Why Are F1 Fans So Critical Of IndyCar?

Three days ago, I watched the IndyCar street race through Toronto. I left the couch wondering why more F1 fans don’t watch Indy. Not only do many F1 fans ignore IndyCar as a whole, but they criticize the sport as being boring and talentless.

Will Power at the Toronto IndyCar race

A year ago, I would have done the same. I would have watched two laps of a typical Indy race and mocked the sport. After being a little more open-minded (and somewhat bored), I sat down to watch the Toronto race and found myself deeply enthralled in a fascinating race. I thought to myself, “Many F1 fans appreciate different forms of motorsport, why are they so critical of IndyCar?¬†Of course, there are fans of both series out there. But there seems to be some strange, mysterious disrespect between the two series, so I set out to find reasons as to why this would happen.

IndyCar is potentially an American overload for European fans

First of all, IndyCar is incredibly American in it’s presentation. The fans are American, the announcers are American, and the teams are American as well. I hate to say it, but this could be seen as a problem, mostly from European fans. Unfortunately, the American presenters tend to dumb down the technical aspects of the cars and focus on the spectacle, and are usually very exuberant in doing so. After watching F1 and interacting with European fans and supporters, it is clear to me why Americanized motorsport could be a turn-off.

Although the presentation of the sport is incredibly American, the drivers themselves come from around the world. There are only six American drivers in a field of twenty. Other nationalities include Spanish, Brazilian, Japanese, British, Australian, and several others. In terms of driver diversity, IndyCar is certainly on par with Formula 1.

European drivers such as Dario Franchitti are common in IndyCar

Another frequent complaint concerns the oval racing. IndyCar is criticized as being boring because the cars only turn left. It is very clear as to why F1 fans would find this boring. However, it is unfair to critique oval racers as being talentless. Their throttle inputs and positioning of the car is incredibly skillful and should not go unnoticed. Also, oval racing makes for incredibly close battles up and down the field that can last for dozens of laps, unlike F1 scraps. When racing at 220 miles per hour, the incredible precision used by the drivers during overtaking maneuvers is fantastic to watch.

Incredibly close racing at the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco of IndyCar

Not only can oval racing be exciting, but the road courses in the IndyCar schedule are fantastic to watch. Throughout the season, there are only 5 oval races. The majority of races in IndyCar are now on circuits and street courses. The races are fantastic to watch, and even though the cars are not as fast or sophisticated as F1 cars, the racing is still tight. Motorsport fans should appreciate a good race, no matter how quickly the cars are going.

One can not deny the fact that IndyCars are less technologically advanced than F1 cars. F1 is, and will always be the pinnacle of motorsport. IndyCars chassis are supplied all by one company, and therefore there is no variation in the design aspect from team to team. This is a large negative aspect of F1, as it allows for no in-season development as we have in F1, and no variation in strategy from an aerodynamics point of view. However, similar to the GP2 series, a single manufacturer leads to closer racing and a more competitive field. This should be considered a benefit, no matter what racing series you watch.

Dallara provides a chassis for the whole field, creating exciting, tight racing

The list of ‘problems’ went on and on in my head. But I found that for each argument I made against IndyCar, I found a counter argument in its favor. I understand why F1 fans don’t watch IndyCar; the simple issue of broadcasting often limits motor racing fans from certain series. However, after watching the Toronto race, it was impossible for me to tell why F1 fans can be so critical of IndyCar. The drivers are talented. They go through years of training just like F1 drivers. The racing is extremely close due to a large field and a single supplier. No matter what the series, a fan of motorsports should be able to appreciate a competitive race, rather than criticize everything about it. I’m sure I can’t change whether or not people will watch IndyCar, but I encourage others to watch an IndyCar race in the hopes that they will respect it for what it is: good racing.

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3 Comments

Filed under Controversy, For Fun

3 responses to “Why Are F1 Fans So Critical Of IndyCar?

