Both Mainstream open wheel racing series, Indycar and Formula 1, are known for exciting racing and high speeds. However, despite looking the same there are clear differences between them. One of these differences is speed. We take a look at the bottom line and answer the question, does IndyCar or Formula 1 have the fastest Open Wheel racing.
The top speeds of IndyCar are the world’s fastest open wheel racing with top speeds of 240mph in comparison to F1s 223mph. IndyCars are designed to maximize top end speed. On road or street tracks Formula 1s’ focus on downforce and corning speeds makes them faster on racetracks that rely on acceleration and cornering.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why IndyCar is faster in a straight line, and why is on the twists and turns of a Road or Street Race the F1 car has the edge.
What are the Top Speeds of Indy Car and Formula 1?
IndyCar Top Speeds
The current IndyCar cars each have a Dallara chassis which weighs over 1,600 pounds. When optimised, the cars are able to reach speeds of 240 miles-per-hour, which allows them to cover the length of an American Football field every second. They achieve this speed due to the engines, which are manufactured by Honda and Chevrolet.
These engines are 2.2-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engines that have a minimum weight of 248 pounds. They are turbocharged using Twin BorgWarner EFR 7163 turbochargers, and they have a maximum RPM of 12,000, which allows them to achieve power between 550 and 700 horsepower. Their maximum speed is faster than that of F1.
Formula One Top Speeds
Formula 1 cars use 1.6-litre V-6 engines that have a minimum weight of 145 kilograms. They use a bank angle of 90 degrees and 24 valves. The internal combustion engine, which is known as the ICE, has a maximum RPM rate of 15,000 and a maximum fuel flow rate of 100 kilograms per hour. The exhaust turbine has a maximum RPM of 125,000.
The F1 engines are also hybrid and have an energy recovery system. This gives F1 cars a top race speed of around 223 miles-per-hour. F1 cars are very fast, but they are not the fastest single-seater race cars in the world. This goes to IndyCar cars.
However, there are some key reasons for this including the philosophy of the regulations. F1 also has greater variations between the teams, with some of the smaller teams being far slower than the more established and richer teams, such as Mercedes or Ferrari.
Speeds over the entire lap F1 Vs. IndyCar
F1 has lower speeds as their regulations have a focus on prioritising the level of downforce, as well as enhancing cornering speed. This is due to the fact that they only race on road courses and street circuits, which have many different types of corners. Therefore, the F1 cars are far faster than IndyCar cars through corners, and they also are able to accelerate faster out of the corners.
This means that on street and road circuits, an F1 car will be far quicker to complete a lap, and the average speed will be faster. IndyCar vehicles are faster on straights, but most tracks have more than just straights.
The downforce allows F1 to beat the lap time of IndyCar at circuits which they have both raced at. IndyCar raced at the Circuit of the Americas in 2019, which also hosted the F1 United States Grand Prix. The pole position for the IndyCar race was 1m:46.017s, which had an average speed of 115 miles-per-hour.
The F1 pole lap was 14 seconds faster, and it was a rapid time of 1m:32.029s. This lap had an average speed of 133.5 miles-per-hour. An even more telling statistic is that a 23-year-old F1 car was faster than a 2021 IndyCar car. IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward set a 1m:10.3s lap around Laguna Seca in the 1998 McLaren F1 car.
The 2021 IndyCar pole position was just slower than this, at 1m:10.7994s. This shows the clear difference in the speed on road courses, which the Circuit of the Americas and Laguna Seca both are.
We have a table below to give some examples of the difference in Times on tracks that both F1 and IndyCar have raced on. It is to give a rough idea as the years will be different but it gives an idea. We can’t do ovals however as Formula 1 doesn’t race on ovals. (IndyCar would be faster on these)
Table 1: Track Records IndyCar Vs. Formula 1. (where both have raced)
|Race Track||IndyCar Lap time||Formula 1 Lap Time||Notes|
|Circuit of Americas||1m :46.017||1m 32.029|
|Indianapolis Grand Prix||1:09.3888||1:10.399||Slightly different configurations – 13 years apart 2017 indy record in 2.4 miles and 2004 Grand prix record is 2.6 miles|
|Laguna sec||1m 10.7994||1m 10.3||This was a 2021 IndyCar and a 1998 F1 Car|
Are Oval circuits Faster?
Unlike Formula 1, IndyCar has several races on oval circuits. These circuits are where IndyCar vehicles are the fastest. The ovals are also banked, which increases the speeds and means that drivers can travel at ‘full throttle’ for long amounts of time.
Pack racing also tends to occur on ovals, which can increase the speed due to the effect of slipstreaming. This is seen in the Indy 500, which occurs on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since 1984, the fastest lap during the Indy 500 has had an average speed of over 200 miles-per-hour. The 1996 lap, which is the fastest ever, had an average speed of 236.103 miles-per-hour.
The IndyCar cars are very fast on ovals, as well as being able to race on road courses. This is due to the fact that they are much simpler in terms of aerodynamics than F1 cars. Modern F1 cars would also be unable to race on ovals effectively without modifications.
Therefore, IndyCar cars are faster than Formula 1 cars on ovals, but F1 cars are far faster over an entire lap of a road circuit. F1 thrives on circuits with complex corners, whilst IndyCar cars are more effective on straight or oval circuits.
In addition, IndyCar still has refuelling during races which can allow them to race for longer, as well as have a lighter fuel load at times.
Does F1 or IndyCar have faster pit stops?
F1 has a pit lane speed limit of 80 kilometres-per-hour during each of their events. However, the race director is allowed to change this if they are recommended to by the safety delegate. There is a €100 fine for each kilometre-per-hour a driver goes over the limit.
The stewards can also give an additional penalty if they feel that the driver goes too fast in the pit lane to gain an advantage. Mid-race refuelling hasn’t taken place in F1 since 2010, and so now only the tires are changed.
This allows the pit stops to be very fast, and they typically take the highly trained teams just over two seconds to complete. However, some teams have even gone faster than this, and Red Bull Racing achieved a 1.82-second pit stop at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
IndyCar also enforce a pit lane speed limit. At the Indy 500 this limit is set at 60 miles-per-hour. The cars travel up to 230 miles-per-hour just before the pit lane, and so they must slow down rapidly.
IndyCar pit stops serve a variety of purposes, and the teams can choose to change fuel, tyres or both at the same time. The average IndyCar pit stop lasts between six and ten seconds. This is due to the increased number of steps, as well as the fact that there are far fewer pit crew members than in F1.
Although there is more to racing that flat out speeds it certainly helps. In this regard IndyCar is a clear winner with speeds that have topped over 240 Mph compared to Formula 1s still eye watering 223 mph. however when it comes to cornering F1 takes over. It is faster by far with the downforce packages on the cars.
So if you need to go in straight line or around an oval then jump in an IndyCar, if you are turning every few seconds then a F1 one car will go faster.
Both are so incredibly fast that their top speeds become secondary to the spectacle they put on however.