This weekend is motorsports heritage. Two of the three races that are part of the triple crown are held. The Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 are, along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most iconic races in the history of motorsports.

Formula 1 and the Indianapolis 500 have been intertwined throughout their history. The American race began to be held in 1911 and was part of the Formula 1 calendar since the world championship was created in 1950 until 1960, although with different regulations.

It has always been held in the month of May (except in 2020, which was postponed to August due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and usually shares a date with the Monaco grand prix.

They are two diametrically opposed careers. The Indy 500 is the highest average speed race in the world, while Monaco is the slowest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar.

McLaughlin’s average pole speed last Sunday was 376.941 km/h. As a comparison, Lewis Hamilton achieved the highest average speed lap at Monza in 2020 with an average of 264.362 km/h.

In contrast, the lap with which Verstappen took pole position from Fernando Alonso in Monaco in 2023 had an average speed of 168.335 km/h. There is more than 200 km/h difference between the two.

In Monaco, Formula 1 teams set the car with the highest possible downforce and completely sacrifice top speed. In this circuit you can see the rear wings with more surface area.

The gearboxes have 8 gears, but no one uses 8th gear on this circuit. This is because the regulation restricts the transmission ratios that can be used and they must be the same throughout the year. On circuits like Monza, the maximum speed is around 350 km/h.

Eighth gear is regulated to operate at these high speeds and that is why it is useless in Monaco where the maximum speed does not exceed 300 km/h and seventh works optimally in those conditions.

The last time a circuit was part of both calendars was in 2019, the last year in which Indycar raced on the Circuit of the Americas. That year, Valtteri Bottas took pole position with a time of 1:32.029. In Indycar, Will Power took pole with a time of 1:46.0177.

Both championships have undergone regulation changes since then. The Formula 1 pole positions were 2.5 seconds slower in 2023. While the Indycar cars would be about 2 seconds faster than 5 years ago on a circuit like Austin.

As an approximation, we can assume that the difference between the two is about 10 seconds, which corresponds to 10%. In Monaco, the return trip is much shorter. Verstappen took pole with a time of 1:11.365.

Assuming the same speed difference as in Austin, an Indycar could lap between 7 and 8 seconds slower, which would put it closer to the times of a Formula 2 than a Formula 1.

The reality is that no other category can even come close to the speed with which a Formula 1 passes through the streets of the principality. Formula 1 has the peculiarity of the fact that each team is responsible for the entire design of its car.

Each team has hundreds of engineers designing and studying parts with the aim of improving the aerodynamic efficiency and mechanical behavior of the car. The case of Indycar is the opposite. All teams use cars designed by Dallara with Honda or Chevrolet engines.

It is Dallara that manufactures the chassis, suspension and aerodynamic surfaces. The teams have a more limited scope for development and focus their work on maximizing the efficiency of the aerodynamic package they already have, that is, in the setup.

Dallara designs the Indycar cars and designs different configurations depending on whether the races are going to be held on a circuit, on a short oval or in Indianapolis. In the latter case, the aerodynamics are minimal and almost any appendage is removed to reduce drag as much as possible.

In an oval you only turn to the left and that gives rise to several curiosities. The steering wheel is usually tilted slightly to the right. This is very uncomfortable on a normal circuit, but useful on an oval to have the steering wheel straighter when taking corners. 

Heavy elements such as cooling are concentrated on the left side of the car to control weight distribution. The camber or camber angle of the wheels is asymmetrical. In a Formula 1, the wheels on both sides are tilted inwards.

The same thing happens in Indycar in circuit configuration. In Indianapolis, the right wheels lean inward, while the left wheels lean outward. In this way, when cornering to the left, the contact surface between the wheels and the asphalt is maximum.

When two cars come into contact laterally, if the wheels collide with each other, there is a high probability of an accident. The Indycar is designed so that the outermost part of the vehicle is the ground, not the wheels, so in the event of slight lateral contact, the wheels remain in contact with the asphalt and control of the vehicle is facilitated.

If a tailgating driver misjudged the distance to the car in front and managed to touch it from behind, the front of the car could rise and, at 350 km/h, the car would take off.

To avoid this, the front part of the floor has 1 hole on each side of the chassis that reduces the high pressure that is generated in that area and that would cause the car to take off.

A Formula 1 would have to reinvent its structure to adapt to racing on ovals. At one lap, it could well approach or even surpass the performance of an Indycar at Indianapolis.

To do this it would be necessary to greatly reduce the aerodynamics of the car and leave only smooth surfaces without decorations or flaps.

The configuration they use at Monza would have too much downforce to be used on an oval. With that “high” load, the Formula 1 reaches 350-360 km/h at Monza. By drastically reducing the aerodynamics, it could be around the Indycar’s 375 km/h.

The big limitation for the race would be the engine. The Indycar uses naturally aspirated engines (starting with the Mid-Ohio round this year they will introduce hybrid engines). The power delivery of a Formula 1 engine has an electrical component that must be recharged from time to time.

Taking into account that the battery is charged the most when braking hard and that in Indianapolis the braking is only done when stopping in the pits, the F1’s electric motor would be useless after a few laps.

The Indycar hybrid system will be able to use the naturally aspirated engine to charge the electric motor. Thus, when a driver is slipstreaming, he can maintain his distance from the car in front and use part of the engine power to charge the battery and increase the chances of overtaking in the following laps.

In conclusion, Formula 1 teams carry out constant development to make a car as fast as possible on a circuit.

Indycar is designed around ovals and has appendices in the regulations that adapt the car to the peculiarities of these layouts with respect to the usual road or urban circuits.

Their main objective is to provide exciting races and that is why they have a single manufacturer. The cars are much slower than the Formula 1 cars but the differences between teams are smaller.

They are two completely different philosophies that converge in the most exciting weekend of the year for motorsports fans.