  1. Alex

    A very interesting article and a good read. I am mainly an Indycar fan, and don’t pretend to watch F1. I find it enjoyable to watch, but as am in the States, timing is difficult for me. But if it’s ok, please let me respond from the aspect of an Indycar fan…

    First, (and this is just for clarification’s sake), there are 25 full time drivers, 7 of which are American (not a huge deal, just wanted to point that out). There were several “one-offs” who only drove at the Indy 500. They do this every year because of sponsorship reasons. There are so many more people watching the 500 that sponsors will do just about anything to get in on the action.

    True, the series is incredibly American, but they are attempting to diversify. Two races in Canada, a race in Brazil, and they attempted a race in China, but it fell through. They also had a race in Japan, but it was discontinued after last year for financial reasons, although it was always a great race. There are also plans to have a 2nd Brazil race and a third Canada race.

    The series, and American racing as a whole, was built on oval racing. Oval racing is simply in our blood. Though you did make great points. Oval racing naturally produces battles throughout the field that last several laps, and is, in a few words, “hold your breath” racing. There is nothing like seeing two cars separated by mere inches going 220+ mph (or ~350 kph).

    Another aspect of the oval racing that has changed recently is the aerodynamic constraints. About 15 years ago, drivers began complaining about speeds being too high, and, long story short, it led to high downforce wing angles. This slowed cars way down, and made it so that the driver had to do very little other than hold the pedal down. It wasn’t real driving, and the series suffered for it. This season, they have set limits as to how much wing angle you can have, and this has forced drivers to actually drive the car, lifting in the corners, and protecting tires (or tyres, as you guys spell it). This has produced incredible racing, forcing drivers to take care of their car in order to win.

    Another point I wanted to respond to was the fact that all the cars are essentially the same. Unlike F1, where teams build their own cars in their shops, Indycar contracts out to Dallara (an Italian company. See! We’re diverse!). They do this for cost reasons. Team owners have a lot of power in Indycar, and they have complained that the cars are too expensive to build and operate. So Indycar came up with a solution that all cars are to be built by Dallara. We were also supposed to have companies come in and build “aero packages.” This is basically the shell of the car, anything that touches the air. This would have made the cars “look” different, and would have brought back supplier competition. But, the team owners voted to delay the aero packages back a season last year. They are trying to do it again, so we will see what will happen. However, they do have separate engine manufacturers, which has been very exciting to watch this year.

    My last point is that oval races will be expanded upon. True, there are only five oval races, but that was a knee jerk reaction to the death of a great driver, Dan Wheldon, at the end of last season. Next season, there will be more oval races with the aerodynamic package they have introduced this season.

    Thanks for the article! I would love to hear what F1 fans think about this!

  2. Andy

    Yes, this is six months after the fact. I just discovered you while searching for a new pan-motorsports forum.

    F1 fans root for brands of cars. Indycar fans root for drivers.

    There are one or two dominant teams in F1 every year. You could put any competent driver in those cars and they would be champion. Indycar has cars from one source and only two engine manufacturers. Only the world’s best drivers can succeed in Indycar.

    • I agree that the cars in Indycar are much much closer together in terms of pure performance. I just think that adds another dimension to F1 racing. in one season there may be a dominant team or two, but those teams may rise and fall over time. For instance, Red bull were considered a ‘joke’ when they first started racing in F1 in 2005. Now, they are seemingly unstoppable.

      Also, I would argue that the world’s best drivers are in F1, not in Indycar. This is why F1 drivers retire into Indycar, rather than the other way around. Indycar drivers are definitely talented though, F1 drivers don’t always do well in Indy.

      I would also disagree with you concerning your point about putting any driver in a dominant F1 car. Look at Webber and Vettel this year. Vettel was world champion, and Webber was only P6 in the championship in the same car. Also, Alonso had the same machinery as Massa, and crushed him in the championship standings. Driver talent is still definitely relevant in F1.

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