Blink and you’ll miss them. Formula 1 cars are some of the most high-performing cars on the planet, capable of navigating corner-filled tracks at incredibly high speeds. This may leave newer viewers wondering just how fast F1 cars are, and what their top speed is.
F1 cars can reach speeds of up to 223 mph/360 kph during a race and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in around 2.6 seconds. On faster circuits, F1 cars can travel at average speeds of around 160 mph/257 kph. The fastest speed of an F1 car during a race was 231.4 mph/372.5 kph in Mexico in 2016.
However, Formula 1 cars are not necessarily the fastest cars in the world when it comes to straight-line speed. In this article we will discuss how fast F1 cars go, in both straight sections and around corners, as well as comparing their speed to cars from other disciplines.
How Fast Do F1 Cars Accelerate?
F1 cars can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in around 2.6 seconds. This number is lower than some might expect as a result of the limiting factors of drag and traction that an F1 car must deal with at low speeds, and so an F1 car’s acceleration is less impressive than its cornering speeds.
F1 cars can go from 0-60 mph/97 kph in around 2.6 seconds. While this number is faster than most other motorsport disciplines, it may still appear slower than many would think, due to the top speeds that F1 cars can eventually reach. This is because the aerodynamic features of the cars aren’t being utilized when the car is travelling at low speeds.
Drag & Downforce
These features, most notably seen in the shape of the car’s front and rear wings, are designed to create as much downforce as possible when travelling at high speeds. Downforce is the result of air pushing the car closer to the track, giving it more grip at high speeds. This effect won’t be felt when accelerating from a standing start, which lengthens the time it takes to reach top speed.
F1 cars do accelerate quicker than most cars in other disciplines, with NASCAR cars reaching 60 mph/97 kph in around 3.4 seconds, and IndyCars reaching the same speed in around 3 seconds. Formula E comes very close to F1 in terms of acceleration, despite the cars’ slower straight-line speeds, reaching 60 mph/97 kph in 2.8 seconds.
The true power of an F1 car’s acceleration is felt when the car is in motion, as they can double their speed from 60 mph/97 kph to 120 mph/194 kph in a mere 1.9 seconds. This is quicker than almost all other motor racing disciplines, with only Top Fuel dragsters able to accelerate faster. And when I say faster, I mean a LOT faster, as they can reach speeds of 100 mph/161 kph in under a second.
How Fast Are F1 Cars In A Straight Line?
F1 cars are very fast in a straight line, able to consistently reach speeds upwards of 200 mph/320 kph on many tracks with long straights. On tracks with long enough straights, F1 cars may even hit top speeds upwards of 215 mph, or 346 kph.
The straights are where we can really gauge the raw speed of a Formula 1 car, especially on tracks that have longer and more frequent straight sections such as Monza or even Baku, even though it is a street circuit. F1 cars can reach speeds of around 223 mph/360 kph down a long enough straight.
This speed is also dependent on the condition of the car and the weather conditions they’re racing in. Wet surfaces mean the cars travel slower as they have less grip to the surface. Cars may also be able to travel faster later in the race, as they will have less fuel in the tank to weigh the car down.
How Fast Do F1 Cars Take Corners?
F1 cars take corners faster than any other cars out there, with some corners seeing F1 cars travel through them at upwards of 180 mph/290 kph. The slowest corners will see F1 car speeds of less than 60 mph/97 kph, but many of F1’s corners are taken above 100 mph, or 160 kph.
The speed at which F1 cars take corners is fully dependent on the type of corner in front of them. Fast corners, such as Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone, or the infamous 130R at Suzuka, are usually characterized by having a longer, shallower arcs, with cars usually navigating them at over 180 mph/290 kph.
On the other hand, the Fairmont Hairpin in Monaco is usually taken at around 30 mph/49 kph, making it the slowest corner on the F1 calendar. The truth is, there is no one-answer-fits-all when it comes to corner speeds in F1, as they all have different characteristics and need to be approached differently. Instead, you can break it down into two types: fast corners and slow corners.
Any corner that allows the driver to accelerate as they pass through it can be deemed a fast corner. For example, Eau Rouge and Raidillon at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium features a huge uphill corner which offers so much downforce because of the elevation change that cars can take it on at almost full throttle, travelling at around 186 mph/300 kph.
One of the fastest corners on the F1 calendar is 130R at Suzuka, Japan. Named 130R because of its large 130-meter radius, drivers will also take this corner on at around 186 mph/300 kph. While it isn’t as grandiose as the sweeping hill of Eau Rouge, it still offers for captivating viewing, and has become a favorite among F1 fans.
Slow corners, as you’ve probably realized, are the opposite to fast corners as the driver will have to slow down considerably to navigate them safely. Examples of slow corners are hairpins, chicanes and decreasing radius corners. Decreasing radius corners are one of the most difficult types of corners for drivers to prepare for, as the further round you go, the tighter they get.
Chicanes are often placed after very fast sections of track in order to intentionally slow drivers down. An example of this is at Monza, which has a chicane after the start/finish straight, and a chicane after the Serraglio section before drivers take on the track’s most famous corner, Parabolica. Chicanes are vital for driver safety at fast tracks like Monza, which feature very few corners.
