How fast do F1 cars go in 2020?

Lewis Hamilton Monza 2020
Lewis Hamilton's recording lap at Monza 2020

It would be the understatement of the year to say that F1 cars do fast. Today we will answer the question

"How fast do F1 cars go?" 

2020 marked the 70th anniversary of the sport and it is only natural to wonder about the progress F1 cars have made. While they have become faster in general, there is still some doubt as to whether the 2020 F1 cars are the fastest ever. Let's find out.

Methodology used:

To understand how fast modern F1 cars are, we have a few statistics to look at. One of them happens to be the average speed and we will also consider the fastest lap set during the race weekend. Another important consideration is the track. Since all these stats are highly dependent on the race track, we will choose a single venue for all our data to keep things uniform. Among the plethora of tracks that F1 has raced in over the years, Monza is one of the most suited for our study. Why Monza? It is one of the fastest circuits and has been a part of the F1 calendar for a long time.

So, not only will we be able to get a good understanding of how fast an F1 car can go in 2020, but we can also compare it to data from the years in the past and see if F1 cars have really become faster. We also won't be considering race laps as that can be affected by a number of factors such as safety cars and red flags. For our analysis, we will use the statistics from 1989, 1997, 2004, and 2020.


The data:


1989

Pole position time: 1:23.720 (Ayrton Senna)  McLAREN Honda MP 4-5

Ayrton Senna McLAREN Honda MP 4-5
Ayrton Senna 1989

Average speed: 249.101 km/h

1997

Pole position time: 1:22.990 (Jean Alesi) Benetton B197



Average speed: 251.293 km/h 
 Jean Alesi  Benetton B197
Jean Alesi 1997


2004:

Pole position time: 1:20:089 (Felipe Massa)  SAUBER PETRONAS C23
Felipe Massa SAUBER PETRONAS C23
Felipe Massa  2004

Average speed: 260.395 km/h


2020

Pole position time: 1:18.887 (Lewis Hamilton)  Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance
Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance
Lewis Hamilton 2020
Average speed: 264.408 km/h

This data unequivocally proves that the F1 cars have progressively become faster and that the 2020 F1 cars are the fastest F1 cars ever. The lap times have come down by nearly 4 seconds and the average speed has increased by over 15 km/h in the last 30 years. 
So, does this mean that F1 cars have become more powerful in 2020? In terms of raw power, Ayrton Senna's McLaren from 1989 would probably match or even surpass the 2020 Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton but the difference comes because of efficiency, better aerodynamics, and tire performance. Cars these days are equipped with highly sophisticated aerodynamics that allows them to go around corners a lot faster. 
The modern hybrid engines are a lot more efficient and the modern tires offer more mechanical grip. All of these factors together make the 2020 F1 cars really fast. It is a shame that F1 won't be racing in Mexico this year which would have given a true reading of the 2020 car’s top speed. 


So, we will again take Monza into account. The top speed achieved at Monza this year was a dazzling 360.8 km/h or 224.2 mph which is perhaps the biggest indicator of how fast a 2020 F1 car is.

Taisiya Lavi

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