Sunday, 15 July 2012

Analysis: F1 vs Indycar

Collaborating with a fellow writer has been an ambition of mine for a while now. My sister asked, whilst watching this year's Indianapolis 500, "Why are they using F1 cars in NASCAR?" This gave me the great opportunity to get to work with my friend Matthew Hickey (@Indycar_MN on Twitter)  on about the differences between F1 and Indycar. The purpose here is to educate fans who maybe watch one or the other, as it never hurts to gain new fans!

But it turns out that Indycar and F1 really only have one thing in common: they are both open wheeled cars. Other than that, they really are quite different in just about every area, as Matthew (who analyzed Indycar) and I (analyzing F1) find out here:


The Car   

Indycar- Chassis is the DW12 (named after the late and great Dan Wheldon, who helped test the brand new chassis which made its debut in 2012) supplied to every team by Dallara, an Italian company. Top speed hasn't been tested, though through the speed traps at Indianapolis,the top speed was 234mph. Each car uses a 2.2L V6 Turbo Charged engine supplied by Honda, Chevy , and Lotus. Horse power ranges from 500-700, and the max RPM is 12,000. The engines are fueled by E85 Ethanol. A push to pass system has been introduced for the last five road courses that offers a boost for 100 seconds during a race at the drivers discretion.

F1- In Formula One, every team must build their own chassis (unless you have a third party contractor like HRT had with Dallara in 2010). Customer cars are currently outlawed although there is some debate over whether this is fair or not. Customer cars were frequently raced in the early days of the world championship and Toro Rosso used to run the same cars as sister team Red Bull Racing, albeit with different engines as recently as 2009.  

Every car is powered by a 90° 2.4 litre V8 engine built by Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz or Cosworth. The engines are limited to 18,000 RPM and horsepower is anywhere between 700 and 760 BHP. Each driver has 8 engines for a season. Effectively, F1 engines are hybrid. They have a system called a Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS. KERS recovers the energy lost when braking, storing it in a battery allowing it to be used as a ‘boost’ button, giving the driver an extra 80BHP for approximately 7 seconds per lap.

F1 engines run on fuel extremely similar to that of road cars. In fact, if you were to fill up an F1 car at your local garage, it’d run perfectly with performance close to that of race specific fuel. Each F1 car has standard ECU built by McLaren Electronics.


The Design 

Indycar- The aero kit debate is still going, as they are debating financial costs vs reward. It will happen eventually, but when is still in question. The aero kits would see varying looks on the nose, side pods, rear wings, and engine housing. But with the 2012 cars, the only changes will be by track. Bigger front and rear wings on road courses and ovals add downforce. Smaller wings on super speedways reduce drag and downforce.

F1- F1 has strict rules on car design, meaning the cars look somewhat similar, although there is some freedom which leads to teams implementing ingenious features such as exhaust blown diffusers to boost performance. Moveable bodywork is prohibited although all cars are allowed to have a Drag Reduction System (DRS), a part of the rear wing that opens at a predetermined point on the circuit to aid overtaking.    


The Tracks 

Indycar- Indycar is one of the only racing series in the world that runs on both ovals and road/street courses. Although the balance has shifted in 2012, a 50-50 balance in road courses and ovals is ideal for fans and drivers alike. The most famous of the tracks is Indianapolis.

F1- Tracks in F1 are of the highest standard in the world. In fact, the vast majority of modern tracks are constructed specifically for Formula One events and cost vast amounts of money to build. There is a mix of permanent circuits (such as Silverstone), street courses (Monaco) and even some courses that despite being temporary do have some permanent purpose built elements (Valencia). There are no ovals in F1, although the Indianapolis 500 was a part of the Formula One World Championship in the 1950s.   

The Governing Body   

Indycar- Randy Bernard is the CEO of Indycar, which basically means he is the shot caller. He gets the schedule together, negotiates with tracks and sponsors, and promotes the series. The Indycar Series is owned by Hulman and Co. who hired Randy. Beaux Barfield is the chief steward of Indycar, and, not only in my view but many others, does a great job at it.

F1- F1’s rules are made by the FIA, who govern the majority of top level motorsports across the world. Race Director Charlie Whiting oversees the races and technical side of things, inspecting new tracks, cars etc. The controversial Bernie Ecclestone looks after the commercial side of Formula One, negotiating TV deals and races, often for large amounts of money. He has masterminded the sport’s expansion into Asia although some may say at the expense of European events just because they can offer more money.  


So after further analysis, Indycar and F1 are different in so many ways. But one way that both of these great sports are alike is that they are just that, great. Both can be enjoyed be the hardcore petrolheads or the new coming fan for multiple reasons.

A huge thanks to Matthew for working with me on this, for all his knowledge and input. If you have any questions about either of the two series, let us know!

Check out Matthew Hickey's great Indycar blog HERE




First published in 2012