These are two series that are at the top of their disciplines. Most drivers have dreamed of either racing a Formula 1 car or an LMP1 car. However, there’s always a debate about which is faster between F1 and LMP1.
LMP1 cars are able to accelerate much faster than F1 cars, which means they can comfortably win in a drag race. However, F1 cars are lighter and produce more downforce, making them faster in corners and over a full lap.
We will go through the details of each car, and then do a direct comparison between the two on the same circuit to get a better idea of how that comparison looks in real life on the circuit. It’s important to keep in mind that both are designed for different types of racing.
Formula 1 Cars
Formula 1 cars produce 1000 horsepower from a 1.6 litre turbo charged V6 engine. The power is put out straight into the rear axle of the rear-wheel-drive powertrain. The gearbox can shift in less than 0.1 of a second and goes up into 8 gears.
The engine can rev up to 15,000 revolutions per minute. The cornering force that drivers experience is upwards of 5 Gs. Under braking, they will produce -4.98 Gs and go from 215 MPH to 85 MPH in around a second and a half.
The cars weigh only 750 kg, including driver and race fuel onboard. When they are set up for hitting a high-top speed, they can reach around 227 MPH. The car is capable of going from 0-99 MPH and back down to 0 in less than five seconds.
This gives the cars a power-to-weight ratio of 1300 HP per ton. The 0-60 MPH time therefore should be less than a second, however due to the lack of traction control and the difficulty in putting that amount of power down with no weight on the driving wheels, the actual 0-60 time is around 2.5 seconds.
The cars also feature an ERS and DRS system. The ERS is a system which converts the energy that cars lose under braking into a battery, which provides an extra boost for the engine of around 160 horsepower.
DRS is a system in the rear wing which allows a flap to lift up in order to reduce drag and optimise top speed on straights. The DRS can increase the cars top speed by around 10-15 MPH, before the flap closes once the brakes are applied in order to increase downforce.
The Le Mans Prototype car has been top of the endurance racing class for years. It gives engineers in endurance racing a bit more freedom to let their creativity loose. The LMP1 car produces 1000 horsepower from a 2.4 litre twin turbo V6 engine.
The power of this engine is put out into a 4-wheel-drive system and can run through 7 gears in the sequential gearbox at 9000 RPM in each gear. The total weight of the car reaches 875 kg without driver and fuel onboard.
The car can hit a top speed of 210 MPH with a lighter fuel load on board. It will do a 0-60 time of 1.9 seconds. The hybrid-powered cars feature an ERS system similar to the one used in Formula 1, but it tends to be more powerful than the Formula 1 version of the system.
The LMP1 car features a larger body than a Formula 1 car, including covered wheels and a fully enclosed cockpit. This gives the LMP1 car an aerodynamic advantage in the reduction of drag on the straights over a Formula 1 car.
F1 vs LMP1: The Stats Compared
As you can see, on paper, the cars are very similar. However, they are both designed for different purposes. LMP1 cars are endurance racers, so despite being really quick, they are meant to race over long distances.
This is in contrast to Formula 1 cars that race in more of a ‘sprint’ format, racing a maximum of 310 km at a time. Some Formula 1 cars don’t even make it that far, and many struggle with reliability issues. Despite this, comparing these two incredible machines still makes sense, because they are both incredibly fast.
Starting with the engines, both are able to produce 1000 horsepower. However, Formula 1 cars are able to do so from smaller engine units. The reason for this is that the distance of running that an LMP1 car has to do is significantly longer than a Formula 1 car. Also, unlike Formula 1, LMP1 teams still have some freedom in the build of their engines.
Formula 1 has strict rules on all teams using the same size of engines, whereas in the WEC, there is a bit more freedom in engine variety. As you may have noticed, the LMP1 car accelerates much faster than a Formula 1 car.
The F1 car can go from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, but the LMP1 car does the same in 1.9 seconds. That is a lot faster! This is because of the fact that LMP1 cars are 4-wheel-drive and have traction control, so they can put their power down evenly. Plus, they have extra weight pushing down on the wheels (900kg vs 750kg) giving them better traction.
It is only when a Formula 1 car reaches around 60 MPH that it really starts to move. This is because of the downforce starting to push the car into the ground and creating extra ‘weight’ on top of the car meaning it won’t lose as much traction.
