Formula One vs Indy Car
A Modern Comparison
Created Dec 3, 1998 Last update: March 11, 2001

Comparing the series

Formula One

Indy Car

A European racing series dating back to 1906 at Le Mans. An American racing series that dates back to 1909 at Indianapolis.
The World Driving Championship title was first awarded in 1950. The first Indy 500 was in 1911
They begin the race from a dead stop (unless its raining). A series of red lights go out, one at a time, to start the race. They have a pace car that leads them around the track and they start the race on the run.
Pit crews use as many people as they want - around 20! Six people go over the wall - one to change each tire, a fueler and an air jack/vent man.
Highest driver salarys. Usual $5-9 million. (I've heard Michael Schumaker may earn $40 million. Dudes like Villeneuve and Coulthard probably earn around $15.) No official award of prize money. Driver salary is not as much, usually never over $5 million. They do have million dollar prize awards for races where 40% usually goes to the driver.
No Pace Car. Wrecks usually only bring out a yellow in that area of the track, although there is a safety car that can be brought out to lead them around. This is rare. Most any kind of accident on an oval, results in the Pace Car coming out and slowing the field down. This results in leaders who had pulled away from the pack, getting bunched back up. This is more exciting for the fan, but bad for the fast driver.
Formula One Indy Racing League CART
Max Mosley is president Tony George is president President changes frequently
Headquarters in Paris France Headquarters in Indianapolis Indiana Headquarters moving to Indy from Troy
There are 16 races in 2001, no two in the same country (except for two races in Germany). The IRL has 15 races in 2002, 4 at night, all in America. CART has 18 races in 2002, 9 out of U.S.
F1 must use treaded tires and rain will not halt their race. IRL only race on slicks and rain will halt their race. CART does both, depending on the track
F1 race only on curvy tracks and road courses. IRL only race on Oval Tracks. "Go Fast, Turn Left" CART races on both.
F1's curvy tracks force vast speed variations from 30-200 mph. IRL can run average speeds at Indy of 220+ mph. At smaller tracks, the average speed may be more like 175 mph. CART does both.
Average - $9 million a year. Michael Schumacher reportedly receives $40 million from Ferrari. Jeff Ward made $200,000 as a rookie in salary in 98. Of course if he wins the right races, he can make millions. Michael Andretti, perhaps the highest paid driver in CART, makes $5 million a year salary. 1999 Champ, Juan Montoya, collected a $400,000 base salary in 1999.
I've heard figures from $50 million to $450 million to run a two car team. A top IRL team can do business with about $6 million a year Some CART teams have season budgets of up to $12 million per car.
Estimated 2000 sponsorship dollars less corporate sponsors for IRL - $142 million Estimated 2000 Company sponsorship dollars for CART - $492 million

Awarding Points

IRL POINT SYSTEM - In each race, 50 points to win, 40 for 2nd, 35, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 at last postion.
Bonus points are awarded for:
Pole Postion3 points
Second Fastest Qualifier2 points
Third Fastest Qualifier1 point
Most Laps Led2 points

F1 POINT SYSTEM - In each race, 10 points to win, 6 for 2nd, 4 for 3rd, 3 for 4th, 2 for 5th, and 1 for 6th
F1 also awards a constructors champion.

CART POINT SYSTEM - In each race, 20 points to win, 16 for 2nd, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Bonus points are awarded for:
Fastest Qualifier: 1 point
Most Laps Led: 1 point

CART also awards a constructors champion and a nations champion.


Qualifying practice is on Saturday, from 1 PM to 2 PM. During this hour each driver has a maximum of 12 laps to set the fastest possible time. The driver who set the fastest time will start from the first line in the so-called "pole position", and the others will line up on the grid in the order of the times they have achieved. In the event of a tie, the driver who achieved the time first is given priority. Any driver whose fastest time in qualifying practice exceeds the pole position time by 107% or more is not allowed to start without special permission of the stewards.

Prize Money

IRL - A minimum $1.1 million purse for each event except the Indy 500, which paid more then $8.6 million in '97; guaranteed minimum qualifying prize monies of $22,000 to each of the top 20 IRL qualifiers in each race.

F1 the richest?

Even the smallest F1 teams employ more than 100 people, while most teams have 200-350 employees. Ferrari, which builds engine and chassis, hires 500 people.

Ferrari is also the richest team, valued at 1000 million British pounds. Jordon, who finished 3rd in 1999 is valued at 150 million pounds and is more representative of other F1 teams.


In Formula One, each entrant must construct its chassis and enter two cars and drivers in all races of the season. Any entrant that misses a race must pay a substantial fine unless it can prove extraordinary extenuating circumstances. The total entry is limited to 12 two-car teams. Recently there have been 11 two-car teams, but Toyota will soon join the series, filling it up. They had to pay $48 million for that priveledge.

In the IRL and CART, not only can you buy the chassis, a team may have one car or as many as they like, although you normally don't see teams with more than 2 or 3 cars in a race. There is no limit on the number of teams, however races have a limit on the number of cars, for instance in the Indy 500, 33 drivers are allowed. More teams will show up and failing to qualify, not get to race.


They all claim to be, but which one really is?

I know Formula One claims big television numbers worldwide, but I've noticed at numerous races that the stands are not full. And F1 only has around 17 races a year. This does not compute.

