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Formula One

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F1 redirects here. For other uses of the abbreviation, see F1 (disambiguation).

Formula One, abbreviated to F1 and also known as Grand Prix racing, is a form of formula racing and the highest class of single-seat open-wheel auto racing. It is a worldwide sport, involving an annual World Drivers Championship and World Constructors Championship, and is the most expensive sport in the world, as annual team budgets average in the hundreds of millions of US dollars. It is based around a series of races (19 in 2005), known as grands prix, on custom-constructed road courses or closed-off street circuits.

The sport has traditionally been centred in Europe, which undoubtedly remains its leading market, but races have also been held in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia. New races in Bahrain and China, one planned for 2005 in Turkey, and others discussed for Mexico, India, Russia and South Africa have reinforced the sport's "worldwide" image.

The sport is regulated by the FIA, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, and is generally promoted and controlled by Bernie Ecclestone.



 and at in
Fangio and Moss at Monza in 1955

Main Article: History of the World Championship for Drivers
See Grand Prix motor racing for history before 1950.
See List of Formula One Grands Prix for results from past seasons and individual races.

Historically, the Formula One series evolved from pre-war European Grand Prix motor racing of the 1920s and 1930s. A number of European racing organizations laid out rules for a World Championship before World War II, but due to the suspension of racing during the war, the drivers championship was not formalized until 1950; a championship for constructors followed in 1958. Non-championship Formula One races were held for many years, but due to rising costs and sinking interest, the last of these ended in the early 1980s.

Early years

Giuseppe Farina won the first World Championship in his Alfa Romeo in 1950, barely beating team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio. However, Fangio won the title in 1951 and four more in 1954 through 1957, his streak interrupted by two-time champion Alberto Ascari of Ferrari. Though Stirling Moss was able to compete with him regularly, Fangio is remembered for dominating Formula One's first decade.

The first major technological development, Cooper's introduction of mid-engined cars, occurred in the 1950s; Jack Brabham, champion in 1959 and 1960, soon proved the new design's superiority, and it quickly and permanently replaced the front-mounted engine model.

The first British World Champion was Mike Hawthorn, who drove a Ferrari to the title in 1958; however, when Colin Chapman entered F1 as a chassis designer and later founder of Lotus, British racing green came to dominate the field for the next decade. Between Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, and Denny Hulme, British teams and commonwealth drivers won twelve world championships between 1962 and 1973.

In 1962, the Lotus team introduced a car with aluminium sheet chassis called a monocoque in place of the traditional tubular chassis; this proved to be the next major technological breakthrough since the introduction of rear-engined cars. In 1968, Lotus painted Imperial Tobacco livery on their cars, thus introducing sponsorship to the sport. It has since become the teams' biggest source of income by far, and cigarette manufacturers remain a major and controversial financial resource for Formula One.

Aerodynamic downforce had slowly gained importance in car design since the appearance of aerofoils in the late 1960s. In the late 1970s Lotus introduced ground effect aerodynamics that provided enormous downforce and greatly increased cornering speeds.

The formation of the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile in 1979 set off the FISA-FOCA war , during which FISA and its president Jean Marie Balestre clashed with the Formula One Constructors Association over television profits.

Rise in popularity

1981 saw the signing of the first Concorde Agreement, a contract which bound the teams to compete until its expiration and assured them a share of the profits from the sale of television rights, bringing an end to the FISA-FOCA war and contributing to Bernie Ecclestone's eventual complete financial control of the sport.

The FIA permanently banned Colin Chapman's ground effect aerodynamics in 1983. By then, however, turbocharged engines, which Renault had pioneered in 1977 with their RS01 car, were producing over 1000 bhp (750 kW) and were essential to be competitive. These cars were and still are the most powerful circuit racing cars ever, but to reduce speeds, the FIA limited fuel tank capacity and boost pressures before banning turbochargers in 1989.

In the early 1990s, teams started introducing electronic driver aids such as power steering, traction control, and semi-automatic gearboxes. Some were borrowed from contemporary road cars; some, like active suspension, were primarily developed for the track and later made their way to the showroom. The FIA, due to complaints that technology was determining the outcome of races more than driver skill, banned many such aids in 1994.

