We’ve been through what separates modern F1 and Indycar machinery in detail before (see the link below for more), but to sum up, F1 is faster. Much faster. While current Indycar racers all get the same mandated aero package, F1 teams are allowed to run wild. This costs a lot more but yields significantly higher levels of downforce. And so, running both on a track like Laguna Seca would be no contest at all.
That’s not the comparison here, though. At the Velocity Invitational historic racing weekend, Pato O’Ward, the Arrow McLaren driver who finished this year’s Indycar championship in third, was slotted behind the wheel of something much older - Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 F1 drivers’ and constructors’ title-winning MP4-13A.
Despite this being an unfamiliar car to him and one that’s twenty-three years old, O’Ward smashed out a 1min 10.3sec lap, nearly a second faster than his own qualifying time at the track’s recent Grand Prix of Monterey. Oh, and it was about half a second faster than Colton Herta’s pole lap from that weekend.
Helping the old McLaren immensely is its power to weight ratio. F1 cars back then produced anything up to 800bhp from their screaming V10s, yet weighed only around 600kg. That’s significantly lighter than both modern F1 cars and the current crop of Dallara Indycars.
There is a sizeable caveat to all this, which is that if you were to run one of the monstrous CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) single-seaters from the same era, you’d get a similar result. Contemporary Indycars simply aren’t as quick as their predecessors from a couple of decades ago.
The current official lap record at Laguna Seca, a 1:07.722, was set during the 2020 CART season. Unofficially, though, F1 cars have had the last laugh here, with Marc Gene clocking 1:05.786 in a Ferrari F2003 back in 2012.