It’s the cornering speeds that really make a difference between Formula 1 and LMP1 though. The sheer downforce that a Formula 1 car is able to produce in cornering means that it can corner at a much faster speed than an LMP1 car. Add on the fact that the F1 car is much lighter and nimbler, and you will find that it will obliterate an LMP1 car in corners.
The top speeds of the cars are relatively similar. Both can comfortably reach around 220 MPH under the right circumstances, but because of the fact that an LMP1 car can accelerate so much faster than an F1 car, the LMP1 car will win a drag race by a mile.
F1 And LMP1 Cars On The Same Circuit
The best way to see which is fastest is to compare both cars at the same circuit. This will give us a good idea of which car is fastest overall, and where each is quicker or slower than the other. Luckily for us, the WEC and Formula 1 calendars have a lot of circuits in common.
Let’s take Spa in Belgium. This is a fantastic circuit which features long straights that will play to the LMP1 car’s strengths as well as long flowing corners which will play into the Formula 1 car’s strengths.
I will be comparing the 2019 pole position lap from both of these cars. Pole position in LMP1 was set by Toyota and in F1 it was set by Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.
Starting off the lap, the Formula 1 car pulls out a quick early lead as it is able to brake later and use its faster cornering speed through turn 1 and Eau Rougue. The LMP1 car is able to close the gap slightly down the long Kemmel straight, however it quickly drops back again through the following fast corners.
The Formula 1 car is able to build a big enough lead using the fast, high-downforce corners in order to eliminate the advantage that the Toyota LMP1 gains on the straights. By the time the Toyota gets onto the long back straight, the F1 car is already at the Bus Stop chicane, the final corner of the lap.
In the end Charles Leclerc posts a lap of 1:42.519 and Mike Conway posts a lap of 1:53.683. That is a big margin. 11 seconds means that the LMP1 Toyota won’t even be allowed to qualify for an F1 race (following the 107% rule).
If this were a race, given the lap times stay consistent, it means that the LMP1 car would likely be lapped around every 13 laps. With the Grand Prix around Spa being 44 laps, it means the LMP1 car would have been lapped 3 times by the end of the race.
What Formula 1 And Le Mans Drivers Say
An excellent way to compare two different cars is to speak directly to the drivers who have experienced both of them. Brendon Hartley is one of these drivers.
Hartley won the WEC championship with Porsche in 2015 and 2017. Afterwards, he spent a year in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso. This means that he is the perfect driver to compare Formula 1 to LMP1.
Hartley says that Formula 1 and LMP1 cars are both equally complex in terms of the technology that is used in the cars. He says, however, that despite the LMP1 car being noticeably faster under acceleration due to the 4-wheel drive system, the Formula 1 car is still the fastest racing car in the world.
The cornering ability in a Formula 1 car is incredibly fast, and it’s hard to imagine going through fast flowing corners at upwards of 150 MPH. There is no other car that compares to this. Hartley says his first time in a Formula 1 car felt like his neck was being ripped off his body from the G-forces he experienced in the first sector at COTA (Circuit of the Americas).
The ‘Illegal’ LMP1 car
A few years ago, in 2018, the Porsche LMP1 team redesigned their 919 Hybrid Prototype car. They made some improvements to the car, this time ignoring FIA rules. The car, driven by Neel Jani, went 0.7 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 pole position time of 1:42.553, setting a time of 1:41.770.
This was an incredible achievement for the Porsche team. It showed that without regulations in place, an LMP1 car could in fact beat a Formula 1 car. However, this lap time was soon beaten in F1 qualifying. The current fastest lap belongs to Lewis Hamilton, who set a pole time of 1:41.252 in 2020.
Both the Formula 1 and LMP1 cars are extremely fast and complex machines fitted with the latest technology. On paper, they have some big differences between them, however in terms of power output and top speed they are very similar.
The biggest differences between the two come in different areas though. Both have different elements that give them an advantage over the other. The LMP1 car is able to accelerate much faster than an F1 car, and therefore would comfortably win a drag race between the two.
However, the F1 car is much quicker through fast corners with its incredibly light body and immense downforce-producing wings. This makes the Formula 1 car a clear winner across a full lap.