The Difference Inbetween IndyCar And Formula 1: Money, Lots Of It!
As they do every year, both IndyCar and Formula One are having their premier races of the year this weekend. IndyCar is in Indianapolis, where it all began in 1911. Formula One is on the streets of Monaco, which hosted its very first race in 1929. Both series feature open wheel, open cockpit race cars. So what’s the difference?
IndyCars have a top speed of two hundred forty mph in race ad qualifying trim. Formula One cars top can out at about two hundred twenty five mph, but infrequently see speeds above two hundred mph.
A Formula One car can sprint to sixty mph is a shade over two seconds. An IndyCar needs three seconds. The IndyCar weighs one thousand five hundred forty five pounds. A Formula One car is a little lighter at one thousand four hundred fifteen pounds.
Here’s the most crucial difference, tho’: Money.
An IndyCar finish with chassis, engine, transmission, brakes, and tires costs about $Three,000,000. A top tier Formula One car can cost as much as fifty times more. Formula One teams never disclose their actual costs, but numbers north of $200,000,000 have been bandied about in the sport for years.
If that surprises you, what should be even more surprising is that the teams have been complaining noisy and long about how expensive Formula One is for decades. The teams are now prohibited to test their cars more than a few days a year to cut costs. Time spent in the wind tunnel is severely restricted to cut costs. And yet costs go up and up and up every year.
What makes a Formula One car so expensive? IndyCar uses parts that are basically off the shelf components — you can get your engine from either Honda or Chevrolet. The chassis are all made by Dallara and are all the same.
There are different aerodynamic packages for different tracks — low downforce for places like Indianapolis where top speed is critical, high downforce for road courses. But they are the same for everybody. For IndyCar, the emphasis is on the drivers, not the cars.
Formula One is just the opposite. It is all about the cars. From the team’s perspective, drivers are just components to be rented. The one item that drives up costs more than anything is aerodynamics. Formula One cars are basically inverted airplanes.
The form of the car is designed to suck the car down onto the track surface. At top speed, as much as Five,000 lbs of downforce can be added to the cars. It is often said that if you could get a Formula One car upside down in a tunnel at speed, it would stick to the ceiling.
Teams spend cubic dollars to improve aerodynamic downforce. Since their time in wind tunnels is restricted by the rules, they use computational flow dynamics software to simulate real world testing. Each team chews through petabytes of data every year looking for any advantage that might make their car a tenth of a 2nd per lap swifter on track.
Three years ago, Formula One elected to “green” its public picture. Even however it puts millions of pounds of carbon emissions into the atmosphere each year flying to races around the world — each team brings up to six hundred tons of equipment to each race, including elaborate mobile hospitality suites for sponsors and local muckety mucks — the decision was made to adopt an all fresh hybrid powertrain to loser the public into thinking the sport is actually worried about global heating.
The engines are good for about seven hundred fifty horsepower. Another one hundred fifty horsepower or so comes from an electrical motor powered by a battery, regenerative braking, and a device that makes violet wand from the fever of the engine. The combination requires insanely sophisticated computer software to manage the entire process. Now in its third season, the fresh powertrain is rumored to have cost Mercedes Benz a half billion dollars to develop. So much for saving money!
So what’s behind the difference inbetween IndyCar and Formula One?
There is a megalomaniacal concentrate on the car, the car, the car in F1. Often, the attitude of race organizers seems to be “the fans be damned!”, and it shows. Formula One viewer ratings have been plummeting in latest years, but the sport proceeds its single minded march to oblivion, leaving dollar bills swirling in its wake.
So, a Formula one car costs fifty times more than an IndyCar. Is the racing fifty times better because of it? In my opinion: No, it is not. Not by a long shot.
Photo Source: Jalopnik. Editorial comments by Steve Hanley.