You’ve been a NASCAR fan for practically your entire life, while your buddy is more into Formula One or F1. The two of you have been debating back and forth about which cars go faster. You want to know once and for all whether it’s NASCAR or F1 cars that are speedier. Which is it?
F1 cars are faster than NASCAR cars, but not by a huge margin. The fastest F1 speed record as of this writing is from 2006 when a Honda F1 car achieved a speed of 246.908 miles per hour. The fastest NASCAR speed on record is 212 MPH.
In this article, we’ll talk further about why F1 cars outpace NASCAR cars as well as other differences between the vehicles used by these two major racing organizations.
Why Are F1 Cars Faster Than NASCAR Cars?
As we talked about in the intro, F1 cars have achieved a 34 MPH speed increase over NASCAR cars.
What is it about an F1 vehicle that makes it the speediest on the road? Let’s take a closer look.
In any form of racing, aerodynamics is critical. Aerodynamics refers to how air moves around an object or person.
The opposite of aerodynamics is drag, which is the resistance induced at high speeds that slows you down.
In racing, there’s yet another factor at play, and that’s downforce. This is the amount of downward force a vehicle experiences.
During a race, downforce is good. By increasing downforce, the tires receive an uptick in vertical force. The grip improves, and the racer drives faster.
Downforce is directly tied to aerodynamics.
Both NASCAR and F1 have aerodynamic professionals who have a say over the design of the vehicles used for each respective organization. The goal is to make the cars as aerodynamic as possible.
A NASCAR car features rear spoilers that are taller than usual to improve downforce so the rear wheels have enough traction for a speed boost. The rear spoilers also reduce the amount of air resistance.
The windscreen raking is rather steep for aerodynamics. The shell of a NASCAR vehicle has a shape that’s conducive to high winds. The front spoilers are wide yet low as well.
An F1 car has more aerodynamic features still. The vehicles are equipped with a Drag Reduction System or DRS on the rear wing. The wing is adjustable and can increase F1 car speed by up to 10 MPH in some instances.
Wings at the rear and front of an F1 racing vehicle increase the downforce so the tires fully connect with the asphalt. This reduces lift but doesn’t create drag; rather, it’s a performance-augmenting feature.
Further, the wings can aid an F1 driver when turning, as they get plenty of downforces then as well.
Speaking of aerodynamics, another difference between F1 and NASCAR cars is that the former weighs a lot less.
If you take the average weight of a NASCAR vehicle and slash it in half, that’s roughly how much an F1 car weighs.
This benefits F1 vehicles, as they have a better power-to-weight ratio. After all, the heavier a vehicle is, the more power that’s required for that vehicle to accelerate. That would be the case for NASCAR cars.
To prove that, in only nine seconds, a NASCAR car can jump from 0 MPH to 160 MPH. That’s mightily impressive, don’t get us wrong, but wait until you see what an F1 car can do.
In those same nine seconds, an F1 racing vehicle starts at 0 MPH and reaches 200 MPH. That’s an improvement of 40 MPH compared to a NASCAR car.
More Chances to Test Speed
While we’ve proven that F1 cars outpace NASCAR vehicles in terms of design and performance, the different racing styles these vehicles utilize also play a role in speed.
F1 races are very short, so the racers cannot wait long to achieve top speeds, at least not if they want to win. To outpace the other drivers, an F1 racer might push the pedal to the mettle more often.
In NASCAR, it’s not unheard of for races to last three or four hours, especially if they have a lot of stops due to crashes or other road hazards. NASCAR drivers still want to achieve high speeds to get into the lead and hold the top position, but those speeds must be sustainable.
In an F1 race, the sustainability of a driver’s speed is not as big of a factor due to the much shorter race duration.
Since maintaining high speeds can be strenuous, a NASCAR driver stays at a speed that’s more comfortable so they can complete the entirety of the race. They’ll pick up speed when they have to, but they won’t be racing at high speeds the entire time.
The best way to compare it is like a sprint versus a marathon. If you knew you were running a short sprint, you wouldn’t focus as much on endurance as you would on speed.
Yet if you’re training to run a marathon, you’re still paying attention to speed, but endurance is much more important.
The Other Differences Between NASCAR and F1 Cars
It’s not only in areas of speed and aerodynamics where NASCAR and F1 cars deviate. Here are some other differences between these two speedsters.
NASCAR tires are one of two types, dry tires for everyday racing or wet tires for slick road conditions. That said, NASCAR will often postpone races for weather and dry the track after it rains, so wet tires don’t come out that often.
The average size of a NASCAR tire is 15 inches. The tire slots onto a rim that’s between 9.5 and 10 inches. In the future, NASCAR tires may be 18 inches in size.
F1 tires can be one of seven types. The tires are categorized according to the various rubber compounds used in each tire. Five rubber compounds are for dry-weather racing, whereas the other two are built for wet conditions.
When race day arrives, the tire manufacturer will choose between only three rubber compounds rather than the full seven. These will not be a mix of wet and dry compounds but only the compounds that are appropriate for the day’s conditions.
An F1 tire features a rim that’s approximately 18 inches.
In NASCAR, all drivers race using the same V8 5.87-liter engine to keep the races fair. That engine produces 9,500 RPMs during a race and tops out at around 850 horsepower.
F1 racers use a V-type engine as well, a V6 1.6-liter hybrid turbocharged engine that can produce between 875 and 1,000 hp.
That makes an F1 engine more powerful than a NASCAR engine.
The tracks that a NASCAR driver races on versus an F1 driver are about as different as can be, so the vehicle’s respective handling abilities will be as well.
NASCAR tracks are not always oval or circular, but the drivers just have to turn left to navigate any course. By comparison, F1 tracks usually feature hairpin bends that require the driver to turn either left or right.
Thus, the handling of an F1 vehicle must be far more precise, and the agility of these cars must be better as well.
Looking at a NASCAR car and an F1 vehicle proves a night and day difference between the shape of these two cars.
NASCAR cars look like traditional race cars. They’re shaped for a degree of aerodynamics, but compared to the super-streamlined F1 vehicle, a NASCAR car looks very bulky.
F1 cars feature exposed cockpits and wheels, and they lack a shell too. The fin, spoilers, and wings add sharp angles to an F1 vehicle compared to the curvier shape of a NASCAR car.
We already talked about the fact that F1 cars are about half the weight of NASCAR cars, but what about their size?
F1 cars are smaller as well. They don’t have as much width or height. The average size of an F1 vehicle is 37.4 inches tall by 78.7 inches wide by 16.4 feet long.
A NASCAR vehicle is 53 inches tall by 110 inches wide by 190 inches long.
Between NASCAR and F1 cars, the latter is faster. That’s due to the shape, design, size, and improved aerodynamics of an F1 car compared to a NASCAR car.
That doesn’t make F1 racing vehicles better, per se. Formula One and NASCAR are two very different styles of racing, so it makes sense that the vehicles are about as disparate as can be.
It just so happens that F1 vehicles can achieve at least 40 MPH more speed than a NASCAR vehicle can. Who knows, that just could change someday!
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