The slowest corner on the F1 calendar is the previously mentioned Fairmont Hairpin, where cars will slow down to around 30 mph/49 kph. The Fairmont Hairpin used to be a prime spot for overtakes, but due to the current width of the cars, it is now an almost impossible maneuver to pull off.
How Fast Are F1 Cars Around A Track?
F1 cars are the fastest cars around a track, beating other motorsports like NASCAR and IndyCar by quite some margin. Lewis Hamilton set the record for the fastest average speed across a lap in 2020, when he travelled at an average of just over 164 mph around Monza in Italy.
Part of the joy of Formula 1 is that each track on the calendar has a different purpose and throws up different challenges for drivers to overcome. As each circuit measures out to a different length, it’s best to judge a how fast a car is around a track by average speeds rather than making direct comparisons around lap times.
Certain tracks will always favor faster driving due to their layout. For example, Monza in Italy is very ‘straight heavy,’ allowing drivers to really push down on the throttle for extended periods of time. This resulted in Lewis Hamilton breaking the record for the fastest lap in F1 history during qualifying for the Monza Grand Prix in 2020, with an average speed of 164.266 mph/264.362 kph.
Narrow, walled tracks with multiple corners often produce slower average speeds, as drivers can’t gain as much momentum without extended straights. Monaco is the slowest circuit on the calendar, with Max Verstappen’s 2021 average speed of 98.072 mph/157.833 kph being the fastest average speed ever at the Monaco GP. It is a substantial drop in speed compared to the faster tracks on the calendar.
These faster tracks include Spa-Francorchamps with an average speed of 142 mph/230 kph, Silverstone, with an average speed of 145 mph/233 kph, and of course Monza, with an average speed of 160 mph/257 kph. As well as Monaco, the slower tracks on the calendar include the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore, with an average speed of 111 mph/179 kph.
How Come F1 Cars Are So Fast Around The Track?
F1 cars are designed specifically to deal with all aspects of track racing, from long straights to narrow hairpins. Aerodynamics, with the increase in downforce that they provide, does wonders for modern F1 cars, allowing them more grip to take on corners with much more speed. Grip is also attained using high-performance tires, designed to achieve maximum grip to the track surface.
It is this ability to corner so quickly and accurately that gives Formula 1 cars the edge over other cars when going round a track, despite the fact that other cars could potentially outpace them with faster straight-line speed.
The ability of the drivers and the fact that they are some of the most highly trained athletes in the world also deserves a mention. Drivers will prepare themselves, so they know every inch of the track that they are racing on, as well as knowing the abilities and limitations of their cars to the finest detail.
What Was The Fastest Era In F1?
The fastest era in F1 is constantly disputed within the F1 community, with many claiming it to be around 2003-05. There is an element of truth to this, as many of the fastest lap records set at the time still exist. However, most of these records have succumbed to cars from the mid 2010s to 2021.
2014 signaled the start of a new era in F1 with the introduction of 1.6-liter V6 turbo engines. These new engines used ‘hybrid’ technology, which led to a reduction in the amount of fuel used in a race. The hybrid system meant that the cars ran on both a combustion engine as well as an electric motor, meaning less fuel was wasted.
During the period between 2014-2021, most of Formula 1’s speed records were broken, including those by Hamilton’s fastest average speed across one lap at Monza and Bottas’ quickest speed in a race in Mexico in 2016. In fact, 20 circuits have had their fastest lap record broken since 2018, with only 5 records set in the mid 2000s yet to be broken.
Due to changes in regulations for the 2022 season, we entered a new era in the sport, with further budget caps introduced to make races closer, as well as changes to the front and rear wings of the cars to improve aerodynamics. Other changes include the larger wheel rims, as well as changes to the floor of the cars. All this likely means the cars will remain slower than those from 2020 and 2021.
Highest Top Speed In An F1 Race
The highest top speed in an F1 race was set by Valtteri Bottas in his Williams car in 2016. Bottas managed to reach a speed of 231.4 mph/372.5 kph during the Mexican Grand Prix. This was in large part thanks to the long straights on the circuit and the thinner air at the track’s high altitude.
This was not the first time that Valtteri Bottas had raised eyebrows with his pace, having clocked a speed of 234 mph/378 kph during the weekend of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier that year.
Despite reaching a record-breaking speed in Mexico, Bottas finished the race in 8th place, over a minute behind the winner Lewis Hamilton. The record was disputed, with some claiming that its rightful holder should be Juan Pablo Montoya, after he clocked a speed of 231.5 mph/372.6 kph at Monza in 2005. However, this was during a testing session, rather than the actual race.
Kimi Räikkönen had previously held the record after an impressive run at Monza in 2005 which saw his McLaren reach a speed of 229.9 mph/370.1 kph. Bottas’ achievement to break the decade-old record wasn’t exactly a bolt from the blue, as the cars in 2016 were reaching a performance crescendo by the time the Mexican Grand Prix rolled around.
