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Difference Between Formula 1, 2, and 3 Racing

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Formula racing holds a particularly high level of prestige in the motorsport world. Fans and casual viewers alike are captivated by the scene’s sleek and streamlined cars, the drivers’ daring maneuvers on the road, and oftentimes, the iconic stories and legends woven around the drivers themselves. 

While Formula 1 racing remains the most popular class, F2 and F3 also have large fan followings in their own right.

How are Formula 1, F2 and F3 racing different?

The main difference between Formula 1, 2 and 3 concerns the type of cars that are used; F1 teams use unique models and constantly innovate their cars, which are - by far – the fastest among the three. In contrast, F2 and F3 race cars are either identical or use the same chassis. 

What is Formula One?

ferrari f1 75
The new Ferrari F1-75, a Formula One racing car designed and constructed by Scuderia Ferrari, driven by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr in the 2022 Formula One World Championship

Formula One – or F1 – racing represents the highest tier of open-wheel international racing governed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), boasting the most breakneck speeds and biggest budgets.

F1 race cars are open-wheeled: their wheels are located outside of the main body. They also have an open cockpit, a single-seat, and a front and rear wing. F1 cars are renowned for being among the fastest paved-road racing cars that are currently in operation.

Developing the best chassis and engine for an F1 vehicle is a crucial aspect of the sport, with the entities that are responsible for designing such parts – such as Ferrari and McLaren – being called Constructors.

A Formula One sporting event is more commonly known as a Grand Prix, lasting three days and using a point-based scoring system.

What is Formula Two?

dallara f2 2018
The Dallara F2 2018, the racing car used in the FIA Formula 2 Championship since 2018

Formula Two has undergone many reboots and revivals since the end of the Second World War, but it has always filled the role as an F1 feeder series.

It is one of the final, most significant stepping stones that a driver can take before qualifying for the illustrious Formula One grid. The format’s current incarnation is designed to be affordable for competing teams, making it more attractive as a training ground for aspiring F1 drivers.

F2 racers drive cars with identical specs and depend on the same pool of engineers and tyre suppliers to even the playing field and ensure that their technique on the road is the sole determinant of how well they fare.

What is Formula Three?

dallara f3 2019
The Dallara F3 2019 is used in the FIA Formula 3 Championship; like F2, the F3 Championship is a spec series, so the same racing car is used by every team and driver competing in the series

Formula 3 refers to the high-end junior racing tier of the Formula series, serving as a venue for the best upcoming racers to advance into more prestigious classes. 

Similar to Formula 2 regulations, the current FIA Formula 3 Championship rules call for all cars to be derived from the same make and model, employing the same constructors, engineers and support staff.

Although formidable in their own right, F3 vehicles are the lightest and least powerful among its more prestigious counterparts. The cars also utilize the same monocoque chassis used by its F2 peer. The most common F3 constructors include Mygale and Dallara. 

Differences Between Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3

Car Models

Formula 2 and F3 racers handle vehicles with identical engines, chassis, and other components, as their competitions are based around the principle of letting a driver’s skill determine his success and potential to advance to Formula One.

In sharp contrast, F1 racers have the liberty to drive customized vehicles, specially designed by their constructors to give them a technological edge over their competitors through better acceleration, handling and other qualities.

Top Speed

F1 racers blitz around the track at blindingly-fast speeds, with their average car speed clocking in at around 260 kph (161 mph). 

Surprisingly, the current record for the fastest F1 car speed achieved has not been beaten since 2006, when Valtteri Bottas and the Honda F1 team hit 397.36 kph.

F2 cars are able to hurtle up to speeds of 335 kph, while F3 cars hit the wall significantly sooner – reaching a max speed of 300 kph.


An average F1 car can jolt from a complete stop to 60 mph (96.56 kph) in 2.4 seconds, 0-100 kph in 2.6 seconds, and 0-200 kph in 4.5 seconds, although their acceleration can ramp up significantly after that thanks to their aerodynamics.

F2 vehicles can reach 100 kph from a halt in just 2.9 sec, and 200 kph in 6.6 sec. 

An F3 car takes slightly longer to get to 100 kph, arriving at that speed after 3.1 sec, and to 200 kph in 7.8 sec.


Present-day F3 cars are installed with a 3.4 L naturally aspirated Mechachrome V6 engine, outputting 380 HP at 8,000 rotations per minute.

F2 cars use a more powerful 3.4 L V6 engine able to deliver 620 HP at 8,750 rpm. 

Since F1 cars are customized, the cutting-edge engines used by various cars can differ according to their Constructor. An F1 engine itself is better known as a “power unit”, a hybrid petrol combustion and electric motor system, capable of outputting an average of 1,000 bhp at a whopping 18,500 rpm.


Pirelli remains as the main tyre manufacturer for all FIA series, with F3 cars in particular using 13-inch tyres. In contrast, F2 vehicles utilize much larger 18-inch compound tyres.

2022 saw Formula One switch to 18-inch tyres in future competitions from its earlier regulations requiring the use of 13-inch tyres.

Driver’s Salary

Formula One racers are the main spectacle of a Formula event, and their prestige is reflected in their earnings. Depending on their contract, an F1 racer can earn somewhere from 500 thousand to 55 million USD annually, with juggernauts like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton having an income of 25-30 million USD.

In stark contrast, F2 and F3 racers are compensated rather poorly. Being junior racers, they regularly have to pay their teams to occupy a racing position, and whatever compensation they receive is usually from personal sponsorships.

Participating Teams

The FIA Formula One and F3 championship series currently boast a roster of ten teams each, while F2 has eleven teams in its lineup. The teams for each tier are listed below.

