Barring the likes of ballistic land speed record cars, the title of the fastest “thing” on four wheels is most often awarded to Formula 1 racing cars. These purpose-built machines are meticulously engineered to the last ounce, sport high-powered engines, slick aerodynamics, and can achieve g-forces that rival fighter jets.
But just how “fast” is that really? To answer that question, Esso UK organized a speed test at the Silverstone racing circuit between an F1 car and a pair of road-going relatives.
Formula 1 driver Jenson Button found himself behind the wheel of his old 2011 McLaren MP4-26 F1 car, while McLaren reserve driver Kevin Magnussen jumped in the cockpit of a McLaren 650S supercar and development driver Stoffel Vandoorne helmed a Honda Civic Sport hatchback. The video below is optimized for virtual reality playback, so if you have a pair of VR cardboard goggles, you might want to put them on.
The trio attempted Silverstone’s National Circuit, a 1.64 mile short course, and expectedly the road cars were given a ten second head start. Nevertheless, the 2.4-liter V8-equipped MP4-26 caught the 140 horsepower Honda by the time it got to the “Becketts” corner, near the halfway point. Astonishingly, the F1 car passed the 641-horsepower McLaren 650S with just a few feet to spare. A celebratory burnout follows.
Jenson Button later noted, “Obviously we know which one is quicker, but it’s really interesting to see how much quicker around such a short lap.” We’d have to agree.