The teams signed a second Concorde Agreement in 1992 and a third in 1997, which is due to expire on the last day of 2007.

On the track, the Williams team dominated the mid-1990s with Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve driving their Renault-powered cars to world championships, interrupted by Michael Schumacher's two titles with Benetton. When Williams's Renault contract terminated in 1998, McLaren and driver Mika Häkkinen collected one constructors and two drivers championships.

Indeed, since 1984, drivers from McLaren, Williams and Ferrari have won all but two World Championships. Due to the vast technological advances of the 1990s, the cost to compete in Formula One rose dramatically; this increased financial burden, combined with three teams' dominance, caused the poorer independent teams to struggle not only to remain competitive, but to stay in business. Financial troubles have forced several teams to withdraw over the last decade, the most recent example being Prost and Arrows during the 2002 season.

Modern F1

The official Formula One logo
The official Formula One logo

The early 2000s have been dominated by Michael Schumacher and a resurgent Ferrari, whilst several driver aids returned due in part to rumours that teams were able to evade the restrictions.

During the early 2000s, Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Administration created a number of trademarks and an official website for the sport ( in an attempt to give it a corporate identity. Ecclestone experimented with a digital television package, known as Bernievision , by which a fan could purchase an entire F1 season, but after poor viewing figures in 2002 the program was discontinued.

The cars

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Ralf Schumacher driving for the Williams team in 2003

Main Article: Formula One cars

Modern Formula 1 cars are single-seat, open cockpit, exposed wheel (known as open wheel) racing machines. Each machine is independently built by a racing team, without collusion between teams (which is strictly banned). These machines are powered by engines that are naturally aspirated, 3000cc in capacity and have 10 cylinders. As of 2005, the engines are required to complete two full race weekends, nevertheless the engines are believed to produce over 900bhp and run at about 19,000+ revolutions per minute (about 40,000 piston movements a second!). The engine must be mated to a gearbox that utilises fixed gears (continuously variable transmissions are banned), and can have a maximum of 7 gears and a reverse that are selectable by the driver. However, while they have to be chosen by the driver, how they are chosen is dependent on the manufacturer. The actual gear changes are handled by computers and electronics that activate the clutch, select the gear specified and reduce any driving difficulties while gear changing. For starting, any form of computer controlled starting is illegal, and a clutch is required to make standing starts. Vehicles are allowed driver aid devices such as power steering (to reduce vehicle loading in turns) and traction control (to limit wheelspin). However, two-way telemetery (electronic communications from external sources to the chassis) are banned.

The design of a Formula 1 car relies extensively on the aerodynamics to generate downforce, or force that pushes the car onto the road. Formula 1 teams utilise Computer Aided Design, Computational Fluid Dynamics, wind tunnel modelling and real-life track testing to design the chassis, while being limited by the regulations published by the FIA. The result is a vehicle that generates nearly twice to three times its own weight in downforce, that has a limited top speed (of about 370km/h, slower than some of the fastest cars at Le Mans and some supercars like the McLaren F1), but can turn around corners at a speed much higher than any other vehicle. Construction of the chassis, engine and components utilise a large amount of aerospace and lightweight materials (aluminimum alloys, carbon fibre, titanium, kevlar) to reduce weight to as little as possible in every element (from engine parts to brake discs and ducting, to drivers seats and their helmets!). There is a minimum weight in Formula 1 of 600kg, but nearly every car is below this weight, and chassis require ballast to meet this minimum weight equation.

The fuel that Formula 1 chassis use is a specialised version of normal unleaded petroleum. The quantitative amounts of core petroleum elements is strictly enforced, but fuel producers aim to maximise combustibility and efficiency and minimise particulates, not to mention wear and tear. The chassis ride on a distant cousin of the road tyre, insomuch as some elements of construction are similar (radial), but a more complex mixture of silica, rubber and other chemicals is used to ensure an extraordinary amount of grip for the lifespan it was created for, in 2005 this is from the beginning of aggregate qualifying on Saturday to the end of the race on Sunday (unless the tyre is damaged in certain circumstances).