Formula One

  • Ferrari
  • Mercedes
  • Red Bull Racing
  • Alpine
  • Haas F1 Team
  • Alfa Romeo
  • AlphaTauri
  • McLaren
  • Aston Martin
  • Williams

Formula Two

  • Prema Racing
  • Virtuosi Racing
  • Carlin
  • Hitech Grand Prix
  • Art Grand Prix
  • MP Motorsport
  • Campos Racing
  • Dams
  • Trident
  • Charouz Racing System
  • Van Amersfoort Racing

Formula Three

  • Similar to Formula Two, with the sole exception being that the Jenzer Motorsport racing team replaces Virtuosi Racing and Dams.


Apart from their respective FIA World Championship series, other championships exist for F2 and F3 racing. 

The F3 series, for instance, has regional championships like Formula Renault AsiaCup for racers in Asia; and series in the Americas, Europe, Japan, India, and New Zealand; and another series for women.

Formula Two also has region-based championships such as the Australian Formula 2. Defunct F2 scenes include Formula Nippon in Japan, Formula K in Mexico, and Trophées de France in the 1960s.

Due to its costly and specialized vehicles, F1 racing is largely confined to the World Championship Series.


Formula One marks the summit of the career ladder for Formula racers. Its Grand Prix events are considered world-class, attract the lion’s share of Formula fans, and garner the largest portion of the series’ revenue.

F2 enjoys a reputation as the culminating step for a driver to take to demonstrate that they have the skill for entering Formula One. In a similar vein, F3 is seen as the high-end proving grounds for junior drivers moving up in the racing scene.

Date Established

Grand Prix motor racing originated as early as 1894 in France. In 1946, the FIA standardized the rules for Formula One, and F1 was recorded as being established with the World Championship of Drivers four years later, in 1950. 

The current F1 era started in 2014 with its use of 1.6 L turbocharged, six-cylinder hybrid power units.

F2 was codified in 1948, two years after Formula One was standardized. The FIA adopted the rules for Formula Three shortly after, in 1950.

Comparison Chart: Formula 1 Vs Formula 2 Vs Formula 3

AreasFormula 1Formula 2Formula 3
Car ModelsCustomizedOne-makeOne-make
Top Speed397.36 kph335 kph300 kph
Acceleration0-100 kph: 2.6 sec
0-200 kph: 4.5 sec
0-100 kph: 2.9 sec
0-200 kph: 6.6 sec
0-100 kph: 3.1 sec
0-200 kph: 7.8 sec
EngineHybrid petrol and electric power unit;1,000 bhp @ 18,500 rpm3.4 L V6 engine: 620 bhp @ 8,750 rpm3.4 L V6 engine: 380 bhp @ 8,000 rpm
Driver’s Salary0.5-55 million USD/yearVaries with sponsorshipVaries with sponsorship
Participating Teams101011
SeriesWorld Championship SeriesFIA; regional championships, i.e. Australian Formula 2FIA; regional, i.e. Formula Renault AsiaCup
PrestigeTop-tierFormula One feederJunior-tier feeder
Date Established194619481950

How are Formula 1, F2 and F3 racing similar? 

Formula One, F2 and F3 still belong under the same umbrella of the Formula Racing motorsport.

All of their vehicles adhere to the same general build of a monocoque chassis built from an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber composite, and use turbocharged engines. They likewise employ similar safety standards, especially the Drag Reduction System (DRS).

Formula events take place over the weekend, from Friday to Sunday, and each tier has its own schedule for practice, qualifying and sprint session, culminating with the F1 main events.


What is Formula E racing?

Formula E refers to the electric car motorsport series of the FIA, known by its full name as the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. 

While Formula One cars are installed with hybrid petrol-electric power units, Formula E cars are powered entirely by batteries and an electric motor. Formula E is currently a one-make series.

Some spectacles are unique to Formula E racing, such as the Fanboost mechanic, which allows fans to help their favourite racers on social media. Racers with the most fan support are given a five-second speed boost to help them gain positions or stay in the lead.

Why is it called Formula racing?

The origin of the word Formula in Formula One racing and its associated series dates back to the earliest days of the FIA, which governed motor racing.

Formula referred to the rules and limitations that the FIA issued to standardize motorsport, as the resulting championships would need to follow a “formula” of rules that dictated everything from a vehicle’s dimensions, its engines, and various safety regulations.


F1, F2 and F3 are three tiers that compose the illustrious Formula Racing series. While the racing format and cars can appear identical on the surface, they each have distinctive qualities.

The key differences between F1, F2 and F3 can be seen in their car models and prestige: Formula One vehicles are customized to provide an advantage to their racers, while F2 and F3 cars are based on the same make and specifications, equalizing the playing field to fit their series’ purpose as the training grounds for Formula One.

F1 cars also have higher top speeds and boast a stronger hybrid engine, although F2 vehicles can accelerate to 100 kph more quickly. Additionally, F1 and F2 both employ 18-inch tires as opposed to the 13-inch tires used by Formula Three.

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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One comment on “Difference Between Formula 1, 2, and 3 Racing”

  1. As a longtime fan and high-level (SCCA National Champion) racer in Formula Ford and Can Am racing I was very happy to discover this excellent summary of Formula Car racing worldwide. Well-organized and informative, it should be in the hands of every journalist engaged in covering amateur and professional racing anywhere in the world. Because of Indy Car and Nascar the American public has a very narrow understanding of the more sophisticated forms of autosports. Nonetheless, racing is as popular in the US as it ever was which warms my heart. Thanks for the good work. Only suggestion I have might be to include typical lap time differences between the different classes. Useful for understanding power to weight differentials. I never raced at a track where my C Sports Racer was not faster than the lap times of the Nascar vehicles with 2-3 times the horsepower. Breaking their track records was fun and educational for the mouth breathers. Good work.

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