Ask The Driver ~ A Driver Comparison

Ask the Driver

The Question:


I was just wondering how the skill-level of the drivers compares between F1 and various other series. I know that F1 is held up to be the best, but how many seconds off the pace would, say, a mid-field British Touring Car driver be compared to a mid-field F1 driver, or Nascar etc? In fact how far off the pace would someone in your position be approximately?


Gordon Sharpe

The Answer:

Well Gordon a very good question and one that many of my racing friends and I have contemplated about over the years. Most drivers when they start out chasing their dream, probably picture their debut, at Spa, stunning the F1 world with super human qualifying effort, I myself had recurring dreams of a driver getting ill and the team turning to me to “just jump in the car and drive” (although my dream always seemed to be a 956 at Brands Hatch, but I digress).

Obviously only a rare few get all the way to F1, and as much as we’d like it to be true, it’s not all based on talent. Opportunity, family money or a backer of some kind are essential to get there, and those that don’t get all those pieces together, at the right time, end up in different levels and disciplines, from Touring cars to Sports cars to even NASCAR and some just get so frustrated they just give up altogether.

Some drivers are better suited to different types of cars than to others, like the best defender isn’t a great striker or the Opera Tenor can’t sing the Sex Pistols too well.

It’s hard to say who would do what in each others series, as it is still hard to compare even f1 drivers to each other, everyone had written Fisichella off, but he proved in the right car he can still pull it off.

I will say this however, I have seen drivers I have raced toe to toe with, and would perceive as in the same talent pool to me (on one of my good days) run nose to tail and even pass F1 race winners, I’ve also had the chance to run in more basic street type cars on a race track with top Indycar and Sportcar drivers and been able to run them down, does this make me a potential Grand Prix winner, no, or Le Mans champion (well I’d like to think so), but it shows that maybe the differential isn’t too far apart. Go through the top series around the world, a good driver is a good driver and will succeed no matter what car it is.

I will say this however, if a current F1 driver jumps into anything he’s probably going to be pretty quick, as the intensity of F1 keeps you at the height of your skill, if you observed Grand Prix drivers when they came to CART they drove like caged tigers initially but slowly lost that do or die attitude as the intensity wasn’t at that level.

So if you compared them all, in a car that would be easy for all to adapt to, like a sports car, it would be a toss up quite frankly.
But if you put a touring car driver in an F1 car he would struggle, put an F1 driver in a Volkswagen Golf and I think I’d have him.

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