IndyCar and Formula One aren’t that different, right? Racing in circles, some of the fastest drivers in the world speeding through circuits at over 200mph? Wrong.
Both elite racing series in their own right, I’m here to bring you the essential guide for watching IndyCar ahead of their doubleheader in Texas this weekend.
In IndyCar, there is no limit on how many or how few drivers can race for each team; for example, Max Chilton returns to Carlin for his fifth season in IndyCar this year and is the only entry for the team. Compared to Team Penske, who has four entries, a solid line-up, I must add.
There are some incredible names in IndyCar. Championships everywhere. Two-time IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, current reigning six-time IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, to name a few. As well as some exciting talent in Pato O’ward, who is returning with Arrow McLaren SP after an incredible season in 2020. Let’s not forget that Romain Grosjean is beginning his IndyCar career, too, with Dale Coyne Racing this year, racing in all of the street and road courses for the team.
IndyCar is known for its astounding, diverse circuits. These drivers race on road and street circuits to short ovals and long ovals. This season will feature 3 ovals and 14 road or street courses. Even more amazing is the ability to configure the cars between these three types of track, from brake ducts to front and rear wings; these changes are there to bring the best setup for each car.
Dallara is the exclusive chassis supplier for IndyCar, it’s made of carbon fibre and other composites and weighs around 1700lbs or 770kg. Chevrolet and Honda are the two engine suppliers in the series, giving competitors 2.2-litre turbocharged V-6 engines that produce an estimated 550-700 horsepower depending on the type of track.
In Formula One, the cars have the halo. In IndyCar, it’s the aeroscreen. This is a new safety innovation that provides extra driver cockpit protection. It was only introduced into the sport last season. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this new feature. However, endless testing reported it doesn’t make any difference in speed, the temperature in the cockpit and drivers visibility. The Aeroscreen comes with tear-offs like drivers helmets in case it gets dirty – this would be done in the pits if needed. In terms of extraction, in case of a car overturning, endless investigations from the AMR IndyCar Safety Team have been implemented and have proven no difference in extracting.
Again, just like Formula One, IndyCar has a sole tyre provider. In F1, it’s currently Pirelli, but in Indy, they use Firestone. These tyres are specifically engineered for the type, of course, they’ll be used on. Oval tracks will use just one type of tyre, whilst road and street circuits can use all three types – primary, alternate and rain. Primary tyres (black) offer a balance between speed and cornering. These tyres can be used on all 3 types of circuit. The Alternate (red) tyres have a softer compound, allowing faster speeds but quicker wear, so these tyres are to be used on road and street tracks only. Of course, we have rain tyres. These were developed for wet conditions and use a grooved tread pattern that improves grip and control in those tricky conditions; again, these are only used on street and road courses.
IndyCar pit stops can’t be that different to Formula One, can they? The answer: YES! Unlike F1, where around 16 team members assist during a pit stop, only six crew members are allowed ‘over the wall’ during a stop. These include four tyre changes, a fueler and the person responsible for the air jack – a few of these crew members have several roles, like the inside rear tyre changer also helps push the car out of the pits after changing the tyre. Whether they are over the wall or not, each crew member must wear fire suits, fire-resistant footwear, fire-resistant gloves, and helmets. During a typical pit stop, the crew will change the four tyres, add 18.5 gallons of Speedway E85R and make adjustments in less than 10 seconds.
Race Weekend Format
Buckle in; this might get confusing! The format of race weekends changes from race to race. However, the most common is that there are two practice sessions on the Friday, practice and qualifying on a Saturday, and the race on a Sunday – with an additional warm-up session at the road and street courses.
Oval Qualifying: For oval circuits, each car is permitted two warm-up laps before the timed qualification laps. Then, they are allowed two consecutively timed laps. The aggregate time is recorded, and the fastest time earns the pole position – simple!
Road/Street Qualifying: This is broken into three segments to narrow down the field to determine the pole winner progressively. In the first segment, there will be two groups determined by the top time of each car in the final practice session. Each of the two groups receives ten minutes of track time, with the fastest lap by each car determining its qualifying position. The six fastest cars from each group advance to segment two; twelve cars receive another ten minutes of track time again, with the fastest lap determining their qualifying position. The fastest six cars from this group will then go into the Firestone Fast Six shootout (sounds fancy, huh?) The final six cars receive six minutes of track time to get the fastest lap and gain that pole position.
In terms of the race itself, the amount of laps determines race to race. Each race begins with a rolling start in two wide or three wide alignments during the final parade lap. Something else worse mentioning for the race is Push-To-Pass. It’s used in IndyCar on road and street circuits since 2009. It gives drivers a short horsepower boost that assists with overtaking.
Unlike Formula One, in IndyCar, you are given points for all finishing positions. First – 50 points, second – 40 points, third – 35 points and so on. The lowest amount of points you can get in IndyCar for finishing is 5. There are also extra points up for grabs; pole position gives you an extra 1 point, leading at least one lap, you also get an extra point, and most laps led gets you a cheeky extra 2.
I hope I’ve provided you with all the information you need to tune into the IndyCar Genesys 300 and the IndyCar XPEL 375 this weekend!