At the highest peaks of premier racing competitions are MotoGP and Formula One. Both leagues often represent the pinnacle of a racer’s career, but they do not share the same category of racing.
How is MotoGP different from Formula 1?
The main difference between MotoGP and Formula 1 is in the vehicles used for racing: as evident in their name, MotoGP is a motorcycling competition, while Formula 1 racers drive single-seater formula cars.
Consequently, MotoGP and Formula 1 also have different classes and racing rules. Their vehicles get their tyres, designs and supplies from a variety of constructor companies, and both have superstars and records unique to their category.
What is MotoGP?
MotoGP—short for Grand Prix motorcycle racing—represents the highest tier for international motorcycle road racing.
Motorcycles for MotoGP are custom-built for road racing. Regularly reaching speeds of 200 km/h and higher, and with unique upgrades to their engines, fuel consumption, and general performance, each motorcycle eclipses any other bike that can be encountered on a public road.
The governing body, Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), holds, supervises, and regulates Grand Prix events. While teams have many options in designing their bikes, such as being able to modify engine configuration, the FIM sets rules to ensure balance. These rules include defining a bike’s minimum permitted weight and maximum engine capacity.
Debuting in 1949, MotoGP has expanded to more than twenty racing circuits as of 2023, and typically features 10 or more teams and around 20 riders. Each annual World Championship season can have more than 20 Grands Prix.
What is Formula 1?
Formula 1 is the headlining act among international formula auto racing competitions, serving as the proving grounds for the world’s fastest road-racing automobiles.
The design for a Formula One car is singularly focused on outracing its opponents. Its very structure, sculpted to maximize aerodynamic downforce and reduce turbulence, sets it starkly apart from all commercial vehicles, and an F1 car can routinely go up to 300 km/h.
Formula 1 is overseen by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), with the Formula One World Championship launching in 1950. The FIA also regulates the design and construction of a formula car.
A Grand Prix is held over a weekend, with Friday and Saturday for practice sessions. Teams must deploy two cars for each Grand Prix, and may field up to four drivers per season. There may be around twenty Grands Prix each year.
Check out this related article for the differences between Formula 1 and IndyCar.
Differences between MotoGP and Formula 1
The first difference between MotoGP and Formula 1 is also the most significant: MotoGP is a racing competition that uses motorcycles, while F1 features automobiles.
Both vehicles are purpose-built strictly for road racing, and cannot be used on public roads.
Racing vehicle regulations exist to maintain a fair and balanced contest among its teams, protect the drivers, while also preserving the high-power spectacle of a Grand Prix event.
Since 2012, MotoGP has mandated that its motorcycles use a powerful four-cylinder engine with an 81 mm bore. The engine may be in a V4 or inline-four configuration. Additionally, each bike’s engine must have a maximum displacement of 1,000 cubic centimetre (cc).
To recap—maximum displacement refers to how much space is swept by an engine’s pistons, and, in layman’s terms, is used as a broad indicator of how large and powerful an engine is and how much fuel it can consume.
Under current 2014 FIA rules, every Formula 1 car has a six-cylinder V6 hybrid engine outfitted with a turbocharger to increase fuel efficiency. The engine has a 1.6 L (1,600 cc) displacement, and a bore length of 80 mm, which is slightly shorter than a MotoGP engine’s. The F1 hybrid engine can run on both gas and electricity.
Brake horsepower is currently the most widely adopted unit of horsepower, measuring how much force is required to brake it.
F1 cars have extremely powerful engines that can output over 1,000 bhp (around 750 kW). MotoGP engines are also plainly superior to other two-wheeled vehicles, but they have a lower power output that tends to be somewhere over 290 bhp (220 KW).
Constructors manufacture vehicles for racing. In the F1 and MotoGP championships, different constructors also vie to produce the designs—particularly for the chassis and engine—which win Grands Prix.
MotoGP typically has fewer constructors in their main World Championship title than F1.
As of 2023, MotoGP has five constructors:
In contrast, the 2023 F1 season has 10 constructors:
- Aston Martin
Some companies, notably Honda, produce parts used for both MotoGP and Formula One.
Pirelli, an Italian tyre manufacturing company, has been the sole supplier of F1 car tyres since an agreement with the FIA in 2011. Michelin, a French tyre company, also has an exclusive contract with MotoGP to provide motorcycle tyres since 2016.
MotoGP’s “big league” is its titular MotoGP class, which uses the aforementioned 1,000 cc maximum displacement four-cylinder engines for its motorcycles.
Below MotoGP are two intermediate classes—Moto2 and Moto3.
- Moto2 motobikes use a Triumph-built three-cylinder engine with a 765 cc maximum displacement.
- Moto3 bikes have a 250 cc single-cylinder engine.
