What’s The Difference Between F1 Cars And Nascar Cars?

Editorial credit: cristiano barni / Shutterstock.com

Whether you are a fan of the carnival-type atmosphere at the Indy500 or chase the F1 traveling circus as it moves from country to country around the globe, each racing discipline’s spectacle is addictive. Both F1 and NASCAR series racing has been around since the late 1940,s and early 1950s, and both provide action-packed adrenaline-inducing excitement.

Almost every detail of a NASCAR and Formula 1 car is different. They have different weights, dimensions, powerplants, safety features, speeds, acceleration, and stopping distances. There are so many differences because the style of racing is very dissimilar.

It is always an interesting exercise to compare the differences between different motorsports, and comparing NASCAR cars to F1 racing cars is no different. Although the differences in format are extreme, the actual racing experience and atmosphere at the track are no different.

There Are Many Differences Between F1 And NASCAR Cars

The history of each sport and the current requirements require fundamentally different designs of the F1 cars.

Since  F1 ran the first race in 1950 on the Silverstone racing track in The United Kingdom, F1 cars have been designed for racing at very high speeds over challenging courses in different countries.

NASCAR’s name (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) illustrates the different types of cars. NASCAR ran its first race in 1948 on the Daytona Beach at the beach road course.

Drivers raced down S. Atlantic Ave, where a sharp turn placed them running the opposite way up the beach and turning back down S. Atlantic Ave.

Unlike F1, which used specifically designed racing cars, as the name implies, NASCAR used modified passenger cars.

The resulting cars are different in almost every way.

The Number Of Different NASCAR and F1 Cars On The Circuit

Only three models of cars are available to NASCAR teams; these are  Ford Mustang GT, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1, and Toyota Camry TRD.

Each formula 1 manufacturer designs and builds its car. As there are ten manufacturers, there are ten different designs.

There are only three F1 engine manufacturers.

TeamEngine Supplier
AlphaTauriRed Bull Racing
Alfa RomeoFerrari
Aston Martin AramcoMercedes
Red Bull RacingRed Bull Racing

The Shape And Size Of The NASCAR And F1 Cars

From its earliest days, F1 engineers concentrated on squeezing engine power, aerodynamic efficiency, and suspension technology into the car while maintaining the lowest profile and weight possible.

It accounts for why F1 has narrow cars with a low profile, exposed wheels, and front and rear wings.

Although modern NASCARs bristle with technology, as the name implies, they are all based on commercially available passenger vehicles. The 2022 Next Gen cars are built by three manufacturers as follows.

  • Ford – Ford Mustang GT
  • Chevrolet – Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1
  • Toyota – Toyota Camry TRD

The dimension differences are detailed in the following table.

Width78.6 in (199.6cm)78.7in (200cm)
Length193.4 inches (499.2cm)No restriction but approx. 16.4ft (5m)
Height50.4 in (128.0cm)37.4in (95cm)
Weight3,400 lbs (1,542.0kg)No less than 1,631 lbs (740 kg)
Wheel size15-inch steel wheel single lug nut18-in single lug nut

From these dimensions, it is clear that the two different types of race cars bear no resemblance to each other.

The chances of NASCARs touching during a race are very high, and therefore the cars have to be stronger than the equivalent F1 vehicle.

If an F1 car has even slight damage, the aerodynamics are often adversely affected, seriously compromising their competitiveness, requiring them to pit and replace the damaged part.

The Engines of NASCAR and F1 cars are different.

One of the primary differences between a NASCAR and an F1 car is the engine. The sizes of the powerplants are significantly different, but they both employ unique technologies.

The broad comparison of each car powerplant is detailed in the table below.

SpecificationNASCARF1 Car
Horsepower670 hp (500 kW)750 – 1000 HP
Number of Cylinders8 cylinders4 cylinders
Engine Displacement5900 liters1600 liters
Engine RPM9,200-9,400 RPM15,000 RPM
Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K)NoYes
Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H)NoYes
Energy StoreNoYes
2- or 4-wheel driveA 2-wheel drive (rear)A 2-wheel drive (rear)
Power to weight ratio0.197 HP – LBS0.6 HP – 1 LBS

Whereas NASCAR uses established technology, the F1 cars use state-of-the-art technology that combines the power from a 1600 liter internal combustion engine with a Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H).

The MGU-H is attached to the engine’s crankshaft, where it can both drive and be driven by the motor.

When the MGU-H is being driven, it acts as an electrical generator. When it moves the engine, it is a permanent-magnet brushless AC electric motor that supplements the power produced by the  Internal Combustion Engine.

The MGU-K units harvest energy from the brakes.

The energy  MGU-H and MGU-K devices generate is stored in a pack of Li-ion battery cells that power the MGU-H when it is serving the function of a motor.

Regulations state that F1 races are typically held over a distance of 189 miles (305km), and NASCAR races are run over a distance that ranges between  220 miles (350 km) and 500 miles (800km).

Performance Differences Between NASCAR And F1 Cars

Each car type’s power to weight ratio is substantially different and produces different performance figures.

PerformanceNASCARF1 Car
0-62 mph (0-100km/h)3.4 secondsBetween 2.1 to 2.7 seconds
Top Speed199.4 mph (321km/h)231.4 mph (372.5km/h)
Average Speed176.2 mph (283km/h)128.23 mph (206.374km/h)
Braking distance200 mph to zero in  7.5 seconds200 mph to 40 mph  (321 km/h to 64kp/h) in just 2.5 seconds.

The Aerodynamic Differences Between NASCAR And F1 Cars

The aerodynamic capabilities of NASCAR and F1 cars are designed for different types of racing.

Although the aerodynamic devices installed on an F1 car may be more advanced than NASCAR, both are designed to reduce drag and improve the downforce of each vehicle.

