MotoGP and Formula 1 are two of the fastest motorsports in the world. Each brings its own challenges, and both sets of drivers are pushed to their limits and those of the tracks they race on. But which is faster?
Formula 1 cars are much faster than MotoGP bikes, and therefore lap times for F1 cars are much shorter than MotoGP.
But when comparing the two sports, there is much more to consider than just shorter lap times. Aside from the fact that F1 cars have twice as many wheels, there are many other factors that separate F1 and MotoGP. Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between MotoGP and F1.
The differences between the two
The main differences
The most important and obvious difference between MotoGP and F1 is the fact that F1 cars have four wheels, while motorcycles have two. This presents different challenges for each car, which we will discuss in more detail shortly. Apart from the number of tires, the weight of each tire is also very different. A MotoGP bike alone weighs about 157 kg, while an F1 car and its driver must weigh at least 740 kg.
Obviously, the car is much bigger than the bike, and that means their engines are much bigger too. The bikes use a four-cylinder, 1-litre engine with an output of around 280 horsepower. The F1 cars use a 1.6-litre hybrid V6 engine that can produce around 1000 horsepower. This means that the power-to-weight ratio of the bike is higher than that of the car, but there is much more to it than just power.
Aerodynamics & Downforce
The aerodynamic and downforce packages of the F1 cars allow for tremendous cornering speeds that the motorcycles cannot match. Although they are quite aerodynamic and can reach high speeds on the straights, the motorcycles do not have the grip that the F1 cars have. Although they both provide a spectacle for the masses, there is a big gap between the two, so are they comparable?
Are they comparable?
The fact that bikes have two wheels makes it very difficult to compare them to a car with four. Road bikes are often compared to road cars, but in MotoGP and F1 it’s very different. The bikes used in MotoGP aren’t a million miles away from the high-end bikes you might find on the street, but F1 cars are about as far away from your street car as you can get.
Big performance difference
The power difference is enough to make most people realize that these are two very different breeds of cars, but if not, a simple look at F1 aerodynamics and downforce should set things straight. F1 cars hold the track very well, while motorcycles inherently do not. This means that safety plays a big role in MotoGP, as it does in F1.
The two motorsports rarely visit the same tracks, and when they do, changes are often made to accommodate the motorcycles. Chicanes, for example, are sometimes removed, which can make comparisons even more difficult. F1 cars can go around corners at tremendous speeds because of their downforce capabilities, while riders in MotoGP have to slow down considerably.
A different driving style
When they drive around corners, they move their body and their knees often touch the ground. F1 riders still struggle with massive G-forces, but their bodies are not as exposed as those on motorcycles. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safer, but it can make it much easier to take corners at high speeds. The extra two tires also mean they have much more grip than the bikes.
The tires themselves are much wider on cars, so the contact patch and therefore the available grip is much greater. MotoGP motorcycles can exceed 200 mph on the straights, as can F1 cars, but F1 cars can also go over 100 mph through the corners, while motorcycles have to slow down a lot. But regardless of the differences in driving, how do their lap times compare?
Which is fastest?
Formula 1 cars are much faster than MotoGP bikes, and therefore F1 car lap times are much shorter than MotoGP. As we’ve said before, there are few tracks where both MotoGP and F1 can race. And even when they can, some modifications are often made to the bikes. Nevertheless, there are still two outstanding examples that illustrate how big the gap is between F1 and MotoGP.
Silverstone in the UK is one of those tracks. The 2019 MotoGP lap record was set by Marc Marquez, and he went around the track with a time of 1 minute 58.168 seconds. In 2020, Max Verstappen broke the F1 lap record with a time of 1 minute 27.097 seconds. That’s more than 30 seconds difference between Formula 1 and MotoGP at Silverstone.
Circuit of the Americas
The F1 lap record at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is 1 minute 36.169 seconds, with the fastest qualifying lap still around 4 seconds faster. The MotoGP record from 2014 was 2 minutes 3.575 seconds, again about 30 seconds slower than the F1 lap. This difference is huge when you consider that the gap between a first and second place in both sports is usually less than a second.
MotoGP drivers can take certain corners in second or third gear, and F1 drivers can take the same corners in fifth or sixth gear. The enormous amount of downforce the cars generate, coupled with the colossal amount of grip on each tire, means F1 cars can take some corners at full throttle. Although motorcycles often accelerate faster to about 120 miles per hour, the F1 car can take that speed through most corners.
MotoGP and Formula 1 are two very different sports, although they share the intensity element and tremendous speed. The F1 cars can go around corners much faster because of their high grip and downforce, and although the motorcycles can beat them on the straights, this ability to take corners at speed can allow the F1 cars to finish laps about 30 seconds faster than the motorcycles.