Having driven in both Formula 1 and IndyCar, Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi have experienced two very different styles of racing. They recently sat down with Mobil 1 The Grid to discuss the differences between the two series…
Whilst both top tier, open wheel sports, IndyCar and Formula 1 do have some significant differences, and the biggest one is perhaps the ovals themselves. Chilton and Rossi spent the whole of their racing careers competing in Europe on road and street courses in very different cars. To transition from that to the completely different style of racing was tricky for the ex-F1 pair. Rossi’s second oval experience was last years Indy 500 and it was a race he went on to take a sensational victory. He says he went through three different stages whilst competing on the ovals. Being terrified, accepting it for what it was, and then falling in love with it.
“Indy was only the second oval I had ever done in my career, so I went into it just every lap being a learning experience. I kind of went through three stages, the first stage was I was terrified. The second stage was I kind of accepted what I was doing and was okay with it and the third stage was I actually fell in love with it.”
The top speeds in both series are quite similar, but the way they are experienced is completely different. Mexico sees the F1 cars max out down the long start/finish straight and they approach around 230mph. IndyCar’s do the same and just over that, but the difference is whilst F1 cars then brake into a first or second gear corner, IndyCar’s maintain that speed throughout the entire race which can be up to three hours. The downforce levels are different as well. This years Grand Prix cars really are the ultimate driving machine. Massive amounts of power and downforce which produce unbelievable lap times. IndyCar’s have less downforce, simpler aerodynamics and everyone essentially has the same machinery. But this provides arguably much better racing for a fraction of the cost of a Grand Prix car, and it’s that which really excites the drivers.
“IndyCar to me offers far better racing. There is a lot more of a level paying field. One weekend you might win and the next weekend you might be in the middle of the pack or at the back because everyone has basically the same machinery”
The increased level of competition offers a much greater reward as it is much harder to beat those around you. IndyCar has seen 9 drivers win races compared to 4 in F1. IndyCar and F1 both offer up great racing but for many different reasons. What is great to see is talented drivers like Rossi and Chilton who didn’t get the big break in F1, finally doing so and thriving in IndyCar.