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For years, Formula 1 race cars did not have speedometers. The latest Formula 1 race cars do allow drivers to see a digital speedometer if they want. But most F1 drivers actually choose not to. Even though races are won or lost by a couple of kilometers per hour, drivers feel other metrics are much more important to their success.

Do Formula 1 race cars have speedometers?

Modern Formula 1 race cars have a high-tech steering yolk with buttons to control many of the car’s functions and a digital screen to display driving data. Drivers have the option to display speed on this screen, but few of them use it.

A green formula 1 car chasing a red Formula 1 car around a corner in a race track, grass visible in the background.
Ferrari F1-75 Formula 1 car | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Formula 1 cars left a traditional, analog speedometer behind decades ago. When F1 cars were still running analog gauges, most teams gave up speedometers to focus on the tachometer instead.

But unlike NASCAR, Formula 1 rules don’t forbid speedometers. As instruments went digital, teams added a speedometer option to the driver’s display. But overall speed is not a critical piece of information for the driver–according to Opera News.

All modern Formula 1 cars do have a GPS measuring the car’s speed. The teams back in the pits monitor their car’s speed, along with lots of other data.

Why don’t Formula 1 drivers care about their speed?

For a race car driver, knowing your engine speed and judging how much traction you have are critical factors when deciding how fast to go. Knowing your overall speed is less important. Why? Because in a race, you go just as fast as you can go.

A pack of Formula 1 cars accelerating from the starting line of a race track during a grand prix.
Formula 1 race cars | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

During a race, a driver accelerates as hard as possible out of every turn. They get as close to the next turn as traction allows, then brake rapidly to navigate the next turn. Does their actual speed matter? Not as much as engine RPM or fuel levels during the race.

Drivers certainly reduce their speed at times. But this is always a strategic decision, often to save their tires or fuel supply. This choice has little to do with what their speed is. In this case, they just choose to race at 90% or 75% of the car’s capabilities.

Do Formula 1 teams care about overall speed?

Every modern Formula 1 car carries a GPS speed tracker. This is so the team back in the pits can monitor the driver’s speed. This is very important for strategy and reviewing the race.

Rearview of a Formula 1 car surrounded by smoke as the driver completes a burnout after winning a race.
Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 car | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Speed is very important to Formula 1 teams. The teams monitor speed on straightaways, through certain corners, and overall speed. They can use this to compare to qualifying laps or compare cars and drivers to one another.

During a race, a team may simply work to reduce lap times. But after a race, the team might use speed at certain points on the track to analyze how lap times could have been lower. This can change their strategy for future races. Next, read more about the top speed of an F1 car or watch one of the fastest F1 cars ever in the video below:


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