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Difference Between IndyCar & F1 Cars

Updated: Jul 7, 2023


The IndyCar Series is the highest class of North American open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars in the United States, currently known as the NTT IndyCar Series. These cars are technologically advanced cars that usually run on both oval tracks and road courses (utilizing the Push to Pass system). The close cousin to Indy Cars is the Formula One cars. These two forms of motor racing are among the quickest cars around a race track due to their high cornering speeds because of downforce and aero-induced technologies. These two classes, as with most forms of motorsports, have extensive seasons, with IndyCar's extending from March to September and F1's running from March to November. Both have championships for drivers and manufacturers. The IndyCar title is won by the driver, the team, and the engine manufacturer, whereas in Formula 1 there’s the Constructors Championship as well. These cars appear to Beverly similar to the untrained eye from the outside. However, they are quite different from the inside. Let's look at what the two motorsports have in common when distinguishing between Indycar & F1.

Some of the similarities these cars possess are as follows:

  • OPEN WHEEL MOTORSPORTS: The wheels on both an IndyCar and an F1 car are not covered by fenders, so both of these cars look alike.

  • High-speed sports cars: Both are high-speed motorsports, with IndyCar regularly reaching in excess of 230 mph and F1 exceeding 200 mph.

  • Same flag system: Both series use the same flagging system.

IndyCar and Formula One can be highly profitable for sponsors with the proper marketing approach. Large amounts of investment are needed to cover the cost of racing and the old adage “the quickest way to become a small millionaire in racing, is to start as a large millionaire” applies! They both have a large following and are viewed by millions worldwide.

Various factors explain how IndyCar versus F1 is distinct from each other.


  • Speed and Turbocharger system: On oval superspeedway circuits, an IndyCar gear can reach high speeds of roughly 240mph with twin-turbocharged 2.2-liter V6 engines, while an F1 car on a road course can reach top speeds of around 205mph with turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 hybrid engines. IndyCars use a twin-turbocharged system, while F1 engines use a single turbocharger. There are four engine suppliers in Formula 1(Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes, and Renault), but just two in IndyCar (Chevrolet, and Honda) for 2022. IndyCar has a 12,000 RPM limit, while F1 engines have a 15,000 RPM limit. F1 teams must design and construct their chassis, but in IndyCar, the chassis is built to standards by a single manufacturer, with the differences in engine tuning and chassis setup.

  • Structure: Both of these cars have different brake systems. The brakes on the two automobiles are also highly different. Formula One brakes are carbon fiber, while IndyCar brakes are steel. The 2.5-mile speedways are the only exceptions, as they allow for the use of carbon fiber brakes. It means F1 vehicles stop faster, allowing them to accelerate on circuits with more curves. IndyCars have six forward gears, but Formula One vehicles have eight. The IndyCar cars also have a windscreen, which provides similar safety measures to the halo seen in Formula One cockpits.

  • System: These cars follow different systems to do overtaking in racing. A new system known as DRS was introduced IN F1 racing to comply with the highest speed. DRS stands for Drag Reduction System, which was introduced in 2011 to advocate the system of overtaking among F1 drivers. While staying in the DRS zone, the racer can activate the button with a single press when the rival is nearby. In Indy cars, a Push to Pass system was introduced in 2009 to increase the number of overtaking attempts. Drivers can momentarily enhance the engine power by around 50hp by pressing a button on the steering wheel.

  • Tracks: IndyCar and Formula 1 have many variations in terms of courses and locations, the most notable of which is the presence of oval tracks in IndyCar. These tracks support IndyCar's high speeds, which may approach 230 mph on the straights, utterly absent from F1 racing.

  • Time limit: When the distance of 189.5-mile is reached in Formula One, the race is over. It generally takes about an hour and a half, but in poor weather or lengthy safety car periods, each race is limited to two hours, but it's tricky in IndyCar. There is no time limit for oval races, and all races are run to distance. However, road and street course events usually have a two-hour time limit if the race distance is not met.

  • Drivers and their fitness: Both sports necessitate a high degree of fitness because of the pressure faced by the set of drivers. IndyCar has more drivers on the circuit than Formula One, with 33 starting each race. In Formula One, there are only 20 drivers on the grid, but the number has increased in recent years but never crossed 33.

  • Point system: In Formula One, the top ten finishers are rewarded points, with the top three drivers receiving 25, 18, and 15 points, respectively, down to one point for the tenth place driver. On the other hand, IndyCar is much more generous with its point distribution, awarding 50 points to the winner and 40 and 35 points to the second and third-place finishers, respectively. While F1 has recently implemented a bonus point for the driver who sets the fastest lap of the race (as long as they finish in the top ten), IndyCar goes one step further by awarding a bonus point for pole and leading at least one lap, as well as two points for leading the most laps.


Most of the IndyCar and Formula One distinctions can be found in the cars and tracks used. No doubt both these cars are the quickest driving cars, but they are different from each other. The differences mentioned above clearly explain what an Indy car is and what is Formula 1. IndyCar has a far smaller TV audience than the global Formula One World Championship because it is mainly a national competition. IndyCar attracted 5.45 million viewers per race in 2019 across all of NBC's affiliated channels, the series' official broadcaster. Last year's average global audience for Formula One was 91.5 million, the highest total audience since 2012. The qualification method and the point system used differ significantly, yet despite their variations, they both represent motorsport at its most extreme. Teams usually build F1 cars according to their needs and designs, whereas Indy cars are all made to a set of specs with slight differences in engine and tuning.

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