The thin air, a result of the high altitude of the Mexican track, set Bottas up with the perfect conditions to break the record that still stands today. Because of the high altitude, the air is less dense, reducing the drag the cars are subjected to, allowing them to go even faster than usual.
Highest Top Speed Ever By An F1 Car
The highest top speed ever by an F1 car was 246.908 mph (397.360 kph), set by a modified Honda F1 car on the Bonneville salt flats in Utah, in the USA. The car managed to reach 249 mph/400 kph on one run, but the official record had to be set using the average of two runs.
In the summer of 2006, as Fernando Alonso was on the way to becoming F1 champion, Honda were working on a little side project with the aim of crafting a Formula 1 car capable of reaching speeds of 249 mph/400 kph. This project was named the Bonneville 400, and took place on the Bonneville salt flats, a wide-open expanse on the outskirts of Utah.
To try and achieve this, the team behind the project used a modified version of the BAR 007, the car used by Jenson Button and Takuma Sato in the 2005 F1 season. Driving the car was former BAR-Honda test driver and FIA Medical Car driver Alan Van der Merwe.
Although they just fell short of the magic 400 mark, the car set two new land speed records for a Formula 1 car, travelling at an average speed of 246.908 mph/397.360 kph over a flying mile, and 246.983 mph/397.481 kph over a flying kilometer. At one point during the recorded mile, the car just nudged over the 249 mph/400 kph mark but was unable to sustain such speed over the course of the mile.
Despite completing most of their testing at an RAF airfield in England, the team decided to use the Bonneville salt flats as their attempt’s location due to its almost endless amount of space. The site measures at over 30,000 acres and is substantially longer than any airfield or long strip of tarmac that they could have chosen. This allowed the car a lot more time to build up its speed.
Since the two records were set by the Bonneville 400 team back in 2006, there have been no other official attempts to break the 400 kph mark or to try to break the land speed record in an F1 car.
How Fast Are F1 Cars Compared To Other Motorsports?
|Highest Race Speed
|223 mph/360 kph
|208 mph/335 kph
|186 mph/300 kph
|174 mph/280 kph
|236 mph/380 kph
|199 mph/321 kph
|225.9 mph/363.6 kph
|186 mph/300 kph
|124 mph/200 kph
|186 mph/300 kph
|214 mph/345 kph
|329 mph/530 kph
As expected, Formula 1 cars both accelerate quicker and have a higher maximum speed than cars from the lower Formula divisions, as well as their electric counterparts in the Formula E series. They are also substantially quicker than NASCAR cars, due to the difference in weight and design between the two vehicles.
A lot of the differences between the speed of Formula 1 cars and cars from other series such as the WRC (World Rally Championship) are expected, as rally cars in particular are built to be sturdy to withstand the conditions that they get put through.
In terms of acceleration speeds, F1 cars are pushed very close by Formula E cars, and quite a few V8 supercars, but due to the mechanisms involved in the design of Formula 1 cars, they will quite easily outrun their hypothetical competition over longer distances and especially around a track.
Which Cars Are Faster Than F1 Cars?
IndyCars are faster than F1 cars in terms of raw straight-line speed, but both are beaten by Top Fuel drag racers in terms of top speed and acceleration. Some supercars also go faster than F1 cars in a straight line and in terms of acceleration, but F1 cars are the fastest around a racetrack.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is IndyCar that takes the prize for having the fastest open-wheel racing cars. Although the cars may be aesthetically similar, F1 and IndyCar are very different disciplines, with multiple IndyCar races taking place on oval circuits, making straight line speed a priority.
Because oval circuits aren’t a part of the Formula 1 world, the cars are designed to be able to take corners on with better speed and accuracy. Faster cornering speeds as well as quicker acceleration mean that F1 cars would always come out on top if the two types of open-wheel cars were to race head-to-head over the course of a lap.
While MotoGP bikes have a very slight edge over F1 cars in terms of top speed, they fall behind in overall lap times because of the advantage that F1 cars have with downforce technology, and wider tires. The wider tires (and the fact there are 4 of them and not 2) mean that there is more rubber touching the surface of the track, allowing for far superior grip, especially when cornering.
F1 cars are also faster in the second phase of acceleration, between 60 mph and 120 mph (or 97 and 193 kph). This helps them gain a huge advantage over the bikes in terms of speed around a track, meaning that they may have a little less top speed, but are certainly quicker throughout races.
For pure speed and acceleration power, unfortunately the humble F1 car cannot get close to NHRA Dragsters, purpose-built speed machines designed to go very fast and nothing else. Dragsters can reach speeds of up to 329 mph/530 kph in just under 4 seconds. Top Fuel drag races (the highest caliber of drag racing) take place on a 1000 ft/402 m long strip and are usually over within 5 seconds.
It may be very far from the most sophisticated style of racing, but the speed that these vehicles can reach is remarkable, and very much incomparable to circuit racing.
F1 cars are the fastest cars on the planet in terms of how quickly they can go around a racetrack. They can reach speeds on the straights of upwards of 215 mph/346 kph, and they can take some corners at more than 186 mph/300 kph. F1 cars can go from 0-60 in as little as 2.6 seconds.
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