It appears to me that the crowds and the tv coverage are declining at CART events, while they are beginning to blossom for the IRL.

None the less, NASCAR Winston Cup racing clearly wins when it comes to putting the most people in the seats. They have around 35 races per year.

Stock car VS Indycar

Tony Stewart has driven in several Indy 500's and several Brickyard 400's, winning neither. Here is what he had to say while in Indy for the NASCAR event


"I'd say it's a toss-up. We're kind of comparing apples to oranges. With Indy cars, there are so many variables that play a factor.

With the aerodynamics of Indy cars, they are very, very sensitive to 'dirty air' and that creates its own set of challenges by itself, as well as the speeds that you're running there and having that air be disrupted.

"At the same time, with the Winston Cup cars - as close as the competition is there - to a certain degree you get that same disruption of air, which creates differences in downforce on your car when you're behind somebody or ahead of somebody. With the competition being so close, it sometimes makes it hard to pass there with it being just a one-groove racetrack.

"Both of them are challenging and difficult. The race seems to be run two different ways, as far as how you have to drive the cars."

Ovals VS Roadcourses

Eddie Cheever Jr has spent many years driving in Formula One and in the Indy Racing League. He also owns a IRL team. While discussing getting his new European driver, Tomas Scheckter, used to ovals, he had this to say:

In road racing, especially in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 now in Europe, you have to do all of your passing at the beginning of the race. Even like a Formula One race, you've got to get it at the start, you can pass cars the first lap or two. That's exactly the opposite what do you on and oval. In an oval you work, if it's a 200-lap race, you want your car to be the best it's going to be the last 40 laps. It's very hard to stop that enthusiasm for a driver. What you don't want to do with a new driver is to put limitations on them. You want to find a way they can develop themselves.

On a mile-and-a-half oval when I was behind him a few times at Fontana and he got boxed in, and it's very hard on you to get boxed in, to make sure you just sit and wait for a hole. Because if you go to the left, there's a car. Go to the right, there's a car. If you slow down, there's a guy behind you. Somebody in front of you. So you've got to take the time and the patience. So the biggest thing that he has had to learn is patience. I had the same problem when I came here from Formula One, and I had already raced for 15 years before I came here.

Winston Cup FAQ

The following questions were submitted by Tamara:

1. What exactly (physically) is the difference between an Indy Car and a Winston Cup Car?

ANSWER: Winston Cup cars are referred to as 'stock cars' because they resemble cars on the road. They have the engine under the hood and fenders over the tires as well as bumpers and rearview window and a windshield and a top. The inside of the cockpit has a rollcage. You could conceivably put in a passenger seat. Stock cars are not as sophisticated as many other forms of racing, their engines, transmissions, etc use the basic technology from 30 years ago. Ford rearends, carburetors, etc. Indycars do not have fenders (so they are known as open-wheel) or a top or windshields or carburators. Their engine is in the back of the car. Indycars are lighter and more aero-dynamic and they go faster. At Indianapolis, Indycars qualified at over 220 mph this year. The Winston Cup qualified at under 180 mph. The driver practically lies down in the low Indycars and if you are chubby, you cannot fit into the cockpit. Indycars DO NOT want to bump into other Indycars for it almost always ends up in a bad accident! Stock cars can rub and bump up against each other usually without incident.

2. Likewise, what's the difference between Bristol 400 & Brickyard 400

ANSWER: First off, its not the Bristol 400, but 500. Both are Winston Cup races, but the tracks are vastly different. The Brickyard 400 is held at Indianapolis. The Indianpolis Motor Speedway was built early in the century. It was paved completely with 3.2 million bricks by 1911 and became known as the Brickyard. It has since been paved over, of course. This track is 2.5 miles around. It is pretty flat - the 4 corners are banked at a little over 9 degrees. There is seating for 350,000. The Brickyard 400 is 400 miles - so the winner must drive around the track 160 times.

Bristol is in Tennessee and is only a 1/2 mile around. It has very high banking - 36 degrees. There is seating for 30,000 people. Bristol hosts 2 Winston Cup races and both are called "500" - for 500 laps - which translates to 266.5 miles

3. And whats the difference between the Indy 500 & Daytona 500 - (if any!??)?

The Indy 500 is the oldest race in the world still in existence. It is the largest - as far as number of people attending. It is larger than the Brickyard 400 only because the Speedway does not sell infield seating (general admission) to the Brickyard 400 - expressly to keep it the largest. It has always been the richest, although the Daytona 500 is now giving it a run for its money. It is also considered the most prestigous. No mediocre drivers have ever won it. Some other prestigous races around the world include the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix (Formula One cars).

The Daytona track is large, at 2 miles around, but still smaller than Indy. Talledega, in Alabama, is a little larger at 2.6 miles around. The Daytona 500 is the most prestigous Winston Cup race, whereas the Indy 500 is the most prestigous Indycar race. It is for 500 miles - 250 laps. The Indy 500 began officially in 1911. The Daytona Speedway wasn't built until 1959, but stock cars were racing at Daytona Beach beginning in 1947.

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More Comparison Pages....

Comparison Synopsis

Technical Comparison

Series Comparison

Driver Comparison

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