Formula 1 rules, explained: The biggest differences between F1 and IndyCar

Just about the only thing F1 and IndyCar have in common is speed.

U.S. racing fans have an open-wheeled circuit to call their own, with IndyCar having raced since the mid-1990s. That said, whether it be by TV ratings or overall global popularity, Formula 1 blows IndyCar out of the water.

The same can’t be said about their cars’ performance, though.

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While both are open-wheeled circuits, the rules, regulations and style of each are tremendously different. Yes, they’re built for speed. Yes, they’re equally dangerous.

But there are still several differences between the two. Here are some of the biggest:

Formula 1 rules

Here’s the nitty-gritty on how an F1 field and the race weekend works out:

Field

The F1 field is comprised of 20 drivers (10 teams). The grid is set after qualifying on Saturday.

Race weekend

In a typical race weekend, there are three practice events, qualifying and race. Typically, Practice 1 and 2 occur on the Friday before the race while Practice 3 and Qualifying take place on Saturday, with the race on Sunday.

Qualifying

The grid for the race is determined by fastest lap on the track.

Qualifying is split into three separate sessions, except during Sprint Weekends. Five drivers are eliminated (and placed) after Qualifying 1, five more after Q2 and the remaining 10 drivers are set into their grid spot after Q3. 

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Scoring

Top-10 finishers in a race are awarded points. First place to 10th place are awarded points as follows: 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1. If you finish outside of the top 10, you are awarded no points.

A point is awarded to the driver who finishes with the fastest lap in the race.

Pitstop

Teams are required to pit at least once in a race. You cannot refuel, and you must use two different types of tire compounds during the race.

Formula 1 vs. IndyCar differences

— The F1 field is currently 20 drivers (10 teams). The IndyCar grid is a bit more flexible, with 26 different teams and 29 drivers in 2022.

— In Formula 1, every team has their own choice of chassis and engine manufacturer, of which there are four: Mercedes, Honda, Ferrari and Renault. In IndyCar, teams have two engine manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda. The chassis is supplied by Dallara. Dallara has provided the chassis for IndyCar since 1997, and is the sole supplier.

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— F1 teams produce the parts and components for their cars.

— Formula 1 cars are built more for cornering, but IndyCar vehicles can achieve a higher straight-line speed. Both can reach top speeds of around 225 mph.

— IndyCar races primarily in the USA, with occasional races in Brazil and Canada. Formula 1 races on every continent except Africa (in recent years) and Antarctica — but don’t be surprised if that somehow happens in the near future. Only half joking.

— F1 teams change car aerodynamics to account for different changes race-to-race. IndyCar has separate car settings for road circuits as opposed to ovals.

— IndyCar races on street, road and oval courses. F1 does not race on oval courses, with only a few races out of the year taking place on street courses.

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— IndyCars are just a bit heavier than F1 cars are.

Formula 1 vs. IndyCar: Which is faster?

Formula 1 and IndyCar rides both can reach top speeds upwards of 225 mph. They both have their advantages, though.

F1 cars are built for speed through corners and turns, and can accelerate faster than IndyCar vehicles. IndyCar, though, may have the higher top speed. 

The top speed record in a Formula 1 race is 231.4 mph, set by Valtteri Bottas in 2016. The top speed ever recorded in an F1 car, though, is much higher, at 246.9 mph: That number was set by Honda as they tried to break 400 km/h (248.5 mph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

IndyCar can hit a top speed of around 236 mph in a race, on low downforce setups at the end of straights and on oval tracks.

Basically, an F1 car will cook an IndyCar in Monza. But an IndyCar will outpace a an F1 car in Indianapolis. 

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