driver, team, or racing series to support is a personal matter, there is historical data we can look at when considering the best F1 and IndyCar teams and drivers, specifically championship points performance, both in the past and in the modern era.
A,J. Foyt won more races than any racing driver in history with 159, across multiple racing series, including IndyCar. Foyt is still the only driver to win all three of the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In the modern era, Hélio Castroneves is one of just four drivers to have won the IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 four times: in 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2021. He was also runner-up in the IndyCar Series drivers championship in 2002, 2008, 2013, and 2014.
In F1, the greatest driver of all time is arguably Juan-Manuel Fangio, aka ‘El Maestro.’ Fangio became world champion five times for four different teams. In 52 F1 races, he took 24 wins and finished on the podium 35 different times. No one else has achieved that level of domination in such a short window.
In the modern F1 era, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the youngest driver ever to compete in Formula One, is the reigning champion, having collected consecutive honours in 2021 and 2022. As of the completion of the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen has 40 victories and 24 pole positions in his racing career.
Formula 1 and IndyCar are both open-wheel, single-seater racing series with top driving talent and cutting edge motorsports technology. While similar in many ways, they vary considerably in others, most notably the greater investment F1 makes in custom design, engineering and manufacturing.
While it is fun to imagine an IndyCar and a Formula 1 car racing each other, the truth is that they are very different racing cars, built to drive in very different ways, on very different tracks. That said, both racing series provide fans with an exciting environment and high-octane entertainment.
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