NASCAR and Formula One are known as the top two motorsport federations globally. Since they’re so popular, casual fans might think they’re more alike than different. However, the truth might surprise you.
NASCAR and F1 are vastly different sports, with unique types of cars, investments, and regulations. Here’s a brief overview of many of the differences between these two car racing organizations.
What is the Difference between NASCAR Cars and F1 Cars?
If you watch either a NASCAR race or an F1 race, the first thing you’ll notice is just how different the vehicles are. Formula 1 drivers sit in a single-seater vehicle that looks like it’s from the future, while NASCAR drivers look like they’re driving a regular car you might see on the highway. The differences in these vehicles are a core feature of each sport’s identity.
These mechanical differences cause the vehicles to perform differently in race conditions as well. Formula1 cars are much faster than NASCAR vehicles at their peak performance. F1 cars can reach top speeds of around 250 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the fastest car in NASCAR usually tops out at about 200 miles per hour.
NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Automotive Racing. Every vehicle participating in a NASCAR race is called a “stock car.” This naming convention comes from the early days of automotive racing in the USA, where drivers raced in production cars from American automakers.
These days, NASCAR vehicles are purpose-built machines using V8 engines manufactured by either Ford, Toyota, or Chevrolet. NASCAR is considered a spec-series, where the cars are the same, except for slight differences in how the engines are tuned, to try and improve performance.
Formula 1 Overview
Formula 1 is a style of open-wheel racing. Open-wheel racing means no fenders protecting the wheels from barriers or other vehicles. These cars also have an open cockpit without a windshield, which gives drivers a vastly different racing experience than NASCAR drivers.
The F1 cars rely on complex systems of wings, diffusers, and barge boards to impact the car’s aerodynamics, giving it more stability and downforce at high speeds.
Are NASCAR or F1 Races Longer?
NASCAR races are well-known for their long times and longer distances. Since drivers race in relatively protected, closed cockpit-style vehicles, it’s usually much safer for them to drive for longer stretches at a time. One of the most popular NASCAR races is the Daytona 500, a 500-mile race. It’s not uncommon for a race to last for three hours or even longer.
Meanwhile, Formula 1 focuses on shorter, more intense races. The FIA states that the minimum race distance for a Formula 1 race is 305 kilometers or 190 miles. Almost all races on the F1 are about that long, except the historic Monaco Grand Prix, which is only 260 kilometers long. Formula 1 races also must have less than 2 hours of driving time, and races must be shorter than 3 hours when there are delays. These limits are set for safety reasons, as drivers can get dehydrated or start driving poorly when they’re fatigued after a long race.
Do F1 and NASCAR Races Have Fuel Stops During Races?
Since Formula 1 races are so short, the FIA prohibits refueling during the race. F1 teams must have at least one pit stop for tire changes, which wear throughout a race. Meanwhile, NASCAR races often include several pit stops for fuel and tires to make sure they can safely make it to the checkered flag.
Do NASCAR and F1 Races Happen at the Same Place?
Generally, Formula 1 and NASCAR races don’t share venues because these sports feature different driving styles. However, select points on the calendar host both organizations, like the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Many of the most popular races on the NASCAR calendar happen on oval tracks, like the Daytona 500. Oval tracks promote an easy-to-follow style of racing, which is great for fans because they have shorter lap times. The shorter lap times also impact tuning the car because oval tracks usually only involve left turns. That means NASCAR teams may adjust the suspension to ensure the vehicle performs well under those conditions.
Formula 1 never races on oval tracks. Instead, all races are on road courses or street circuits, featuring various turns. Various turns require a great deal of driver skill, as they have to manage the car’s performance while going through obstacles on the race track like esses (winding turns in both directions), chicanes (sharp, quick turns), and dramatic hairpins. This type of racing puts equal wear on the cars, requiring a more balanced setup throughout the vehicle.
When NASCAR races at road courses, like those in Texas and Watkins Glen, the events tend to have shorter distances. That’s because the cars are moving slower through the different parts of the track. Slow corners allow overtaking, turning these unique spectacles into exhilarating experiences.
Who Gets Paid More, NASCAR Drivers or F1 Drivers?
Formula 1 is renowned for being one of the most expensive properties in motorsport. The highest-paid driver is Lewis Hamilton, who drives for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team and makes 50 million dollars a year. The second-highest-paid driver is Oracle Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, making 25 million dollars annually.
NASCAR drivers make much less than F1 drivers. The highest-paid NASCAR driver is Kyle Busch, who makes a reported 16.9 million dollars after salary and sponsorships. Denny Hamlin is a close second, making 13.1 million.
One reason that NASCAR drivers make less than Formula 1 drivers is that they have much more. There can be 36 cars on the track during any NASCAR race or more. Meanwhile, Formula 1 caps the race at 20 drivers, allowing each team to field two.
Conclusion: What is the Difference Between NASCAR and Formula 1?
When it comes to motor racing, NASCAR and Formula 1 represent the elite tier of the sport. Many critics argue which form of the sport is better, whether it’s the aggressive, bumping style of NASCAR racing or the finesse driving of Formula 1. The simple answer in the debate between NASCAR vs. Formula 1 is that neither is better.
Each racing style has its benefits, including a roster of skilled racers competing for a world championship. If you love watching auto racing, you’ll likely find something you enjoy in both forms.