Why Do F1 Cars Go Faster Around Corners Than NASCAR Cars?
NASCAR and Formula 1 are very different motorsport categories. The cars look different, each runs on unique tracks, and the engines are not the same. Besides the fact that they are both car racing series, there are not many similarities.
When going through a corner, a car's ability to go fast comes down to grip: how much the car “sticks” to the track determines how fast it can go without spinning. In a race car, nothing is as simple as it sounds, so numerous components in a car affect its grip and cornering speed. Therefore, there isn't just one reason that leads to F1 cars being faster in corners, but several.
Why F1 Cars Are Faster Around Corners
The main factors that make F1 cars faster around corners than NASCAR cars are differences in tracks, tires, car weight, and aerodynamics. Check out complete breakdowns of these factors below!
In NASCAR, races are run primarily on oval tracks, where turning angles are wide, while in Formula 1, circuits are long and winding, each featuring a different configuration. Corners in F1 races vary in angle, speed, and even inclination. Therefore, the first thing influencing corner speed is the corners themselves! In F1, there are both fast corners and slow corners, taken at different speeds and using different techniques. On the other hand, NASCAR corners tend to be mostly similar.
Tires are one of the components that provide the most grip in a car. While NASCAR uses Goodyear tires, F1 uses Pirelli tires. Given the natural differences in the sport, the tires are different and thus provide different levels of grip. In addition, F1 tires are 16 in wide, compared to 11.5 in for NASCAR, a significant difference. With more surface area in direct contact with the track, there is more grip for cars. That makes a huge difference when speeding through corners.
Car weight also has an impact on grip, especially when cornering. While at slower speeds, more weight can increase grip, heavier cars are tougher to turn and, thus slower around corners. Formula 1 cars weigh around 1,600 lbs. Remember that refueling is not allowed in F1 pit tops, so as the race goes on and fuel is consumed, the car gets lighter. NASCAR cars are a lot heavier, at 3,300 lbs. Weighing more than double what an F1 car weighs, it makes sense that NASCAR cars are slower in corners.
Formula 1 cars have an aerodynamic design that allows them to have more grip than NASCAR cars, and consequently, be faster through the corners. The single most important thing to adding grip to a car is aerodynamics. More specifically, downforce is what gives cars grip to go fast through corners. In Formula 1, cars have front wings and a tall rear spoiler, two of the main components that produce downforce. The aerodynamic setup can be modified to change the amount of downforce. Higher downforce setups are used in tracks like Monaco, where top speeds aren't that high, and cornering with precision is needed, while a lower downforce setup is used in tracks such as Monza, where there are long straights and few slow corners.
In NASCAR, downforce is engineered a little differently. NASCAR cars have their bumpers designed to be very wide and low, which will consequently increase the airflow on top of the car, increasing downforce. As in Formula 1, NASCAR cars also have rear spoilers, which are part of creating the downforce necessary. NASCAR teams can also make adjustments that may increase or decrease downforce as needed; however they have less room to do so than in F1.
What is the fastest corner in F1?
There are many fast corners in the Formula 1 season, all with similar speeds. Nonetheless, the one that has the highest average speed is the famous Copse Corner, in the very traditional Silverstone Circuit. On Copse, drivers go through at an astonishing 180 mph. Copse is the 9th turn out of 18 in the Silverstone circuit. A copse is a small pocket of dense woodland in the middle of a field. The corner is surrounded by two copses, and thus it has this name.