In comparison with all other open-wheel racing chassis, Formula 1 is much faster in acceleration and deacceleration and around corners than any other vehicle. Compared to only other premier open-wheel racing series the Indy Cars and Champcars, Formula 1 cars are comparatively lighter (600kg versus 700/800kg), more advanced in their chassis and engine packages (both IndyCars and ChampCars utilise a number of standard packages provided by engine and car builders), produce more horsepower per litre (900bhp from 3000cc compared to 800bhp from 2650cc (OWRS/CC) and 3000cc (IRL)). However, both Indy Racing League and Champ Cars have, on average, more races with a higher average speed (especially at superspeedway ovals like Indianapolis), and theoretically both can produce cars that run faster than Formula 1 cars. However, on a road course, a Formula 1 car would be much faster, highlighted by the difference in pole position times in qualifying between the formulae at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and the Formula One race at the same circuit, where the ChampCar circulated in a respectable 1:19.897 the Formula 1 car circulated in a much better 1:12.275.

Racing and strategy

Main Articles: Formula One racing, Formula One regulations

A Formula One Grand Prix event spans an entire weekend, beginning with the free practice on Friday. Two qualifying sessions determine a driver’s position on the starting grid for Sunday’s race. For the first qualifying session held on Saturday, drivers set a timed "flying lap" on the empty track with unrestricted fuel load. The drivers take off from the pits within a minute off each other. The start order for the qualifying lap is determined by the previous race’s finish order, with the driver on pole position going last. For the first qualifying session of the season the previous year’s championship standing will determine the order.

On Sunday, the second of the qualifying sessions, drivers are to take to the circuit with their race fuel load. At the end of the second session cars are held within the parc fermé and no refueling is allowed unless after the start of the race. Teams have to thus plan the optimum fuel load having both the qualifying and the race in mind. The grid order for the race is determined based on the best aggregate time from the two qualifying sessions.

In the past it was common for slower cars to receive a "DNQ" (did not qualify) designation, teams can no longer risk the cost of showing up without racing; thus all cars who participate in qualifying take part in the race. The teams may not change anything on the car between the qualifying and the race.

The race begins with a warm-up "parade lap," after which the cars assemble on the starting grid in the order they qualified. If a driver stalls before the parade lap, and the rest of the field passes him, then he must start from the back of the grid. As long as he moves off and at least one car is behind him, he can retake his original position.

A light system above the track then signals the start of the race. Races are a little over 300 kilometres (180 miles) long and are limited to two hours, though in practice they usually last about ninety minutes. Throughout the race, drivers make one or more pit stops in order to refuel.

The FIA awards points to the top eight drivers and their respective teams in each race. The winner of the two annual championships are the driver and the team who have accumulated the most points at the end of the season.

Drivers and constructors

See List of Formula One constructors for a full list of teams.
See List of Formula One drivers for a list of all drivers who have competed in Formula One.
See List of Formula One people for a list of the sport's other important figures.
See List of Formula One World Champions for a complete list of drivers and constructors champions.

Formula One teams must build the chassis in which they compete, and consequently the terms "team" and "constructor" are interchangeable; this requirement distinguishes the sport from "spec series" such as IRL and NASCAR. In its early years, F1 teams commonly constructed their engines as well. It has since become rare that a team should construct its own engine, and with the involvement of major car manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler Chrysler, Renault, Toyota, and Honda, such privately-built engines have become less competitive.

Early manufacturer involvement came in the form of a "factory team", i.e. one owned and staffed by a major car company, such as those of Alfa Romeo (now defunct) or Renault. Companies such as Cosworth and Supertec, which had no direct team affiliation, often sold engines to teams who could not afford to manufacture them, but these largely died out in favour of the present system, in which one manufacturer supports one team. Though Toyota, Ferrari (FIAT), and Renault still maintain factory teams, BMW, Daimler-Chrysler, and Honda provide engines and sponsorship for privately-owned teams in return for prominent advertisement on their team clothing and car livery. Some smaller teams, such as Sauber, purchase their engines from larger teams. The only remaining commercial engine-manufacturer is Cosworth, which supplies engines for Red Bull Racing and Minardi.

