Northern Californians are fortunate to have some of the most famous race tracks within spitting distance of each other. San Franciscans are about an hour south of Sonoma Raceway and only a couple of hours north of Laguna Seca in Monterey. Laguna Seca hosts multiple high-profile motor racing events, including Indycar and World Superbike (sans 2005-2012; 2020-2021), and hosted MotoGP from 1988-2013. It’s a world-famous race track with a reputation to match, so it’s no surprise that professional racing cars try to one-up each other every so often. This time, an F1 car proves once again why it’s in the world’s premier racing series at the hands of an Indycar driver.
Pato O’Ward takes the McLaren MP4-13A for a spin
The Racer Youtube channel showed Mika Hakkinen’s world championship-winning West McLaren MP4-13A completing the circuit at the hands of Pato O’Ward in 1:10.3. That makes the McLaren about 0.5-seconds quicker than Herta’s pole lap and almost a full second faster than O’Ward’s qualifying time. Hakkinen’s 1998 McLaren used a Mercedes-AMG 3-liter V10 pushing 800 horsepower to the rear wheels and weighed just 1,330 pounds lock, stock, and barrel. It won 8 out of 16 races in 1998, cementing Hakkinen’s first world driver’s championship win. With all that in mind, however, the F1 car doesn’t appear much faster.
Classic F1 vs. Modern Indycar
Indycar competed at Laguna Seca for the 2021 season earlier this year in September. Colton Herta dominated the race for Andretti Autosport, earning pole position and taking the checkered flag. His pole time was 1:10.79. Current Indycars weigh 1,650 pounds and use 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6s running on E85 fuel, putting out 810 maximum horsepower with push-to-pass. Andretti Autosport uses the Honda engine, with Chevrolet being the other engine supplier of the series.
Just 11 turns and 2.2 miles
Laguna Seca has 11 turns and lots of elevation changes. The first corner is technically a kink to the left, over an off-camber crest, then the track dips down into a hairpin that swings into a double right-hander, which continues gradually uphill into turn 5. The track gets steeper still, heading into the left-hand turn 6, which leads to a downhill chicane that drops almost six stories, known as the “corkscrew”. Drivers have a little time to shake off the corkscrew with a sweeping left, which drops down into a 90-degree right-hander before a hard left onto the main straight. One lap is enough to motivate one’s lunch for a projectile escape.
Indycar still has the last laugh
While the 1998 McLaren is impressively quick, it’s a far cry from the Laguna Seca lap record. That belongs to Helio Castroneves for Team Penske, setting a 1:07.722 in the CART championship for the 2000 season. Maybe the McLaren deserves another shot at the record with a different driver, but it’s not likely considering Pato O’Ward’s racing record. Maybe give O’Ward a few more practice laps and might show what the McLaren is capable of.