Skip to content

What’s it cost to compete in Formula One? An IndyCar comparison

May 22, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

AUTO-PRIX-F1-SPAIN-PRACTICE Getty Images

Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid cover the business of Formula One. More of their work can be found at FormulaMoney.com.

The cars lining up to compete in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500 may appear the same. However, with even the smallest Formula One teams running on budgets around five times those of their leading IndyCar rivals, the similarity is only skin deep.

The casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that IndyCar has the superior technology, as Ed Carpenter set a pole position lap speed of 228.8 mph for this year’s Indy 500; Mark Webber’s top qualifying lap at the twisty Monaco track last year was just 100.4 mph.

In reality, the IndyCar teams purchase controlled-cost specification chassis from Dallara, whereas their F1 counterparts are involved in a costly high tech arms race to make it to the front of the grid. Unlike IndyCar teams F1 competitors are ‘constructors’ who build their own chassis — and in the case of Ferrari and Mercedes their own engines — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The leading F1 teams are constantly developing their machinery in order to eke out the extra split-seconds that will edge them ahead of their rivals. Big name brands such as Red Bull and Mercedes are willing to foot the bill because F1 is the world’s most watched annual sporting event and puts their brands in front of half a billion people worldwide.

As a result, the biggest spending F1 team Ferrari will run on an estimated budget of $470 million in 2013. This is more than 30 times the estimated $15 million budget of the leading IndyCar teams such as Ganassi and Andretti Autosport. The figures — supplied by Formula Money — below explain how the money is spent.

TOTAL BUDGET
Top F1 team: $470 million; Top IndyCar team: $15 million

This includes the following key areas of spending:

THE CAR
Top F1 team: $125 million; Top IndyCar team: $3 million

The largest single cost for most F1 teams is the design, development and construction of a bespoke chassis. F1 teams must construct their own chassis and although the manufacturing costs of an F1 car are a relatively small $15 million per year, top teams can spend well over $100 million on research and development.

All IndyCar teams must buy their chassis from series provider Dallara. The price is $345,000 per chassis, but the purchase of aerodynamic packages designed for different circuits can add another $150,000-$200,000. A team typically gets through three chassis per driver each year.

THE ENGINES
Top F1 team: $130 million; Top IndyCar team: $2 million

F1 manufacturers such as Ferrari and Mercedes spend more than $100 million annually on engine development. This is principally to supply their own teams, but they are required to also supply other teams with engines and typically charge $13 million per season to do so.

Honda and Chevrolet typically charge IndyCar teams around $1 million per year per driver for an engine package which will allow the use of eight engines.

TESTING
Top F1 team: $15 million; Top IndyCar team: $1 million

Restrictions on F1 testing in recent years have seen budgets slashed from $35 million to $15 million annually in order to cut costs. This is still far larger than the IndyCar teams’ $1 million annual spending.

DRIVERS
Top F1 team: $47 million; Top IndyCar team: $3 million

Two times world champion Fernando Alonso is one of the highest paid sports stars in the world, receiving an annual salary of $40 million from Ferrari. In contrast leading IndyCar drivers receive $1-2 million per year. Unlike F1 drivers they also receive prize money – $2.5 million for Dario Franchitti when he won last year’s Indy 500 – but are usually expected to give at least half of this to their team.

ENTRY FEE
Top F1 team: $3.3 million; Top IndyCar team: $456,000

F1’s governing body, the FIA, operates a complex system for entry fees where each team is charged a basic fee of $500,000, plus $6,000 per point scored in the previous season for the constructors’ champion and $5,000 per point for everyone else. This has left 2012 champion Red Bull Racing with a bill of $3,260,000 this year. In contrast, IndyCar teams pay $12,000 per car per race.

HOSPITALITY
Top F1 team: $13 million; Top IndyCar team: $1 million

Hospitality may seem like a frivolous extra but it is a crucial part of how an F1 team operates. Sponsors spend up to $100 million annually so expect to receive silver service treatment when they visit a Grand Prix. A top F1 team can spend more on hospitality in a season than an IndyCar team spends on its entire budget. In contrast leading IndyCar teams may spend up to $200,000 at a showpiece event like the Indy 500, but far less at other races.

KEY SUPPLIES
Top F1 team: Free; Top IndyCar team: $1 million

One area where IndyCar costs far outstrip F1 is in the area of key supplies. Due to the high level of exposure F1 generates, many companies are keen to supply top level products free of charge in return for becoming an official partner of the team. Ferrari, for example, has sponsorship from a range of automotive companies including Shell (gas), SKF (bearings), NGK (spark plugs), Magneti Marelli (electronics) and Brembo (brakes). A typical top IndyCar team spends around $1 million a year on purchasing similar supplies.

