F1 and GT racing are incredibly different series. F1 cars are purpose built, open wheel race cars, while GT racing is based on production road cars. Given their superior aerodynamics, more horsepower, and tires with higher grip, F1 is definitely faster than GT racing cars. But how much faster?
F1 is about 40 mph faster than GTE racing in terms of top speed, and 150+ mph faster than GT3 cars. In terms of lap time, an F1 car can lap the Spa circuit in Belgium about 30 seconds faster than GTE cars and 35 seconds faster than GT3 cars.
There are many reasons F1 cars are faster than GT cars, and we’ll take a closer look at all of them below. We’ll also discuss the actual racing series in more detail too, so you can get a good idea of the main differences between F1 and GT racing.
F1 vs GT Racing: Which Is Fastest?
F1 is much faster than GT racing. This is largely down to the massive amount of downforce F1 cars can produce, which allows them to corner at much higher speeds than GT cars. However, F1 cars also have top speeds about 40mph faster than those of most GT cars.
GT racing cars represent their road-going counterparts, and many of the world’s leading manufacturers – such as Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, BMW, Audi, McLaren and Lamborghini. A minimum number of road car versions have to be built for a manufacturer to construct and race a GT car.
GT racing cars have additions such as racing exhausts, large aerodynamic wings, on-board jacks for pitstops and they utilize wheels and tires specifically for racing. However, even with all of these additions, F1 cars are still just much faster than GT cars.
Balance Of Performance
In many cases, a GT racecar will be less powerful than the road-going version after ‘balance of performance’ (BOP) restrictions are applied. Theoretically, BOP is designed to provide each manufacturer an even playing field on which to compete, and these regulations can change regularly during a season, in some cases even midway through an event.
Are F1 Cars Faster Than Supercars?
F1 cars are faster than supercars in terms of lap times. When you look at top speed, the differences between F1 cars and supercars are not that different. At most circuits it visits, F1 will hit a top speed of up to 210 mph, and some supercars can match or even beat this.
For example, the Bugatti Veyron famously broke the 250 mph mark many years ago, with countless Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Koenigseggs capable of topping 210 mph. However, in racing, supercar top speeds are usually restricted, if not also limited by the length of the straights on the track. For example, a supercar in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship will only hit a top speed of 186 mph.
To compare lap times, the supercar racing pole position time at the Australian Grand Prix in 2019 in Melbourne (in race 2) was 1:54.264, while pole position in F1 was 1:20.486 – a difference of nearly 34 seconds. Comparatively, GT racing’s pole position was 1:56.1467.
The difference in weight, engine specifications, aerodynamics and tires contribute to the difference in lap times. An F1 car is around half the weight of a supercar, but is capable of producing around 1000 HP, about double that of many supercars.
F1 vs GT Cars: The Main 4 Differences
1. Construction Of The Racecars
F1 racecars are a specially designed and built machine utilizing lots of carbon fiber and even Kevlar. They are built to do one thing – go fast around a racetrack. A GT racecar is a modified version of a road going car, and so while it has some extra safety and performance features, it’s fairly similar in construction to your average road model of the car.
2. The Engines
GT racecar engines are essentially production engines designed to go into road cars and be long lasting, albeit with some performance tweaks. An F1 power unit is a highly complex, technical, turbocharged engine using a V6 hybrid platform.
There are many components in each F1 engine, which are currently manufactured by Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull Powertrains (formerly Honda) and Renault. F1 engines are large, heavy engines that you wouldn’t find in a road car, as they’re specifically designed for high performance racing in F1.
F1 designers implement highly complex calculations to arrive at the aerodynamics on their team’s cars, and it isn’t uncommon for designers to come from aerospace industry backgrounds.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) are central to the design of an F1 car.The car, from the very front right to the back, is meticulously designed to generate the maximum amount of downforce and still be as slick through the air as possible.
An F1 car can generate forces of up to 6g or more through the corners, showing the power of the aerodynamics. Although a GT racing car generates downforce through its front splitter and large rear wings, it is nowhere near as slippery through the air as an F1 car, nor does it put the driver through as many g forces.
Most GT cars have a flat, carbon fiber floor attached to the car’s underside which leads to a diffuser at the rear that aids aerodynamic effect, albeit less than the rear wing of an F1 car. F1 cars don’t look at all like road cars, with so many intricate aerodynamic details separating them from every other racing series on looks alone.
4. Balance Of Performance
Central to GT racing is what is known as Balance of Performance (BOP). It is designed to create a level playing field between manufacturers, giving each an opportunity to win. Balance of Performance for each manufacturer is usually decided ahead of each season based on the previous season’s results.
BOP is applied using air restrictors that limit or increase power, and various aerodynamics changes, like reducing the size of wings of a specific manufacturer. BOP can be changed during the course of a season and, in some cases, is made at an event should one manufacturer have a significant advantage over others.
In F1, there is no such thing as balance of performance. Teams have to operate to a set of technical rules around engines and various car parameters, along with rules around testing their cars and equipment, but outside of these rules it’s down to the teams to provide as fast a car as they can.
If one car has more performance than the others, it simply performs better, and the others fare worse. This can lead to some large disparity between the teams’ levels of performance, but it is also why F1 is such a team oriented sport. If the team can’t make a great car, even the best driver in the world will struggle to perform well!
F1 vs GT Cars: The Tracks They Race On
There are similarities in terms of the circuits around the world that F1 and GT cars race on, however not every F1 circuit features GT racing and not every GT circuit can cater to F1. In several parts of the world, the major F1 tracks like Spa, Monza, Silverstone, Imola, Abu Dhabi and the Red Bull Ring all feature GT racing at various times throughout the year.
Spa in Belgium for example holds the biggest FIA GT3 specification race in the world – the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which had 58 cars entered in 2021. The Nürburgring 24 Hour, which has multiple GT racing classes, can get up to 250 entries for the race on the 20.83km (12.94mi) Nordschleife.
While F1 does race at Spa, F1 has not raced on the Nordschleife since 1976, when Niki Lauda had his fiery crash. Other circuits in the US, like Sebring and street courses around North America, are suitable for GT racing but not F1. This is because there are strict rules surrounding what can and cannot be classed as suitable for F1, even if it’s suitable for GT racing.
F1 and GT racing are very different racing series. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, while GT racing is based on road-going vehicles with some modifications. F1 is much faster than GT racing, both in terms of top speeds and in terms of lap times, and the two series often race on different tracks.