Formula One cars represent the pinnacle of motor racing because of the sheer speed and engineering excellence that they bring.


The modern F1 car is almost like a spaceship in complexity, and it takes special drivers to be able to master them effectively.

Driving an F1 car requires a mixture of stamina and muscle power to cope with the g-force, but also massive amount of bravery as one mistake could lead to a serious injury or something even worse.

The cars themselves have come an awful long way since the sport began in 1950 when drivers were toying with their lives every time they raced.

The safety aspects, aerodynamics and speed are what make F1 completely unique as a form of motorsport. brings you a round-up of what makes the cars so fast and what their limits are on track.

Check out more Formula 1 coverage: F1 calendar 2023 | How to watch F1 on TV | F1 beginner's guide | F1 highlights | F1 presenters | F1 on Channel 4

How fast is an F1 car?

The modern F1 car can reach speeds of roughly 220mph on average when bombing down long straights.

The fastest speed ever recorded in a race was from Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes in the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix when he reached a startling 231mph, though certain conditions have to be met for that to happen.

In terms of raw speed, F1 cars are not the quickest cars in the world – that gong belongs to IndyCars which compete in the United States.

That is down to the fact that F1 cars are more reliant on downforce which slows them down in a straight line, but they are dynamite when going round corners.

To put it into perspective, the fastest road legal car to ever drive around the Top Gear test track was a Ferrari SF90 Stradale in a time of one minute and 11 seconds.

The Renault car which Fernando Alonso drove in the 2004 F1 World Championship went around in 59 seconds.

F1 cars 0-60mph speed

The classic metric for measuring the acceleration of any car, from your gran's Nissan Note to the hottest new Bugatti, is the speed it takes to go from a standing start to 60mph.

The fastest hyper cars in the world can hit that level of acceleration in blistering times typically ranging between 2.8 and 2.3 seconds. One or two cars, including the Koenigsegg Gemera, claim to have breached the two-second mark with an outrageous 1.9 seconds from 0-60mph.

Formula 1 cars' acceleration time from 0 to 60mph is approximately 2.6 seconds. I know, ever so slightly disappointing, right?

As mentioned above, while F1 cars are obviously rapid, their key strengths lie in being able to take corners at outrageous speeds, far superior to anything you'd be allowed to drive on an actual road.

How big are the engines in F1 cars?

Currently, Formula One cars use 1.6 litre V6 engines which are turbocharged to give them maximum power.

They are hybrid powered as the sport seeks to become more environmentally friendly and cut carbon emissions.

In years gone by, engines were much bigger with some of the cars in the 1990s using V12 engines – meaning there are 12 cylinders instead of six.

However, current F1 power units can produce 1,000bhp (break horsepower) and cars right now are as quick as they ever have been.

That is partly down to the sophistication of the engine and aerodynamics, but also down to the weight of the cars – there is a maximum limit of 798kg (minus fuel).

What is DRS?

DRS (Drag Reduction System) is an overtaking aid for drivers that was introduced ahead of the 2011 season, in order to increase the number of overtakes on the track.

Each circuit on the calendar will have two (or sometimes more) designated DRS zones, usually on long straights where cars get to their fastest.

The following driver must be within a one second gap of the car in front to activate DRS, which is operated by a button on the steering wheel.

This opens up a flap in the rear wing, akin to a letterbox, meaning the aerodynamic drag is reduced and the car can travel around 10mph faster than the one in front.

Critics of DRS believe it has become too powerful and is leading to “artificial” overtaking which doesn’t require any real driving skill.

However, there are no plans to scrap the aid and its power varies from track to track.

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