F1 and NASCAR are two of the most popular motorsports in the world. Both provide a very different spectacle for the fans, and they both require two very different sets of skills too. But which one requires more skill?
F1 and NASCAR both require huge amounts of skill in different ways. Both involve extremely high speeds, and a lot of strategy too in order to beat the other drivers. While F1 may seem more technical, NASCAR still requires the drivers to have precise control over the car.
Below, we will go through the different kinds of skill required by each motorsport, and where the crossovers are between them. Although the two look very different from the outside, there really is a lot of overlap when it comes to the skills needed to be the best NASCAR and F1 driver.
Skills Required In F1
F1 cars in the modern era are really advanced pieces of technology. They contain hundreds of sensors, switches, buttons and dials that the driver must interact with throughout the race. The driver is not the only one who uses all of these pieces of technology of course, as they have a team of engineers and mechanics on the pit wall that are there to crunch through all of the data.
The sensors output a lot of data on every lap, and this gives everyone plenty to work with. Things like tire wear and pressure are monitored constantly, which helps with the timing of pit stops of course. But the driver must also be able to feel how his tires are doing while he is driving, using grip levels and general feel as his guidance, and so he needs to know what feels right and what feels wrong.
Experience And Ability
This requires experience more than skill, strictly speaking, but it is still something he has to be thinking about during the race. Being able to work with all of the buttons and dials on the steering wheel is also essential, as the flick of a switch here and there could shave vital seconds off their lap times, with each one corresponding to various different parts of the car.
This means he needs to know when to switch his brake bias for specific corners in order to maximize grip, which in turn requires the driver to have a very strong working knowledge of grip itself and the track layout. This again requires experience, but some drivers are just better than others at getting the most out of the car’s technology.
Then the driver must also have the skills to make the car do what he wants it to do. Their driving abilities need no introduction of course, as they are driving some of the fastest vehicles on the planet around some of the tightest tracks. This means they need to be able to control the car within millimeters of the track limits, while travelling at more than 200mph.
This requires very fast reaction times, which the drivers train constantly between races. Being able to react to a crash ahead for example will obviously be extremely important, but also just being able to time their start when the lights go out at the beginning of the race can send them to the front of the pack very quickly. Reaction times also allow them to negotiate their way through other cars.
Difficult To Drive
Aside from being able to drive well and have quick reaction times, the drivers must be able to handle the difficulty that comes along with driving a Formula 1 car. They are open wheel vehicles, which are massively different to other cars. They sit very low to the ground and have minimal view ahead of them. This means they are often relying entirely on feel and memory of the track layout.
This is unlike many other motorsports, where the driver has rear view mirrors or can turn around to see what is behind him, such as on a motorcycle. Although they have side mirrors, they are of limited use when taking constant turns at 100mph+, when they need to keep their eyes on the road. This means they need very good spatial awareness, being able to keep track of what is going on around them.
Becoming An F1 Driver
Finally, there is also the aspect of becoming an F1 driver in the first place. Taking the money out of the equation (which is a huge piece of the puzzle), becoming an F1 driver requires the person to gain a Super License. This is not an easy thing to do and cannot simply be obtained by winning events and championships in the lower levels of Formula racing, such as F2 and F3.
The drivers need to gain enough points in these lower levels in order to gain one, but having enough points is not enough. There are various other tests, including medical and physical checks that assess the driver’s abilities under testing conditions. Follow that up with time spent in a simulator, and it takes a lot of work to become an F1 driver, which is why there are only 20 in the world.
Skills Required In NASCAR
NASCAR is a very special kind of motor racing, as it involves some of the fastest speeds being driven in some of the simplest and most barebones cars. Stock car racing by its very nature doesn’t offer much to the drivers in the way of comfort or technology, although there definitely is a fair amount of the latter in a modern NASCAR vehicle.
NASCAR drivers are all racing in the same cars as their opponents, minus a few tweaks and differences in the engines used. This means they are competing withpretty much the same equipment, which is the complete opposite to Formula 1. In F1, the teams all create their own chassis and internal components, with some buying engines from other manufacturers.
More Emphasis On Skill Than Technology
This means the teams can really build the cars to suit their drivers, while packing in lots of technology and equipment. NASCAR on the other hand really puts the full onus on the driver, as the car can only be tweaked so much. So, although a NASCAR driver has less to worry about in terms of technology at his fingertips, they still need to be able to outdo everyone else.
Having (roughly) the same car as everyone else means you have very few advantages from the start, and so it all comes down to how skilled a driver you are. Taking the oval tracks as an example, it can often look quite simple, with the cars going fast and only turning left. But this actually puts more focus on the finer aspects of the drivers’ skills.
They need to be able to navigate through39 other cars at over 200mph, with every millimeter being of vital importance. Their spatial awareness needs to be on par with those in F1, while also getting extremely close to the other cars in order to make use of slip streaming. This is a thing in F1 too of course, but drivers will usually try to stay much further away from each other than in NASCAR.
But then there are also road courses in NASCAR, and these involve a lot more than just straights and left turns. These courses can even require a different car to be used by the teams, and so the drivers need to be well acquainted with both vehicles in order to perform at the top. Without the downforce of an F1 car, these races require a different driving style altogether.
NASCAR drivers need to have the skill to drive at the limits of the car’s accelerative power, while also at the limits of traction. Doing all of this while battling twice as many cars as in F1 can make things look very hectic, which as you can imagine puts even more emphasis on the drivers’ ability to control the car at insanely high speeds.
Getting A NASCAR License
Obtaining a NASCAR license in order to get on the track in the first place is also very different to the process of getting into an F1 car. Of course, you will need some experience, and probably some money too, but the process of getting a license really comes down to an application form. It is not like anyone can get one, but compared to the F1 system, it is much more straightforward.
So, Which Requires More Skill?
Hard To Compare
Both F1 and NASCAR require extremely good car control, with both being very different in terms of driving style. This makes it hard to compare the two, but instead it is a fair thing to say that both of them require some of the best driving ability in all of motorsport.
In terms of getting there in the first place, it could be argued that F1 is more difficult. However, that doesn’t mean that getting into NASCAR is easy, nor does it mean that less skill is required. There is just a big difference between the two entry procedures, and it is worth noting when considering the skill required.
Although not strictly skill related, F1 also puts a lot of emphasis on the fitness of the driver. NASCAR drivers will need to handle a lot of g-forces, with high speeds and fast corners, but it is nothing compared to the forces felt by F1 drivers. They need to have very strong necks too and maintain a very strictly defined weight in order to race as efficiently as possible.
NASCAR drivers don’t have as much pressure to remain fit, although many will have strict training routines in order to stay at the top of their game. They will also still train things like their reflexes and reaction times, which is a trait of F1 drivers too. Both require extremely high levels of concentration as well, which is common across all sports, not just motorsports.
The question of which requires more skill between F1 and NASCAR doesn’t have an easy answer. Although F1 drivers are using much more advanced vehicles with a lot of technology, NASCAR drivers need to have the skills to beat their opponents too, all of whom are essentially racing in the same car.
Both sports also need the drivers to be at the top of their game for long races, with reaction times a key marker when considering who is the best on the grid. Although the procedures of getting into each motorsport are quite different, this does not take away the fact that drivers inboth F1 and NASCAR need to have focus, spatial awareness, and overall driving ability.