OTHER
Top F1 team: $136.7 million; Top IndyCar team: $3.5 million

*Includes salaries, travel and factory costs.

Latest Posts
  1. Keselowski: ‘I’m not (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) … I’m just trying to do things my own way’

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski is flattered people might compare him with the late Dale Earnhardt, but he’ll be the first to say he’s not the new Intimidator in NASCAR.

  2. Greatest collection of Indy 500 pace cars to be displayed soon

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:18 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway) (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

    Perhaps the greatest collection of original Indianapolis 500 pace cars will soon be on display at an upcoming car show in suburban Chicago.

  3. IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe being toasted for fast-selling beer

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com) (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com)

    For most Canadians, their homebrewed beer choice is typically Labatts or Molson. But countryman and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is starting to get some traction with his own beer brand, Hinchtown Hammer Down (HHD).

  4. NASCAR America: Take a spin around Martinsville Speedway

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around Martinsville Speedway in the NBC race simulator to show why the paper-clip shaped track can be extremely difficult.

  5. NHRA stunner: Jimmy Prock out as John Force’s crew chief

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT

    Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    In a stunning move that could potentially threaten his bid for a record-extending 17th NHRA Funny Car championship, John Force announced Wednesday that veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock has resigned, effective immediately.

  6. Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick will swap crews at Stewart-Haas (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    KurtDanica Getty Images

    Crew chiefs, road crews for Nos. 10 and 41 Stewart-Haas Racing cars will swap starting at Texas.

  7. Statement from Caterham provides unclear future for team’s plans (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    More murky messaging from Leafield as Caterham’s future hangs in the balance.

  8. Drag racer Ron Capps doesn’t let hurricane stop Hawaii appearance

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA, Teresa Long) AP

    When you drive a car that produces nearly 10,000 horsepower and reaches speeds approaching 330 mph, a hurricane with wind speeds over 100 mph is nothing. That was the case Sunday for NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

  9. Ken Block, Matthew Wilson to return to WRC in Spain this weekend

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    FIA World Rally Championship Mexico - Day Two Getty Images

    Ken Block, Matthew Wilson make WRC returns for this weekend’s Rally Spain.

  10. UPDATED: Will NHRA Funny Car legend John Force reveal new sponsor and manufacturer today?

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA) AP

    Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force is expected to make a major announcement concerning John Force Racing later Tuesday afternoon.

  11. NASCAR: Kurt Busch’s new 2015 paint scheme unveiled

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Kurt Busch’s 2015 paint scheme adds more red.

  12. Lotus begins deal with jewelry company called Endless

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Qualifying Getty Images

    Lotus will have a new sponsor for Austin that’s beginning, but called Endless.

  13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. featured in new concussion awareness initiative (VIDEO)

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT

    DaleJrDega AP

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be featured for UPMC campaign that seeks to change the conversation about concussions.

  14. Sam Michael to leave McLaren at year’s end

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    Sam-Michael-McL Getty Images

    Sam Michael to leave McLaren at year’s end, the team confirms.

  15. Here to stay: Keselowski vows that he won’t be run out of the sport

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Geico 500 Getty Images

    The championship contender talks about his reputation during a Monday night appearance at Texas Motor Speedway.

  16. NASCAR AMERICA: Pressure mounts with four races to go in Chase (VIDEO)

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

    As NASCAR AMERICA’s Kyle Petty explains, the new Chase format has created something that NASCAR hasn’t seen before.

  17. NASCAR AMERICA: Jeff Gordon’s “Drive For Five” continues at Martinsville (VIDEO)

    Oct 21, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A ninth Martinsville win on Sunday would put Gordon into the Championship Race at Homestead. Check out his interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Jason Weigandt about his success at M’Ville and more.

  18. Joey Logano says he’s made peace with Danica Patrick over Charlotte wreck

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Logano admits he should’ve given Patrick more space on the race track two weekends ago.

  19. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA talks with “Eliminator 8″ at 5 p.m. ET

    Oct 21, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Credit: NASCAR Credit: NASCAR

    Extended interviews with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards also coming up on today’s episode of NASCAR AMERICA.

Video from NASCAR America

Pressure mounts with 4 races remaining
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1863)
  2. B. Keselowski (1512)
  3. R. Preece (1384)
  4. W. Pitkat (1253)
  5. R. Newman (1154)