The sport's 1950 debut season saw eighteen teams compete, but due to rising costs many dropped out quickly. Ferrari is the only still-active team which competed in 1950, and during the 2004 season only ten teams remained on the grid, each fielding two cars. Although teams rarely disclose information about their budgets, it is estimated that they average in the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.

Entering a team now requires a £25 million up-front payment to Bernie Ecclestone, which is then repaid to the team over the season. As a consequence, constructors desiring to enter Formula One often prefer to buy an existing team: BAR's purchase of Tyrrell and Midland's purchase of Jordan permitted both of these teams to sidestep the large deposit.

The FIA has awarded the Formula One World Drivers Championship annually since 1950 and the Formula One World Constructors Championship annually since 1958. German driver Michael Schumacher holds the record for having won the most Drivers' Championships (seven) and Ferrari holds the record for having won the most Constructors' Championships (fourteen). Jochen Rindt has the distinction of having been the only posthumous World Champion.

Each car is assigned a number. The previous season's World Drivers Champion is given the number 1, with his team mate given the number 2. Numbers are then assigned according to each team's position in the previous season's World Constructors Championship. The number 13 has not been used since 1974, before which it was occasionally assigned at the discretion of individual race organizers.

Grands Prix

Cars wind through the infield section of the at the
Cars wind through the infield section of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the 2003 United States Grand Prix

See List of Formula One Grands Prix for a full list of World Championship events.

The number of Grands Prix held in a season has varied over the years. Only seven races comprised the inaugural 1950 season; over the years the calendar has more than doubled in size. Though the number of races stayed at sixteen or seventeen since the 1980s, it has reached nineteen in 2005.

Six of the original seven races took place in Europe; the only non-European race in 1950 was the Indianapolis 500, which, due to its lack of success, was later replaced by the United States Grand Prix. The F1 championship gradually expanded to other non-European countries as well: Argentina hosted the first South American grand prix in 1953 , and Morocco hosted the first African World Championship race in 1958. Asia (Japan, 1976) and Oceania (Australia, 1985) followed as well. The current nineteen races are spread over the continents of Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America.

Traditionally, each nation has hosted a single grand prix that carries the name of the country. If a single country hosts multiple grands prix, they receive different names; for example, Germany, Spain and Britain have at various times held a second race known as the European Grand Prix.

The grands prix, some of which have a history that predates the Formula One World Championship, are not always held on the same circuit every year. The British Grand Prix, for example, though held every year since 1950, alternated between Brands Hatch and Silverstone from 1963 to 1986. The only other race to have been included in every World Championship season is the Italian Grand Prix; it has occurred at Monza, except when it was at Imola in 1980.


See List of Formula One circuits for a list of all circuits used since the 1950s.

Most of the currently used circuits are specially constructed for competition. The only real street circuit is the Circuit de Monaco, used for the Monaco Grand Prix, though a street race in London has been discussed. Some of the other circuits are also completely or partially laid out on public roads, such as those of Spa-Francorchamps or Montréal. The glamour and history of the Monaco race are the primary reasons the circuit is still in use, since it does not meet the strict safety requirements imposed on other tracks. World champion Nelson Piquet famously described racing in Monaco as "flying with a helicopter in your living room."

After the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the 1994 season, the FIA mandated higher safety standards; modern Formula One circuits feature gravel traps and tyre barriers to reduce risk of injury in crashes.

A typical circuit usually features a stretch of straight road on which the starting grid is situated. The pit lane, where the drivers stop for fuel and tyres during the race, and where the constructors work on the cars before the race, is normally located next to the starting grid. The layout of the rest of the circuit varies widely. Some of the curves on circuits have become well known on their own, such as the high-speed Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps.

The future of Formula One

Main Article: Future of Formula One

Formula One went through a difficult period in the early 2000s. Viewing figures dropped, and fans expressed their loss of interest due to the dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.

At present, smaller teams suffer from spiralling costs. Safety also remains a key issue. As such, many want to see rule changes to deal with these issues.

