Indycar and Formula 1 are two of the world's premier forms of motorsport. Despite both being open wheel, Indycar and F1 differ substantially -- from car design and budget/cost, to powerplant and racetracks. (The Indycar series includes oval tracks whereas F1 does not, for example.)
Some might argue that in light of the significant differences Indycar and F1 really shouldn't be compared at all. But every self-respecting gearhead and motorsport enthusiast must be able to confidently answer the question: "What is world's fastest form of road racing motorsport?"
So in the interest of maintaining gearhead credibility, as well as solving playground and/or bar disputes on the subject, here's what we've found.
In 2004 Formula 1 was at its pinnacle, as far as sheer speed and lap times go. In fact, many of the fastest lap records at tracks around the world were set in that V10 Formula 1 era.
Now, quite incredibly, F1's 1.6 liter turbo hybrid engines paired with improved aerodynamics and tires are allowing Formula 1 cars to approach those lap times once again. Lewis Hamilton's 2016 1:12.812 pole position lap at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is less than 0.6 of a second off of the all-time F1 lap record at the circuit. And so it is reasonably accurate to consider the performance of modern day 2016 F1 cars just about equal to those from the V10 era.
In 2004 F1 included a stop in Indianapolis, and a race of the road course that inhabits the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield.
Formula 1 hasn't visited Indianapolis in about a decade now, but Indycar does -- both for the Indianapolis 500 (duh) and the Indianapolis Grand Prix, which is a road course race.
The '04 Formula 1 and '16 Indycar Indianapolis road courses are not the same (no, that would be too easy), but they do share a meaningful part of the first sector. Namely, the latter part of the front straight and turns 1-4.
We timed each car's progress from the very end of the front straight grandstand (the turn 1 brake zone) through turn 4's apex. Here are the timer start and end points.
For an additional comparative data point we revisit Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve --
In 2006 the Champ Car series (which became Indycar) included a stop at the Circuit. In the run-up to the Champ Car race Sebastian Bourdais set a pole position lap of 1:20.005. That's a long way off of Lewis Hamilton's 1:12.812, and nearly three seconds slower than Rio Haryanto's 1:17.052 qualifying lap in a Manor F1 car (an F1 backmarker).
And while Indycars have advanced since 2006, there's no way that the performance improvement has been substantial enough to now match competitive Formula 1 cars.
Last but not least, consider that 2016 Formula 1 cars make up to 850 horsepower with all power systems fully deployed. 2016 Indycars make between 500-700 horsepower.
So which is faster? When it comes to road course racing specifically, Formula 1 holds notable speed and lap time advantage over Indycar.
See the Formula 1 speed advantage yourself with these on board videos.
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