Reader Rights: What can Formula 1 learn from Indycar

May 24, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series drivers on the grid before the start of the 2015 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-225298 ORIG FILE ID:  20150524_jla_ss1_188.jpg

Been watching any of the Indycar series lately?

If you have you might have seen that Indycar has some very interesting similarities to Formula 1 and current proposals for the future of F1.

But unlike F1 at the moment it’s very hard to predict a winner in Indycar. So far this year there are only two repeat winners from 10 races: Scott Dixon from New Zealand and good ol’ JPM – yes Juan Pablo Montoya! He’s won two races including the famed Indy 500.

And last year’s series champion, Will Power (great name by the way) has only one race win even while grabbing 5 pole positions.
In fact at the most recent race held on the Toronto streets there were six different leaders and a winning margin of only 1.4 seconds.

Plus six different teams have won despite the Penske team having the strongest driver, car and engine line-up. And they have four cars running while some only have one!

Montoya Indy 500 winner

Makes you wonder what might happen if they decided to run three Ferraris in F1 doesn’t it?

This unpredictability coupled with the ‘difficult to drive’ nature of the cars and the varied oval and old school track and street circuits makes for some very interesting watching.

All of this sounds very unlike 2014 -15 Formula 1 doesn’t it?

So it begs the question if Indycar is actually fairly exciting, hard to predict stuff, what does it have in common with current F1?

  • Option and prime tyre use
  • Small tyre widths with similar diameters rims 13 & 15 in
  • Turbo V6’s (no ERS, MGUK etc in Indy though)
  • Little relevance to a road car
  • Gifted drivers (don’t start with the F1 rejects argument as these guys are very consistent fast world class drivers)

Juan+Pablo+Montoya+Indianapolis+500

What Indycars have that current F1 doesn’t:

  • Regulated aero – Chevy powered cars run 1 aero kit while Honda engined cars run a different kit
  • No DRS but Push to Pass – engine boost limited to 10 uses per road track race (not ovals)
  • Regulated chassis made by Dallara in Italy
  • Two homologated engines Chevy and Honda
  • Reasonably stable rules that favour the law of diminishing returns.
  • Refueling (this also doesn’t seem to effect passing on track like it did in F1 1994 – 2009)
  • Six speed gearbox vs eight speed
  • Oval Races – I dare you to watch one properly & not marvel at how these guys consistently do 225+ mph (360+ KPH) laps a few metres from each other and make daring passes – daring because the consequences are very serious – just YouTube some Indy 500 crashes to get an idea.
  • Limited team telemetry and race ‘garages’ (looks like F1 in the 70’s, out in the open, a few cover shades not many computers to be seen)
  • All drivers/teams get points – (similar to go-karting format)
  • Drivers get bonus pays for best rookie, fastest lap & of course their placings.
  • And Indycar races have close race finishes…

May 24, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; General view of fans prior to the 2015 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Now… things for the fans:

  • Indycar drivers are accessible, extremely well marketed and well presented to the fans (and happy to be in contact with the fans) and subsequently attract a lot of varied sponsorship which is vital to the sport.
  • Races are comparatively cheap to attend in decent seats compared to F1. eg. five race package including the Indy 500 with Pit & Garage passes with stadium seats for $1200!
  • Plus there’s always after parties and  other spectacles going on.
  • There’s also multiple formats eg. the Dual in Detroit – one race on Saturday and one on Sunday, and the Indianapolis Road course followed by the Indy 500 oval the next week.
  • And ovals are not necessarily oval – check out the three turn ‘oval’ at Pocono raceway called ‘the tricky triangle’.
  • All of this is leading to another tough unpredictable championship.

So can F1 learn anything from Indycar?

Opinion by reader Matt Bolzon