Why do IndyCar/CART drivers fail in F1?

A follow on from this thread. Why do so few IndyCar racers have so little success in F1. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports. However all F1 drivers come from lower series, such F3, A1 etc. The same should be the case with IndyCar. Good IndyCar winners should go on to big things

Yet IndyCar and CART guys have had a torrid time there. Andertti the lesser crashed out after 1 season and 1 podium with McLaren. Zanardi won exactly one point in his time there. Montoya won a few races, but he struggled to beat Ralf Schumacher, never mind Michael who he never threatened. Jacques Villeneuve did win a title, but he was driving the Williams Renault probably in relative terms the best car ever, a which made champions out of lesser drivers (Damon Hill I am looking at you). ANd he never won another race after 1997, his championship year.

In general terms what makes this more surprising is that driving skill is a lot more important in IndyCar and before it CART, than in F1. Yet I cannot see Dixon or Dario in F1.

I think you pointed out the main difference yourself in your Villenuve comment - in F1, it’s not so much the driver as it is the car that makes the champion. How many races would Michael Schumacher have won had be been on the team with the 10th-best cars at the time?

Also, how many, say, IndyCar races are on ovals, where it is much easier to pass?

Well, yes, but Schumacher won titles in years he did not have the best car. 1994, 1995 and 2000 come to mind and in 1997 and 1998 he lost in the last race of the year. Plus Andretti and Montoya had excellent cars too.

Schu won diddly after his comeback, note.

2014 schedule is here.

Indycar runs three types of courses each season. It looks like the schedule is split about evenly, although three of the races are two-part races, which is this new weird thing I’ve only seen Indy do. There’s actually two races at the same track. Really strange.


So this year, I counted:
Temporary Street Courses - at St. Pete., Long Beach, Detroit (2-fer), Houston (2-fer) and Toronto (2-fer). So I’ll call that 5 street courses

Permanent Road Courses - at Alabama, Indianapolis, Pocono, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma. That’s 5 permanent road courses.

Oval Tracks - (My favorites because they’re faster) at Indianapolis (the 500), Ft. Worth, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Fontana. That’s 5 oval courses.

Easy answer: It’s harder to drive F1. Takes the ‘best of the best’.

My opinion: The good ol boy network in NASCAR has got nothing on the insular world of princes and jet setters that traditionally drive F1. They don’t like Americans, so they don’t give them a chance.

When Nigel Mansell, fresh off his F1 championship, came to CART, everyone welcomed him, gave him pointers, etc. The way I heard it, when Michael Andretti went to F1 no one would give him the time of day. If you believe his Wikipedia article, he was actively sabotaged by his own team!

Are they the same sorts of cars, on the same sorts of tracks? I would expect that different (though related) skills would be involved. I would expect a professional cricket player to be far better at baseball than the vast majority of the population, but I wouldn’t expect him to be able to play professional baseball. Why wouldn’t it be the same situation here?

“Princes and trendsetters?” The 70s want that quote back.

I think it really is that, simple and easy. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. How many champions of the various USA series are considered in the same breath as Schumacher, Fangio, Clarke or Senna?

If you are the best then F1 is where you find it out. I can’t think of any great drivers that F1 let slip. If you are good enough you’ll show it in whatever car you drive (Michael Schumacher in the Jordan, Vettel in the Torro Rosso, Senna in the Toleman) and team owners aren’t stupid, they know when someone is getting the most out of car even if it is lower down the grid.

Quiche eater!


Well, that’s kinda the (subjective) point. It is my opinion that, to some extent, F1 driver recognition is the result of circular logic. “F1 drivers are the best in the world, because only the best in the world get to drive F1. Other racing types don’t compare (NASCAR, Indy) because F1 is the best” Put Schumacher in a NASCAR and would he do as good? How about an Indy car? Maybe, maybe not.

Which drivers of the US series would I consider in the same breath? Crossing racing genres, I would say: Mario Andretti*, Richard Petty, A. J. Foyt, Don Garlits, Dan Gurney, Dale Earnhart, John Force. Multi-year winners in their respective sports, and ‘non fan’ name recognition.
*yes, he was also F1 champ. But he drove NASCAR first. He’s one of us!

Maldanado is the pinnacle of motorsport?

There is simply not enough return in the American market at the present time for a huge corporation to purchase a F1 seat for an American driver at this time.

There’s maybe what, 6 or so seats on the grid where talent is actually of primary importance than having cash-in-hand. It’s hardly surprising that they end up going to people who grow up in a farm system for F1 as opposed to people who are driving in a vaguely-similar type of car in a series that is, at present, second-rate in the US for 364 days of the year.

More accurately they don’t have the money to burn or the expertise. F1 has become so specialised that even major car manufacturers can’t break in. Just ask Toyota.

A good rule of the thumb is that an IndyCar costs as much as a tank? A F1 car as much as a high performance jet fighter.

They would all give their right nut to have an American driver who was capable and who could challenge. It would be exceptionally lucrative. Andretti’s complaints have always struck me as pathetic frankly. He was given a first rate drive and he got one podium for it. F1 is highly competitive and every driver has 2 official and about 20 other guys behind him clamouring for seats. If the bosses think the guy behind you is better, he gets it. David Coultard was winning races yet was replaced by Villeneuve. Damon Hill was dismissed while he was world champion in favour of Frentzen. Andretti has a guy breathing down his neck and when he underperformed that guy took his place. His name? Mikka Hakkinen?

I think Al Unser jr could have cut it. He was in competition with Hill for the second 1993 Williams F1 seat and I think he was the better driver. IIRC they went with Hill because he was cheaper.

On the other hand, when retired F1 drivers like Fittipaldi or Mansell go to INDY/CART, they kick ass.
Of course it’s Mansell and not Checo Pérez, but still.
F1 drivers, the top half at least, are simply better.

why pick him? he is average by F1 standards. No one is claiming that all the drivers in F1
represent the best in the world, however I don’t think you can seriously claim to be a great unless you have tested yourself at the top level.

I think Juan Pablo Montoya is a great example of this. He basically came up through Kart and then trained into F1. Everywhere else he’s been, he has kicked ass and taken names. And I am delighted to see him back with IndyCar this season. This is going to be *so *much fun!

This bit made me chuckle:

Bolding mine.

Basically, from the Wiki page, it looks to me like there is no vehicle Montoya could race and not win with. He’s not a NA$CAR driver, he’s not an IndyCar driver, he’s not a F1 driver… He’s a race car driver.

But he wasn’t a particularly outstanding F1 driver. Would he even be in the top 50? Mario Andretti would be for sure but I suspect Montoya would not.
I never thought he was the sort of driver who would make the difference to a second rate car. He qualified and raced round about where you’d expect the car to be.

Of the current crop, Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are the stand-out best. Give them a sub-standard car and they’ll do something with it. Montoya was more along the lines of Massa or Weber. Good but not great.

I bring up Maldanado because the question is about what things are like now, not what they were like in the days of Mario Andretti or Mansell.

Getting a seat in F1 nowadays is as much, if not more, about how much money you bring to the table than it is about how fast you can get around a track.

The only great open wheel driver IMO who never drove F1 would be Al Unser jr. He missed out on a ride with Williams in 1993, the seat which went to Hill. He was better than Hill and while like Hill, he would have run into the phenom that was Michael Schumacher, I think he might have been able to win the 1994 title.

Not quite, he still had to prove himself in the lower formulas, that and the ability to bring sponsorship money. However, you prove yourself and the sponsorship money ceases to matter, people will crawl over broken glass to get you (as will the best teams).