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The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most prestigious racing events in the world, where the cars reach over 230 miles per hour and race nose to tail for 200 laps.

But what would happen if you put an F1 car on the grid? Would it be able to go quicker?

We’ve done some maths to find out.

Thanks very much to Omaze for sponsoring this video, where you have the chance to win a Corvette Stingray C8 and a VIP experience at the 2022 Indy 500! You can enter at Omaze.com/Driver61

Indycars and Formula 1 cars look pretty similar. Both open wheel formula cars, lots of downforce and both run turbocharged V6 engines. However, there are some pretty big differences.

Indycar is a spec series, meaning that all cars run the same Dallara chassis, the same aero package for each circuit and have the choice of two engines – Honda or Chevrolet. A bit like the Corvette from earlier!

Whereas, Formula 1 is a constructor championship. The cars are made by the teams, with only some components shared between the teams – like Williams using Mercedes engines and Haas running Ferrari components like the steering wheel.

Indycar run the series like this to save costs for the teams and encourage closer racing, meaning there are very limited opportunities to spend more money and gain an advantage over other teams.

Where Formula 1 teams spend hundreds of millions on wind tunnel testing and CFD to create their own aero packages – sometimes with new ones for each race – Indycar have to run the exact same body, floor and wing packages for each race.

And this leads us on to another difference, Indycars run on both Ovals and Road Circuits – and as you can imagine – the aerodynamic and suspension setups need to be very different to accommodate this.

Indycar have three distinct aero packages, short-oval, speedway and road configurations. Each with different wings, brake ducts and suspension setups.

The engines are also pretty different. Indycar run a 2.2 litre V6 with twin-turbochargers. They produce between 500 and 700 horsepower – as the organisers specify the maximum boost pressure for each race – allowing them to control speeds and keep the racing close.

Despite Formula 1 using a smaller 1.6 litre engine with a single turbocharger – the manufacturers have been in a development race for many years – spending hundreds of millions on creating the most efficient engines on the planet. These produce over 1000 horsepower with 160 being donated by the hybrid system.

The same goes for the aerodynamics, manufacturers have been competing to produce the most efficient aero packages for years. Fighting for every tenth around the corners and maximising speed down the straights by minimising drag.

Whereas Indycar use the same system for entire seasons and only change it when a new spec car is released.

In 2020, Colton Herta set the fastest lap ever at Indy – with an average speed of 237.986 mph. But F1 cars have far more downforce, more power and wider tyres – so surely they would go faster at Indy?

Well it’s not as clear-cut as that.

The best like-for-like comparison we have is at Circuit of the Americas – where Indycars in road-spec ran a 1:46 minute lap time in 2019. And Formula 1, just a few months later, ran a 1:32.

So Formula 1 has a 14 second advantage – but that’s on a circuit. What about an oval?

Despite what many people think – ovals are incredibly tricky to get right. From a setup perspective, the cars need minimal drag to be quick on the straights, but also have a lot of downforce to carry the speed through the corners.

For minimum drag, Indycars use their speedway setup. This has a simplified single-element rear wing with almost no wing angle. The front wing follows a similar trend with a single element and simplified end-plates.

This allows them to reach up to 240mph on the straights, which would destroy any F1 car, even in Monza spec, where they run the least downforce of any race on the calendar.

F1 cars could develop lower downforce wings and remove all of the smaller downforce-producing elements. But there is one other trick Indycar has that is illegal in F1- the underfloor aero tunnels.

They are used to accelerate air under the car, creating a lower pressure and sucking the car to the floor. This produces lots of downforce with very little drag.

F1 regulations state that the underside of the floor has to be flat, and so more over-body downforce would be needed to hold the car stable through the corners.

On an oval, Formula 1 hybrid system just wouldn’t work. It’s tuned to perform best on a circuit, where there are lots of braking zones that can be used to re-gen power that can be used to accelerate out of the corner.

But on an oval, these re-gen opportunities are fairly sparse.

They could utilise time in the pit-lane to run the engine and recharge the battery – a bit like they do in F1 races. And could also do a similar thing when in the slipstream of another car, or when in a yellow flag period.

However, even with these times – the car would be at around 850 horsepower for most of the race, rather than the full 1000 horsepower.

The setup also has to be different to excel at only turning left. So Indycars use a few clever setup parameters that F1 cars don’t have.

Look at this, they set up the camber of all four tyres to lean to the drivers right, this means that as the car loads up into the corner, all four tyres are producing as much grip as possible.

The entire car wants to turn left, they even offset the steering to ease the load on the driver and produce less tyre scrubbing through the fast turns.

The anti-roll bars also play a huge part, they can actually be tuned on the drivers steering wheel.

As the cars burn off the fuel, the balance in the car changes – so where a stiffer rear bar would help when the car is heavy – it may need loosening off for more grip when the car is lighter.

The way this works is genius.

The system turns these blades, which are specially shaped to vary the stiffness of the car.

The shape means that if the blade is in this orientation it is flexible – and if rotated 90 degrees – it becomes much stiffer. So the drivers can vary this to fine-tune the car.

The drivers also may want to change the balance of the car into the corners, they do this with a weight jacker. It’s a small hydraulic ram that’s placed on the rear-right suspension.

If extended, it changes the cross-weight of the car. This is how the car’s weight is split between the four wheels. If you extended the ram, this put more weight on the front left tyre. This can induce understeer to make the car more stable, or reduce understeer – depending on what the driver wants at that time in the race.

And as I’m sure you’re aware, F1 has none of these things. Quite simply, because they aren’t needed for circuit racing – where the cars are pretty symmetrical in setup.

The oval would also require much longer gear-ratios than F1 cars normally run, where shorter ratios are preferred for better acceleration.

However, the F1 regulations say that the gear ratios have to stay the same for the whole season – but we will ignore that for now.

So in terms of straight line speed, the Formula 1 car has the edge.

They have about 150 horsepower more- and providing they developed a specific aero package for Indy, they could produce as much downforce as an Indycar with similar drag.

But it would come down to the corners, being able to carry momentum through without sliding and scrubbing off speed.

One big advantage of the F1 car is the tyres, they are 20% wider on the front and 10% wider on the rear – so the theoretical grip is higher.

However, here is the sticking point. The setup.

Indycars are designed for ovals, and are understandably very good at it.

For an F1 car to match an Indycar through the corners, the entire suspension system would need to be redesigned to accommodate the left-hand camber and the sort of fine tuning needed to compete.

But this is F1, if there were to be a race at Indy – the F1 teams would invest so much time and money that catching up would be entirely possible.

It would be a challenge for the teams, but that’s something they are used to. So I say, F1 could do it. It wouldn’t be by much – bit I think they would be quicker.

More power, more grip and similar drag – it seems entirely plausible.

But it goes without saying, Indycars are incredible capable and are unbelievable to watch as 33 cars fly around the circuit at over 230 miles per hour.

And thanks to Omaze, you have the chance to not only win a VIP experience to the 2022 Indy 500.

Whilst you’re at Indy with a friend, you get to ride on-board for a pre-race lap, watch the race from the VIP suite and tour the pits and garages.

As part of the winning prize, Omaze are also giving away a Corvette C8 stingray! It’s got 495 horsepower and hits 60 in 2.9 seconds. I would love to have a go in that on one of the awesome American tracks.

What’s great though, is that every donation goes to support the 500 Festival. It’s a great cause that produces events and programs for disadvantaged youth in Indiana.

So for your chance to win, check out Omaze.com/Driver61.

You should check out this video where we explain why an F1 car could never go 300 miles per hour. Thanks for watching, and I will catch you in the next one.

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