How Fast Do F1 Cars Go? Everything You Need to Know

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Speed is a decisive factor in Formula One. The fastest car wins the race and the championship. The adrenaline rush done watching these drivers whizz down the track is what makes the sport exciting. That said, how fast do F1 cars go? 

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Different cars produce different speeds depending on things like design and mechanics but even the slowest car on track still produces fast speeds compared to regular cars. In this article, we’ll break down the numbers.

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F1 Top Speed

How Fast Do F1 Cars Go? Everything You Need to Know
McLaren-Mercedes F1 car 2006. Source: Wikimedia licensed by  CC-BY-SA-2.5

Formula One cars are super fast and can hit top speeds of 233 mph when driven in a straight line. The average speed of an F1 car is 200 mph, meaning that they get from 0 to 60 mph in 1.8 seconds. 

Daniel Ricciardo recorded the highest speed in the 2023 Formula One season, reaching 353.8km/h (219.8mph). That said, Valtteri Bottas holds the record for the fastest speed in the sport with a 372.5km/h (231.4mph) speed during the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix. 

This speed was possible at the Mexican circuit, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, because it’s 7500 feet above sea level, which creates less drag and resistance. 

Additionally, the track has one of the longest straights in the calendar, which gives drivers the ability to hit such high speeds. 

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What Makes F1 Cars Fast?

An explainer of how fast F1 cars go. Video Credit: Insider Tech

There are a couple of variables that make Formula One cars fast. The chassis is constructed using lightweight carbon fiber material giving them a total weight of 722 kilograms. 

They also have aerodynamics to help them generate optimum speeds. These are the wings and the diffusers that create downforce, which in turn propels these cars to maximum speeds.

The wings divert air over the car leading to low pressure in that area. This pressure is forced on the downward surface therefore creating a pressure difference between the top and bottom of the car hence generating the downforce. 

This downforce also keeps the car stable and teams should work to ensure that the car is efficient in this aspect.

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Car Technology

F1 Car innovation. Video Credit: Real Engineering

F1 cars have evolved greatly making them more efficient. When it comes to aerodynamics, the current cars use an 18-inch wheel giving the car more stability. Wheel covers were reintroduced to deal with the dirty air cars leave on those behind them. 

The sport also readopted the ground effect to make the cars ‘stick’ on the ground, by creating tunnels beneath them that generate more downforce. These changes are meant to help cars become speedy and intensify the action on track. 

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F1 engines have also gone through several transformations, but the single biggest one was the introduction of hybrid power units in 2014. Mercedes Benz used this to great effect, helping their driver Lewis Hamilton to win consecutive F1 championships between 2014 and 2020. 

The suspension system is the other technological advancement that contributes to fast F1 cars. This structure enables the car to spread its balance and grip and helps drivers have a better handle on the car at great speeds.

With these installed in the Formula One race cars, drivers are pushing the limits, producing faster speeds making the sport more exciting for fans.

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FIA Speed Safety Measures

F1 Safety Car explained. Video Credit: F1Education

Formula One is a dangerous sport because of the amount of speed involved in driving the cars. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has over the years worked to keep the sport safe and avoid fatalities or any life-changing event. As a result, they’ve imposed regulations that ensure every driver operates within certain limits. 

In the pit lane, F1 drivers can only go up to 80 km/h during competitions. That said, limits differ on different tracks depending on their structure. Also, an FIA race director can change this limit after consulting the safety team.

During a race, drivers are expected to drive at certain speeds under certain conditions. For example, whenever a virtually safety car or safety car is deployed, all drivers must reduce their pace and they aren’t allowed to overtake one another. 

Whenever racing incidents occur on track, red and yellow flags are deployed to caution drivers to be careful in those sections of the track. The rules direct them to slow down until the incident is solved after which they resume normal racing speed.

In 2023, the FIA stated they’ll introduce a fixed speed limit when double yellow flags are shown but they are yet to say what the limit is. 

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Drag Reduction System (DRS)

DRS Explained. Video Credit: F1Education

The Drag Reduction System (DRS) allows Formula One drivers to gain speed and overtake other cars. This tool, which is a button on the driver’s steering wheel, reduces the drag and downforce, increasing the car’s speed and making it easier for drivers to pass other cars. 

That said, the FIA has imposed restrictions on the use of the DRS. Drivers can only use it within specified DRS zones on the track, normally on the straights. They can activate it when they are one second behind the other car. 

How much speed does an F1 car gain on DRS? According to The Manual, it gives the car an acceleration boost of between 5 to 20 mph, which might not seem significant but for a spot whose timings boil down to milliseconds, this variation impacts results. 

How fast do F1 cars go? We hope that this article gives you a clear picture of that plus other factors that determine an F1 car’s speed. These are the most advanced cars, although their use is limited to an F1 race track. The engineering and technology that goes into the making of these machines is incredible so next time you watch an F1 race, you’ll appreciate it more. 

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