Throughout the 2004 season, Formula One Management president Bernie Ecclestone repeatedly voiced his disapproval of the Silverstone Circuit, and suggested that unless its owners, the British Racing Drivers Club, modernise the facilities, the British Grand Prix would not appear on the 2005 schedule. Following failed negotiations with BRDC president Jackie Stewart in October 2004, Ecclestone announced the race's removal from the next season's provisional calendar. The BRDC and Ecclestone have since come to an agreement to extend the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for another five years, through 2009.

Due to financial difficulty, the future of the French Grand Prix also remains in doubt. However, a Turkish Grand Prix will take place in Istanbul, Turkey for the first time in 2005, and a Mexican Grand Prix has been planned for 2006.

Bernie Ecclestone has also made a promise that F1 will return to South Africa within five years. He has begun talks with a consortium planning to build an F1 circuit in Cape Town. Along with South Africa, Bernie Ecclestone has made a pledge to hold a Russian Grand Prix either in Moscow or St. Petersburg in the near future. Bernie Ecclestone is in nearly continuous talks with potential race promoters all around the world. It is believed that one signicant factor that has F1 searching for venues outside of Europe is the spread of laws in Western nations prohibiting cigarette advertising in sport.

Rule changes

For 2005, there has been a radical overhaul of the technical regulations. Drivers will only be able to use one set of tyres per race weekend, with pitstops for tyre changes being banned (unless the tyre is damaged). Restrictions will also be placed upon downforce in an attempt to slow the cars down and each engine will have to be used for two consecutive races.

A revised qualifying format will be used in 2005. Two separate sessions will be run: the first qualifying session will take place on the day before the race (Saturday) at 13:00, except in the races taking place in North America where it will start at 12:00; the second qualifying session will start the day of the race (Sunday) four hours before the start of the race: in both qualifying sessions each driver will carry up a single timed lap. The starting order for the first qualifying session will be the previous race classification reversed and in the second qualifying session it will be the first session classification reversed. The starting grid will be drawn up according to the fastest aggregate time of each driver, taking into account both qualifying sessions.

Beginning with the 2006 season, the power of engines will also be decreased. In the long run, the FIA intends to introduce greater restrictions on testing and the introduction of standardised electronic units and tyres.

Small teams

The Ford Motor Company's decision to pull out of Formula One exposed the vulnerability of some small teams. Jaguar Racing had been put up for sale, although it has now been bought by Red Bull and will be known as Red Bull Racing.

As for other teams, Jordan and Minardi both relied on Ford's Cosworth engines. Jordan have now clinched a deal to use Toyota engines. Minardi, on the other hand, will continue to use Cosworth engines under Cosworth's new owners. The chances have been greatly reduced, but if a team were to pull out before the beginning of the 2005 season, larger teams would have to enter three cars into each race to make up the numbers, as there must be 20 cars entering each race.

Two new teams are intending to enter Formula One - Midland F1 and Team Dubai. Midland F1 have decided to buy Jordan Grand Prix, thereby avoiding having to pay the large deposit required to enter Formula One.


  • Corteel, M (Ed.) (2003). The Official ITV Sport Guide: Formula One Grand Prix 2003. Carlton Books.
  • FIA Archive. (2004). Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. 25 October 2004.
  • Formula One Regulations. (2004). Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. 23 October 2004.
  • Gross, N et al (1999). Grand Prix Motor Racing. In, 100 Years of Change: Speed and Power (pp. 55-84). Parragon.
  • Insight. (2004). The Official Formula 1 Website. 25 October 2004.
  • Jones, B (1997). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One. Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Jones, B (1998). Formula One: The Complete Stats and Records of Grand Prix Racing. Parragon.
  • Tremayne, D & Hughes, M (1999). The Concise Encyclopedia of Formula One. Parragon.

See also

External links

Official sites

News and reference

Insight and commentary

  • — An online F1 magazine (subscription required)
  • Fun-1 — Daily satirical commentary on current F1 news
  • — Weblog containing regular F1 news and commentary
  • Funo! — Texts, numbers, images and statistics of Formula 1

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46