F1 vs IndyCar: what are the similarities and differences?


Even those who are only interested in passing will know that there have been several F1 and IndyCar champions. We are talking about Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell and Jacques Villeneuve.

But was it easy or difficult for this illustrious quartet to move from one category to another? And also, more recently, for other well-known names such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Romain Grosjean and this year’s Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson?


Planet Sport goes over the main similarities and differences.

Race calendar

There’s a reason we start here because, at least for some if not most of us, when comparing and contrasting F1 and IndyCar, the first thing that comes to mind is the geography.

Formula 1 is, of course, a world series. It is a world championship and includes races in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, and will return to Africa in the next two years.

However, IndyCar is currently held exclusively in the United States.

It wasn’t always this way – in the past, races were held in England (at the now defunct Rockingham Speedway in 2001 and 2002 and at Brands Hatch the following year), Germany, Belgium, the -Bas, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.

Several of them, however, have been very short-lived or even one-off, and the 2022 17-race campaign is taking place at 14 different venues across the United States.


Naturally we then gravitate towards the circuits because again there is a fundamental difference in mind of mind when thinking of IndyCar juxtaposed to F1.

It is the presence in IndyCar of oval circuits, where the cars turn counter-clockwise with braking only necessary to avoid an accident or when entering the pit lane.

But in 2022, only four of the 17 races are held on ovals, each at different venues, the most famous of course being the Indianapolis 500.

Otherwise, there is a similarity to F1 in terms of a mix of street circuits – in places like St Petersburg (Florida), Long Beach and Nashville – and permanent road courses, thus providing drivers with a variety of tests different.

F1 circuits that are partially or entirely based on public roads are found in Jeddah, Melbourne, Miami, Monaco, Baku, Montreal, Singapore and, from 2023, Las Vegas.


Herein lies a significant difference between the two series, as the F1 system of 10 different manufacturers, operating two cars each, seems a bit easier to understand.

Admittedly, the lines are slightly blurred, with Red Bull also owning AlphaTauri, but these two teams operate independently in separate countries and also have distinctly different liveries.

But in IndyCar, there are 17 different teams, four of which have Andretti in the title!

For example, former F1 drivers Grosjean and Alexander Rossi drive for Andretti Autosport, but there are also three other drivers whose team names are under the Andretti umbrella with outside support.

A similar situation exists at Dale Coyne Racing, which has separate branches for fellow former F1 driver Takuma Sato and David Malukas.


Speaking of drivers, that brings us to the number of competitors in IndyCar – this year’s list includes 37 names.

Only 21 have raced in F1 so far and that’s only because Nico Hulkenberg had to replace Sebastian Vettel when he had Covid-19 or he would only have 20.

Not all 37 will participate in every round and usually a field of 26 or 27 will line up on the grid for an IndyCar race – although the Indy 500 could accommodate 33.

Of the 37 in IndyCar this year, six have had F1 racing experience or, in Callum Ilott’s case, as a recent official reserve/free practice driver.

Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, who both have McLaren ties, are prime candidates to do the opposite in due course.

Point system

It must be said that IndyCar is a much more unpredictable series than F1 which, in 2022, had Ferrari and Red Bull as the only winning teams in the first 11 races.

That meant four different drivers, while IndyCar had six individual winners across nine events with Josef Newgarden (three) and Scott McLaughlin (two) the multiple winners.

Only the first 10 finishers in Formula 1 score points, while everyone who participates in an IndyCar race receives a five token minimum.

It’s 50 points for the winner – double the F1 total – then a much less steep sliding scale thereafter and only a one point drop for each position after 10th place. Double points are offered at the prestigious Indy 500.

While F1 offers an extra point for the fastest lap of a race and points for first to eighth place in all three sprint qualifying “races” this season, IndyCar also offers a few opportunities for bonuses.

There is one point for pole position, one for leading a race lap and two for the most laps led in a race, while qualifying for the Indy 500 also offers points for the “Fast Twelve” in grid head.

Using more than the allowed number of engines in F1 means grid penalties, but in IndyCar it translates to 10 anchored points.


Max Verstappen at the Austrian GP

[Insert Austrian Grand Prix pic]

As mentioned earlier, F1 has 10 different teams and therefore 10 individually designed cars using an engine supplied by Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault or Red Bull Powertrains.

In IndyCar, each team uses a Chevrolet or Honda engine with a Dallara chassis and a universal aero package.

To the casual observer, the F1 and IndyCar models may closely resemble each other, but they have differences regarding their safety mechanisms.

Formula 1 has the Halo, a circular shaped device which, as the name suggests, protects the driver’s head and has been credited with saving the lives of Grosjean in 2020 and Zhou Guanyu in 2022.

IndyCar, meanwhile, is deploying the Aeroscreen, which was developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies – and is said to be capable of supporting the equivalent weight of 21 IndyCars landing on it simultaneously.

Read more: How much do current Formula 1 drivers earn?