Additionally, MotoGP has an electric motorsport title under the MotoE World Championship, which features all-electric bikes currently manufactured by Ducati (as of 2023.)
The main event of formula racing is the Formula One World Championship, which is divided into 20+ Grands Prix every annual season.
FIA racing has several undercard classes—especially Formula Two and F3, which act as feeder classes that can propel exemplary drivers to future Formula One leagues.
- Formula Two racecars are all cheaper and have similar specifications for chassis, tyre, and engine. Each car uses a much larger 3.4 L V6 turbocharged engine.
- Formula Three cars use a stock-derived 3.4 L engine and have slower average and top speeds than F2 automobiles.
The FIA counterpart to MotoE is Formula E, a spec series where each EV uses the same battery design as its competitors. A Formula E car is deceptively fast and can run up to 322 km/h.
MotoGP and Formula One hold their Grand Prix events over a weekend—the conventional setup is a period of three days, from Friday to Sunday.
The Grand Prix itself for both championships takes place on a Sunday. Friday and Saturday are reserved for practice sessions. Saturday qualifying sessions determine the final grid for the Sunday event.
A crucial difference between F1 and MotoGP is that the main F1 tracks are circuits, where drivers make laps, while MotoGP racetracks are designed for sprints.
The 2023 MotoGP season was notable for introducing Saturday sprints into every racing weekend, virtually doubling the number of actual races from 21 to 42. Each Sprint event spans half of the actual event route, and offers half the points to add to each driver’s championship rankings.
Likewise, in 2023, F1 introduced its own Sprint race type held on Saturdays.
The average F1 race is designed to take approximately 90 minutes to finish, although this time varies in practice. In contrast, a MotoGP racetrack will typically be covered in roughly half the time—45 minutes.
F1 drivers make quick stops to their team at a pit lane for front or rear wing repair, refuelling, chassis and brake maintenance, and—most importantly—tyre changing. The FIA stipulates each driver must take at least one pit stop per race, and use at least two types of tyre compounds.
By virtue of lasting half as long as an F1 race, MotoGP racetracks do not have pit stops. A driver will have a second bike equipped for wet weather prepared before each contest.
Formula One and MotoGP circuits can either be purpose-built for racing (Race), set on a public track (Road), or contained within a cordoned-off section of a city’s streets.
Some tracks are used by both championships, albeit with modifications that often shorten the track for MotoGP races.
- Circuit of the Americas, Austin, US
- Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria
- Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, UK
- Circuit de Barcelona-Catelunya, Montmeló, Spain
Examples of F1 circuits used in 2022 include:
- Sakhir Track, Bahrain
- Jeddah Track, Saudi Arabia
- Melbourne Albert Park, Australia
- Miami Track, Miami
- Circuit de Gilles Montreal, Canada
In contrast, MotoGP circuits include the following tracks:
- Lusail International Circuit, Qatar
- Pertamina Mandalika, Indonesia
- Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina
- Autodromo Algrave, Portugal
- Le Mans, France
Throughout its history, the Formula One World Championship has used 76 circuits since its inception, while MotoGP worked with 73.
The fastest official speed achieved by a Formula One racecar is 397.36 km/h, although it required an unrestricted V10 engine and other modifications not used during races. This record, made in 2006, wasn’t actually set by one of the racers, but by Alan van der Merwe, a driver of an FIA medical car.
Despite being a smaller and less complex vehicle, the fastest top speed set by a MotoGP motorbike is 366.1 km/h; this record came from a Sprint performance by Brad Binder during the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.
As an organized championship, Grand Prix motorcycle racing is one year older than its Formula One counterpart—MotoGP started in 1949, while F1 began in 1950.
The governing bodies for MotoGP and F1 were actually organized nearly half a century before the championships themselves.
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), which guides and regulates all Formula One activities. Apart from the F1/F2/F3 event and Formula E, FIA also handles titles such as:
- Karting World Championship
- World Rally Championship
- World Endurance Championship
- World-Rally-Raid Championship
Likewise, Fédération Internationale de Motorcyclisme directs MotoGP, as well as the following competitions:
- Asia, British and European Talent Cup events
- FIM Sidecar World Championship
- Asia Road Racing Championship
- FIM Supersport 300 World Championship
- Motocross des Nations
- FIM Bajas World Cup
Both the FIA and FIM are non-profit organizations that also promote road and vehicle safety.
Formula One and MotoGP are already prestigious and highly-demanding leagues, but even then, a few drivers over the years have stood apart from their contemporaries in terms of skill, finesse or popularity.
Famous names within the MotoGP roster include:
- Giacomo Agostini. The first legendary figure in MotoGP, with 8 world titles under his belt from 1966 to 1975. He was also a Formula One racer.
