Formula One, abbreviated to F1 and also known as Grand Prix racing, is 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, Malaysia, and China, one planned in Turkey, and others discussed for Mexico and South Africa have reinforced the sport's "worldwide" image.
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.
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.
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 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, supercharged 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.
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 Hakkinen 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 forced several teams, such as Prost and Arrows, to withdraw during the 1990s.
During the early 2000s, Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Administration created a number of trademarks and an official website for the sport (formula1.com ) 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.
Main Article: Formula One cars
Modern F1 cars are single-seat, open cockpit, open wheel racers. They must be constructed by the racing teams themselves and are required to be powered by 3.0-litre, ten-cylinder naturally aspirated engines. Estimates put the best engines at or about 900 BHP at 19,000 RPM. Transmissions are mostly 6 or 7-speed semi-automatic, i.e. the driver must signal a gear change with paddles on the steering wheel; however, the clutch, throttle control, and actual gear change are handled electronically during shifts. Drivers must use a manual clutch, controlled via two levers on the back of the steering wheel, for starts.
The cars rely heavily on aerodynamics, using large front and rear wings to create about twice as much downforce as weight; thus in theory an F1 car at full speed could easily drive upside down. The cars are constructed of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre and use a finely tuned blend of fuels which rather closely approximates normal petrol. They use grooved tyres made of highly engineered compounds built for maximum grip and very short lifespan.
Racing and strategy
A Formula One grand prix event takes an entire weekend, beginning with free practice on Friday. Two qualifying sessions take place on Saturday, during which each driver sets a timed "flying lap" on the empty track. The first session determines the order of qualifying in the second session, which in turn determines each driver's starting position on the grid for the race itself, which takes place on Sunday afternoon. Each team is allotted two entries, and though 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 qualifying and 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 nearer ninety minutes. Throughout the race, drivers make one or several pit stops in order to refuel and change tyres.
The FIA awards points to the top eight drivers in each race and their respective teams. The winner of the annual championships are the driver and team with 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 World Champions for a complete list of drivers and constructors champions.
A distinguishing aspect of Formula One is that the teams themselves build the cars in which they compete, unlike such "spec series" as IRL and NASCAR; consequently the terms "team" and "constructor" are interchangeable. F1'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.
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.
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 peaked at eighteen in 2004, and will rise to nineteen in 2005 with the inclusion of the Turkish Grand Prix.
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.
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.
Main Article: List of Formula One people
Formula One has been called the soap opera of the sports world: the exotic locations, vast quantities of money, and famous faces involved in the "F1 circus" lend the sport an aura of glamour entirely absent from most other world sports. Among the notable names in F1 history:
- Bernie Ecclestone, billionaire, president of Formula One Management, and "F1 Supremo"
- Max Mosley, president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
- Jean Marie Balestre , former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile; deeply involved in the FISA-FOCA war
- Jean Todt, Ferrari team principal; Flavio Briatore, Renault team principal; David Richards, BAR team principal
- Sir Frank Williams and Ron Dennis, respective owners of the Williams and McLaren teams
- Peter Sauber, Eddie Jordan and Paul Stoddart, respective owners of Sauber, Jordan, and Minardi
- Michael Schumacher, seven-time World Champion and most successful F1 driver in history; most highly paid sportsman on the planet
- Juan Manuel Fangio, former driver; five-time World Champion
- Ayrton Senna, former driver; three-time World Champion; Brazilian national hero who died after a high-speed crash at Imola, in 1994
- Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, and Jackie Stewart, World Champions
- Stirling Moss, former driver; popularly called "the greatest driver never to win a World Championship"
- Colin Chapman, Lotus founder; revolutionized car design and won numerous championships; died in disgrace in the midst of the DeLorean scandal
- ITV F1 commentators Murray Walker and Martin Brundle, known for their enthusiastic styles and famous gaffes
The future of Formula One
Main Article: Future of Formula One
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.
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.
For 2005, there will be 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.
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 one of these teams 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.
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- 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.
- Grand Prix motor racing
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- Formula1.com — Official site; schedules, statistics, complete race results since 1950, live timing during each race, and some news
- Current regulations from the FIA website
- GrandPrix.com — F1 news and a Grand Prix encyclopædia
- Fun-1 — Daily satirical commentary on current F1 news
- NewsOnF1.com — News, Results, Information, and Statistics
- ITV.com/f1 — News, pictures, and commentary from ITV, F1's British broadcasters; also from Matt Bishop and F1 Racing magazine
- Fuji TV - F1 — Results and ranking from Fuji TV, F1's Japanese broadcasters