Just how fast is a Formula1 car?

The scene: Silverstone,1994
The cast: Mika Hakkinen, Martin Brundle , Philippe Alliot
The props: Mclaren/Peugeot MP4/9 F1, Porsche 911 Carrera, Peugeot 306 S16

All the cars and their respective drivers are on the start line of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit: they will pull away together. OK, yeah, of course you know what's gonna happen .......... obviously the Mclaren will easily win the 1 lap contest - but come on then, just how much quicker is the F1 car than the saloon ................ and how much closer will the Porsche "supercar" finish?

There are some clues BIG clues in the graphics above and below!

The Peugeot 306 achieves 60% of the distsance of the F1 car and ................ wait for it ..................... the Porsche achieves only 66%! - and the Mclaren finsihed the lap over the slower Luffield complex.

Well, you see, the Mclaren is an out and out racing machine of the ultimate competition formula and the other two are just road cars - admittedly, the Porsche is a very powerful and high-performance version - but never the less - still a road car.

A similar test was also done by the Mclaren team at the Estoril GP circuit, on a test day in 1991.This time with Ayrton Senna (no introduction needed!) driving a Mclaren/Honda F1, Alan McNish (F3000 & Mclaren test driver) driving a Porsche 911 Turbo and Gareth Rees (AutoSport young racing driver of the year) driving a Honda Concert 1.6.

The Concerto (driven by Rees) is 1st on the grid (not from qualifying!!), the Porsche Turbo (driven by McNish) 2nd and the Mclaren (driven by Senna) last, which is stopped, engine off and tyre warmers on .......... ready for a delayed, head start for the others!

Well, the Concerto heads off, with a committed but tidy, Rees (with harness, helmet & fireproofs) and the clock is started............ Senna sits calmly - it's going to be a while!.Rees and the Concert manage a few corners at speed and attitude that would be very, very illegal on the road by 20 seconds on the stopwatch, before the start flag is waved for McNish and the Porsche. The boxer flat six roars it's familiar cacophony and McNish shows he's available for offers for a Porsche Supercup drive. He's seen the Concerto disappear around the first bend but he knows it can't have got too far and if he keeps the tail-end tidy, he'll reel it end before the end of the lap............. Senna still sits patiently in the quiet start straight.

The clock now reads 1:10:00 (yeah - 1 minute 10 seconds!!) and the Mclaren pit-crew stroll over to the car, remove the tyre blankets and fire up the awesome Honda V12. Senna screams away from the grid and crosses the line at 1:14:00. Meanwhile, the Porsche is making good progress reducing the gap to the Concerto, which has just about reached the halfway point on the circuit. With 3G acceleration from around 750 bhp and 450 kg all-up weight,, 4G cornering from several tons aerodynamic down-force and ultra-sticky racing slicks and 5G braking from carbon fibre discs glowing red hot............ the Mclaren makes progress at a rate which is visibly in a different league to the road cars.

With the final corner approaching and only the pit straight left, the Porsche has caught the Concerto and powers past it but the deafening scream of the Mclaren F1 car is within ear-shot and appears in McNish's mirror, approaching at much, much greater speed (no hogging the fast lane here - even in a 911 Turbo!!). The elapsed time is now 2:25:00 and Senna squeezes past both other cars, slowing down somewhat to make sure they've seen his over-taking manoeuvre, and heads for the finish flag.

The final positions, of course, reverse those of the start grid. The times:

1) Senna, Mclaren/Honda 1:14:00

2) McNish, Porsche 911 Turbo 2:08:00

3) Rees, Honda Concerto 2:28:00

So ................. work it out .................. the F1 car's lap time of 74 seconds is another 74 secs quicker than the Concerto saloon and 54 secs quicker than the Porsche. In other words it's twice as fast as the Honda and 1.7 times as fast as the Porsche.

Put another way, the Concerto achieves 50% of the speed of the F1 car and ............... as we might now expect.................. the Porsche achieves ony 58% !!

Mika Hakkinen achieves 0-100-0 mph in the time it takes to say his name

(this is the whole thing ..... the tyre marks are were he started from!!)

This Banzai video of Johnny Herbert at the Goodwood Festival of Speed is a great demonstration of F1 power ..... not often seen in this sort of burn-out!!