For most racing drivers, reaching Formula 1 represents their ultimate career ambition, the chance to reach the top of the motorsport ladder and drive the most technologically advanced racing machines.
But just how fast are Formula 1 cars compared to rival series. Planet Sport has the answers…
So let’s start with the Formula 1 machines, capable of reaching a top speed north of 200 mph.
Valtteri Bottas actually holds the record for the fastest race speed, an incredible 231.4 mph reached at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2016.
The highest overall top speed achieved, however, goes to Honda, which pushed its 2006 challenger, the RA106, to 246.9 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
A current Formula 1 car can launch from zero to 60 mph in around two and a half seconds, but it’s in the corners that a Formula 1 car really excels and makes a difference with lap times.
Such is the range of corners a Formula 1 challenger will negotiate, it’s hard to pinpoint an absolute top speed, but a figure of around 190mph is entirely achievable.
Drivers, for example, can reach speeds of up to 192 mph when tackling Turn 130R at Suzuka.
IndyCar machines are actually routinely seen reaching top speeds in excess of what Formula 1 cars can achieve, with the latter taking time in the corners, while 0-60 in IndyCar typically takes half a second of more than in Formula 1.
It’s no surprise to learn that IndyCar challengers reach their top speed when racing on oval tracks, where the accelerator pedal rarely lifts off the ground.
However, you have to go back to 1996 to find the absolute average speed record, arriving at the famous Indianapolis 500.
The honor goes to Aerie Luyendyk, who averaged 236.986 mph in qualifying that year.
Formula 2 is a spec series, meaning all teams get the same car from Dallara, one that is far slower than the Formula 1 machines.
This is of course normal, because Formula 2 is the last stage of the junior ladder before the big leagues of Formula 1.
With Formula 2 competing under the F1 support program, this allows direct comparison between cars at a specific track.
More recently in Austria, Frederik Vesti set a 1:14.123 to claim pole at the Red Bull Ring in the F2 class, while in F1 a 1:04.984 was Max Verstappen’s pole time.
According to Formula 2 data, when pushed hard, with DRS assistance and in the lowest downforce setup used at Monza, a Formula 2 car would top out at around 208mph.
The cars can go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, not much different from Formula 1 cars which excel when their aerodynamics kick in and the corners come in.
Formula 3, like Formula 2, is also a spec series and acts as a feeder for talent looking to make the jump to F2.
As such, there is a performance difference between the two Dallara cars, but not to the level seen between Formula 2 and Formula 1.
An F3 car will reach a top speed of 186mph according to official data, 22mph less than its F2 counterpart and 45mph less than the top speed of an F1 car.
0-60 mph in an F3 car meanwhile takes 3.1 seconds.
Stepping away from single-seaters for now, America’s muscular V8-powered NASCAR machines certainly pack a punch with their performance.
The NASCAR Challengers, weighing around twice the mass of a Formula 1 car, can reach top speeds pushing 200mph, although the cars are capped in that department for safety reasons, with a 0-60 time. mph of about three and a half seconds.
Formula 1 cars triumph over NASCAR here, although it’s pretty impressive that production cars with all that weight can reach a higher speed than a much lighter F3 car.
Endurance World Championship
The WEC machines aren’t the easiest to compare to Formula 1, as the goal of the series is to keep the field relatively tight, so like NASCAR there are speed caps in place.
Porsche, however, took it upon themselves to show us what their car could do after leaving the WEC and all limitations gone.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo broke the lap record at Spa, Neel Jani in 1:41.77, reaching a speed of 223.1 mph on the Kemmel straight.
It wasn’t until qualifying for the 2020 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix that this time was improved, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole with a 1:41.252.
Timo Bernard then drove the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo to smash Stefan Bellof’s record time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a 6:11.13 that had been the ultimate benchmark since 1983.
With Bernard delivering a 5:19.54, the old record had been shattered.
When it comes to official machines competing in the WEC, Rebellion Racing’s Bruno Senna managed to hit 216mph, so the Formula 1 cars certainly have the edge in that regard.
Formula E was born with the aim of becoming the pioneer of electric motorsport, so how do the all-electric challengers compare to the hybrid beasts of Formula 1?
Well, that’s not the easiest comparison to make, as Formula E races almost exclusively on temporary street tracks that aren’t designed for super-fast speeds.
Nonetheless, the current Formula E Gen2 car, boasting 250 kilowatts of power, can reach a top speed of 174 mph, according to reports from the series.
Their acceleration is however more impressive, with a 0 to 100 km/h possible in 2.8s, around 0.3s slower than a Formula 1 car but faster than the F2 and F3 machines.
Let’s go from four wheels and see how a Formula 1 car compares to two-wheeled MotoGP motorcycles.
Jorge Martin holds the current top speed record, reaching 226mph at Mugello in 2022, which actually comes after Suzuki boss Shinichi Sahara expressed concerns about the straight-line speeds MotoGP bikes were becoming capable of.
From 0-60 a MotoGP bike can do it in 2.6 seconds, so in a straight 60 race with a Formula 1 car they would effectively be neck and neck.
A Formula 1 car is always king in the corners, putting all that downforce to good use.
There are several venues visited by both Formula 1 and MotoGP, with Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya being the most recent example.
Aleix Espargaro set a time of 1:38.742 to claim the 2022 MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix pole, up from Charles Leclerc’s Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix pole time of 1:18.750 a few weeks earlier.
Read more: How much do current Formula 1 drivers earn?