- Valentino Rossi. Likely the first name that comes to mind when people discuss extraordinary motorcyclists, having won 7 world titles under Honda and Yamaha. His cognomen is “The Doctor.”
- Marc Marquez. A new rising talent that has won 6 world titles since 2013, even taking four successive wins in a row from 2016 to 2019.
Formula One has its share of popular and successful drivers, many of whom are at least familiar even among non-F1 fans.
- Michael Schumacher. No doubt the definitive Formula One legend, Michael Schumacher was a household name for decades. He has had 7 F1 championship titles, 91 wins and 155 podium finishes.
- Lewis Hamilton. Sharing Schumacher’s feat of seven championship titles, Hamilton debuted in 2007 and won his first title a year later, at age 23. Since then, he has become F1 racing’s most popular driver.
- Sebastian Vettel. Vettel, now retired, was also 23 when he won his first championship, and continues to be the youngest driver to do so. He has claimed the Championship four times in a row, from 2010 to 2013.
Comparison Chart: MotoGP Vs Formula 1
|Engine||V4/inline-four gas engine (1,000 cc)||V6 hybrid engine (1.6 L or 1,600 cc)|
|Engine Power||>1,000 bhp (~750 KW)||>290 bhp (220 KW)|
|Constructor||5 (Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Yamaha)||10 (Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, etc.)|
|Classes||Moto2, Moto3, MotoE||Formula Two, Formula Three, Formula E|
|Race Format||Circuit, Sprint||Circuit, Sprint|
|Race Duration||45 minutes||90 minutes|
|Pit Stops||None||At least once per race|
|Top Speed||366.1 km/h||397.36 km/h|
|Regulating Body||Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM)||Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)|
|Notable Drivers||Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Marc Marquez||Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen|
How are MotoGP and Formula One similar?
It’s easy to make out the similarities between MotoGP and Formula One, as they both stand as the most prestigious racing competition for their respective vehicle class. Making it to either the Grand Prix of motorcycle or automobile sport would be the high point in any racer’s career.
Formula One and MotoGP use special vehicles that are the cutting-edge for modern mobility. An F1 car or a MotoGP bike would vastly outperform anything else on a road. Their engines, designs and technologies are not available to the public, and take billions of dollars to develop and test. The world’s leading auto and bike industries compete with each other to produce the best vehicle.
Both have circuit and sprint race types and the same general format for racing events—with a Grand Prix taking three days, most commonly Friday-Saturday, with practice and qualifying sessions followed by the Sunday main event.
Why are Formula One cars not street legal?
For all of the technological advancement, safety, precision and care placed into creating a Formula One car, it is still not street-legal due to not complying with the regulations set by the Department of Transportation, either in the United States or abroad.
Note that the design for an F1 car is optimized for racing, not for public driving. As such, many ordinary car parts are modified or outright removed. Its tires, seat belt, steering system, and overly low ground clearance are not up to DOT specifications. Furthermore, F1 cars lack a horn, head and tail lights, mufflers, reflectors, or blink indicators.
Why don’t MotoGP bikes have ABS?
An anti-lock braking system is found on public and commercial automobiles, motorbikes, and even airplanes, and aids in traction control and braking by stopping wheels from locking during a brake.
The reason MotoGP motorbikes don’t have an ABS is because the riders are skilled enough that they can manually control the bikes’ brakes better, leading to harder and more precise braking.
Additionally, while ABS is often included for safety, it is not as effective in accident prevention as a driver’s sense of alertness and vehicle control.
What sets motorsport’s two most prestigious titles apart from one another?
The key difference between MotoGP and Formula One is that MotoGP is a motorcycling competition, while F1 is a race among automobiles.
Vehicles for both categories are custom-built powerhouses. F1 cars in 2023 have 1.6 L V6 hybrid gas-electric engines that can output over 1,000 bhp of power, while MotoGP bikes have smaller 1,000 cc V4 engines that run on gas and can pump out over 290 bhp.
With a smaller vehicle form, however, the top speed recorded from a MotoGP motorcycle is only slightly lower (366.1 km/h) compared to an F1 car’s fastest speed (397.36 km/h).
Different companies construct the bikes and F1 cars. Michelin supplies MotoGP cycle tyres exclusively, while Pirelli has a similar deal making tyres for Formula One. The FIA holds court over F1 proceedings. FIM does the same for MotoGP.
On the racetrack, F1 and MotoGP have more visible differences. While both schedule Grand Prix events usually throughout a weekend, beginning Friday, the main F1 event on Sunday takes twice as long as the MotoGP Grand Prix. F1 races run up to 90 minutes, with MotoGP ones finishing after 45 minutes.
Because of the shorter timeframe, MotoGP races don’t usually have pit stops. F1 racers need to visit their pit stop at least once in each race.