To the uneducated, Formula One and Indy Car are the same vehicles. But nothing could be further from the truth. These are just a few of the most noteworthy differences. As to which is the best at racing, that is an argument which will never be settled.
Formula One racing is one of the oldest forms of automobile racing with roots dating back to the Grand Prix Championships in the 1920’s. The courses in Formula One are varied, many consisting of a combination of race tracks and public roads. These race courses are comprised of long straightaways, where speeds can exceed 200 mph, turns to the right and left, some of which can be taken at 190 mph subjecting the driver to 3.5 g’s. Races are run in dry and wet weather and sometimes in a clockwise fashion and other times in a counter clockwise direction. A Formula One race is 305 km long (about 189.5 miles) except for the Monaco Grand Prix which is 260.5 km long and each race has a two hour time limit.
The car has a minimum weight of 702 kg (about 1,548 lbs.) including the driver but not fuel. The engine for the 2015 Formula One car is 1.6 liter Turbocharge V6 with a rev limit of 15,000 rpm, a fuel flow of 100 kg/hr and generates 800 to 850 horsepower. The cost of a Formula One car is approximately $2.5 million. The fuel used is very similar to regular gasoline. Speeds approach 200 mph.
At first glance an Indy car looks like the open wheel design of Formula One cars. Other than being open wheeled, the Indy car is a totally different beast. The term "Indy car" is used as a descriptive name for cars that compete in the open wheeled championship in the United States. The Indy cars race on a variety of tracks from ovals to road courses with distances ranging from 200 to 600 miles per race. Speeds approach or exceed 200 mph on many of these tracks. Unlike Formula One, Indy cars only race in dry weather.
The Indy car weighs from 1,545 to 1,575 lbs. depending on the track. The power plant is a 134.25 cubic inch (2.2 liter) turbocharged V-6 with a max 12,000 rpm. This engine generates 550 to 700 horsepower depending on the level of turbo boost. The cost of an Indy car is about $1,000,000. The fuel carried in a 19 gallon tank is E85, an 85% ethanol 15% gasoline mix.
*Photo courtesy of Dan Wheldon's #4 by Purduenlia at Flickr’s Creative Commons.