NASCAR cars have low and broad front spoilers, body shell surfaces that have been refined in wind tunnels, and sloped windscreens. As with their F1 counterparts, they also have tall rear spoilers that increase the downforce at the back of the car and improve traction.

While NASCAR has fewer fast straights ending with sharp turns, F1 tracks are noted for the number of left and right turns.

F1 cars have to be highly efficient at top speed and balance the amount of downforce required to turn at the end of the straight.

For the 2022 season, the cars can generate a ground effect (which is a negative pressure that sucks the F1 car to the road surface). The underbody of the F1 cars has been completely redesigned to achieve this.

NASCAR cars do not use the ground effect, and the only downforce is caused by the wings and the car’s body shape.

Editorial credit: action sports / Shutterstock.com

Safety Features Of F1 And NASCAR Cars

Both race disciplines require the chassis and car bodies to absorb high G impact forces, which decelerate the force and thus protect the driver.

The safety features designed into the cars are:

F1 Cars Have A Safety Cell

The F1 car must incorporate an FIA-mandated safety cell that surrounds the driver.

It is a “tub” made from cabin fiber and is almost impossible to penetrate. It is designed to remain impenetrable and not absorb any of the forces experienced in a rollover.

Nextgen NASCAR Cars Have Improved Strength

The Roof Deck Strength has been increased, And Stronger Tubing has been installed in the chassis of the Nextgen NASCAR cars, which attempt to replicate the role of the F1 safety cell.

The NASCAR Driver Is Positioned In The Centre Of The Vehicle

Since the 2007 season, NASCAR driver positions have been moved to the vehicle’s center and are more removed from impact points.

NASCAR Cars Have Specifically Designed Seats

NASCAR seats wrap around the driver’s rib cage, which provides support during a crash, spreading the g-forces over the entire rib cage.

It has a similar intent as the F1 safety cell.

F1 Car Have Roll Over Hoops

Each F1 car has a rollover hoop installed just behind the driver’s head.

Regulations state that the top of the driver’s helmet must be 70mm lower than the top of the hoop.

If the car rolls over, the hoop protects the driver’s head.

In the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Lance Stroll’s (Racing Point) overturned; however, Stroll could climb out of the overturned car uninjured.

NASCAR Cars Have Safety Cages

With the same intent as rollover hoops and safety cages, NASCARs are fitted with advanced safety cages.

F1 Cars Have A HALO

The HALO is a curved bar placed to protect the driver’s head. It is designed to protect the driver’s head in the event of a rollover, a runaway tire, or another F1 car running over the car.

The HALO has been credited with saving drivers’ lives several times, including:

  • In the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari halo was struck by Fernando Alonso’s airborne McLaren. Both Halos were damaged, but each driver survived injury-free.
  • In the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, the halo protected Romain Grosjean (Haas), where he hit Daniil Kvyat’s (AlphaTauri) car and then crashed head-on into the barriers. The car broke through the crash barrier, but the halo deflected the upper section of the barrier, protecting Grosjean’s head.
  • In the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) collided. The Red Bull wheel landed on the Mercedes,  but Hamilton was spared injury, with Hamilton later saying it “saved my neck.”

F1 Cars Have Kevlar Fuel Tanks

All F1 cars have Kevlar-lined fuel tanks.

F1 cars start the race with 100 kg of fuel that is very flammable and can create an explosive force in the right conditions.

F1 car’s fuel tanks are lined with military-grade Kevlar (the same material used in bulletproof vests). This material is 500% stronger than the equivalent thickness of steel while being flexible enough to mold to shape and remaining lighter than steel.

The Kevlar is covered with a fuel-tight layer of rubber.

Kevlar prevents the fuel tank from being punctured, which removes the potential for fire from the fuel tank.

NASCAR Cars Have Roof Flaps

NASCAR cars have roof flaps designed to prevent the cars from becoming airborne and possibly flipping.

The flaps are recessed into pockets on the roof of the car. If the vehicle spins, it may achieve an angle where it creates lift and becomes airborne. A low-pressure area above the flaps causes them to deploy at this angle.

After the flaps deploy high pressure, the air is forced through a tube that connects to a second flap.

This second flap is designed to prevent further lift as the vehicle’s angle changes.

The flaps eliminate most of the lift on the vehicle and keep the cars on the ground when they spin.

F1 And NASCAR Cars Have Seat Belts

Formula 1 and NASCAR cars have seven-point seat belt harnesses.

They restrain the driver’s shoulders, pelvis, and legs and keep the driver in the seat while cornering or during an accident.

Seat belts work in concert with the safety cell, halo, and rollover hoops.

F1 Cars Have Headrests

The F1 car headrest is custom-fitted to the driver and is removable.

The headrest is made from memory foam and is designed to absorb G-Forces in an accident.

It also restricts the driver’s head movement reducing neck strain with the high G-Forces experienced in cornering.

F1 Cars Have Padded Cockpits

The cockpit is covered in memory foam which serves the same G-Force absorption roll as the Headrests, except that it protects the driver’s legs.

F1 And NASCAR Cars Have HANS Devices

HANS are devices designed to reduce the chance of neck and spinal injuries.

The device is positioned over the drivers’ shoulders and juts up behind the helmet. It attaches to the helmet and is designed to stop the driver’s head from moving uncontrollably in an accident, reducing the chance of neck and spinal injuries.


It is probably easier to state the similarities between NASCAR and Formula 1 cars than reflect on the differences. The similarities are that they are cars mounted on four wheels with engines that propel them at very high speeds, around tracks that offer spectators real-time action-packed racing.

In almost every other metric, they are different; whether it be the shape, dimensions, engine, aerodynamic, or safety features, the cars are fundamentally different.





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