Formula One Race – where the racers fly on the road
Formula One, which is also known as Formula 1 or F1 is one of the most sought after, prestigious motorsports in the word. It is the highest class of single-seater auto racing authorized by FIA – Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. Now Formula One group owns it.
It has remained one of the most prestigious events since its inception in the year 1950. In 1981, it became the ‘FIA Formula One World Championship’, the previous name was “The World Drivers’ Championship.”
The organizers conduct a series of races in a Formula One championship and named it as Grands Prix (means ‘great prizes.’). It takes place all over the world in purpose-built circuits and sometimes on closed roads. In ‘Formula One’, the word ‘formula’ refers to the set of rules to which every participating car should conform.
Objective of the sport
The objective of Formula One contest is to determine the winner of the race. The driver who finishes the lapses first becomes the winner.
The prior European Championship of Grand Prix motor racings in the 1920s and 1930s led to the formation of Formula one race.
Formula One was a set of new rules proposed and was agreed upon after World War II in 1946. The first non-championship race was held in that year.
The first Formula One race held was Turin Grand Prix. Then, many Grand Prix racing organizations formulated rules for world championships.
It didn’t come into force due to the war. And the first world championship was held in Silverstone, the United Kingdom in 1950.
Then in 1958, the championships for constructors followed. National championships were held in the UK and South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.
During those years, non-championship events were also held but stopped in the year 1983, due to increasing costs.
Return of racing
Giuseppe Farina, an Italian won the first World Championship for Drivers in 1950. Then Juan Manuel Fangio, an Argentine won the Championships in 1951, 1954,1955, 1956, and 1957.
The record for winning the title five times stood unbreakable until German driver Michael Schumacher won his sixth title in 2003.
Stirling Moss from the U.K. took part regularly but was not able to win the championship. He is the greatest driver who never won the championship.
But Juan Manuel Fangio was a popular name in the first decade of the championship. Now we know him as the “Grand Master” of Formula One.
The car manufacturers like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Maserati managed the teams, who competed before the war.
In the first seasons, the drivers used cars like Alfa 158. The cars used front engines, narrow tires, and 1.5-liter supercharged or 4.5-liter naturally aspirated engines.
In 1952 and 1953, the racers used smaller and less powerful cars in the World Championships due to the non-availability of Formula One cars.
New Formula One came into the scene again in 1954 and Mercedes-Benz introduced the advanced W196 which had new features like desmodromic valves and fuel injection and enclosed streamlined bodywork.
Britains made their mark
With the winning of championships by the Britains Mike Hawthorn and Vanwall in 1958, the dominance of Britains in the race set in.
Though not winning the title, Stirling Moss earned a reputation as the greatest driver.
Hawthorn, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, and Graham Hill were the famous British drivers, and they won nine Drivers’ Championships between them. The British teams also won fourteen Constructors’ Championship titles between 1958 and 1974.
In the racings, the British car Green Lotus, with an aluminum-sheet monocoque chassis instead of the space frame design was the dominant car. In 1968, the team was the first one that put advertisements on their cars.
Advancement of Technology
The first major technological development in Formula One was the re-introduction of mid-engined cars by Bugatti.
It was unsuccessful initially. But, the Australian Jack Brabham, won the championships in 1959, 1960 and 1966, and proved the quality of the mid-engined cars.
In 1961, the Ferguson P99 was the last F1 car with the front engine that participated in the world championships. By the time, all regular competitors began to use mid-engined cars.
In 1962, Lotus introduced aluminium-sheet chassis instead of space-frame design. It proved to be a great innovation. Then in 1968, Lotus first painted the cars with sponsorship ads.
During the late 1960s, aerodynamic downforce gained importance in car design. Then, in the late 1970s, Lotus introduced ground-effect aerodynamics that provided large downforce which increased cornering speeds.
To counter the aerodynamic forces, the designers started to use stiff springs, which turned the suspension into a solid one. And the cars began to depend on the tires for any cushioning effect required to handle the irregularities on the road.
Grew into a large business
Bernie Ecclestone brought the changes in the management of commercial rights and was the reason for turning the sport into today’s multi-billion dollar business.
In 1971 Ecclestone bought the Brabham team and became a member of the Formula One Constructors Association. Subsequently, he became the president of the association in the year 1978.
After the intervention of Ecclestone, the teams jointly negotiated for income share with the circuit owners. Previously, the circuit owners dealt with the teams individually.
As a result of his taking charge, the circuit owners accepted a package and in return, they offered trackside advertising.
The Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) was formed in the year 1979. Disputes between FISA and FICO gained ground as television revenues and technical regulation became the point of contention.
The controversies led to the coming of an agreement, the Concorde Agreement in the year 1981. The agreement assured technical stability and the dispute over television rights and administration also came to rest.
In 1983, FISA put a ban on ground-effect aerodynamics. Then, turbocharged engines used by Renault produced 520 kW and played a crucial part in the competitions.
Consequently, in 1986, a turbocharged engine produced by BMW achieved 970 kW.
The cars were the most powerful ones in the open circuits. Then, FIA limited the fuel tank capacity in 1984 and finally banned the turbocharged engines in 1989.
During the 1980s, the development and use of electronic aids came to play a major part in the races. It led to the changes in the active suspension, traction control and also introduced semi-automatic gearboxes.
In 1994, the FIA banned the changes effected by electronic aids as it received complaints about the precedence taken by technology over the skill of the drivers.
To avoid controversies from surfacing again, the teams signed a second Concorde agreement in 1992 and a third in 1997.
Porsche, Honda, Mercedes Benz, and Renault were the cars the champion drivers from McLaren, Williams, and Brabham used during the 1980s and 1990s.
In the 1990s, a famous racer Ayrton Senna and another race driver Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives during racing.
The FIA worked to improve safety measures and also implied change in rules. It resulted in the introduction of cars with smaller rear tires, a narrower track and tires with grooves to reduce mechanical grip.
McLaren, Williams, Renault, and Ferrari were the famous teams that won the championships from 1984 to 2008. The teams also won the Constructors’ Championships from 1979 to 1997.
Naming of Grand Prix
In every Formula One tournament, each Grand Prix is held in a different country. And the Grand Prix is named after the country.
For example, a GP held in Australia is called as Australian Grand Prix. But, a GP can be held in the same or different cities of the host country every year.
The racing distance
As per the rule, the minimum total distance of a Grand Prix race is 300 km or 190 miles. It also includes the predefined number of lapses.
Though this is a standard distance for all races, for the Monaco GP it is 260 km or 160 miles.
Number of Teams
The present rule permits 11 teams and each team should have two cars to participate in the championship.
Grand Prix World Championship
The organization combines the results of all the Grand Prix Races to decide the annual championships awards. The organizers choose two teams, one for the drivers’ championship award and the other for the constructors’ championship award.
Design of the car and the specifications & rules
The cars permitted in the championship are an open-wheel, open-cockpit, and single-seat racing cars. The car has front and rear wings with the engine located behind the driver.
Every F1 car consists of two main parts – the chassis and the engine. The cars are made from carbon fiber and ultra-lightweight parts. The minimum prescribed weight of the car is 702 kg. It includes the driver and the tires but not the fuel.
The dimensions of the formula one car must be 180 cm in width and 95 cm in height. There is no specification for the length but the cars that participate in the race are having the near same length.
The F1 organization conducts the race on specifically built racing tracks called ‘circuits’ and sometimes it also conducts the race on closed public roads.
According to regulation changes in 2014, all F1 cars must deploy 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 engines.
Semi-automatic sequential carbon titanium gearboxes are used by F1 cars presently, with 8 forward gears and 1 reverse gear, with rear-wheel drive.
The steering wheel of an F1 car is equipped to perform many functions like changing gears, changing brake pressure, calling the radio, fuel adjustment, and so on.
The fuel used by Formula One cars is a tightly controlled mixture of ordinary petrol, and can only contain commercial gasoline compounds rather than alcohol compounds.
Formula One cars have been using smooth thread, slick tires since 2009. The tyre dimension of an F1 car are −
Front Tyre − 245mm (width)
Rear Tyres − 355mm and 380mm (width)
Formula One cars use disc brakes with a rotor and caliper at each tyre.
Speed and Performance
All F1 cars can accelerate from 0 to 100 mph (160 kmph) and decelerate back to 0 in under 5 seconds. F1 cars have reached top speeds of about 300 kmph or 185 mph on average.
However, some cars, without fully complying with F1 standards have attained speeds of 400 kmph or more. These numbers are mostly the same for all F1 cars but slight variations may be there due to the gears and aerodynamics configuration.
Formula One – Safety Gear
In the initial years, the race witnessed many accidents, and many racers and spectators lost their lives. By using modern research and technology, Engineers developed safe cars and safety gear. And it helped in reducing the number of untoward incidents in the last decade.
The racer should wear the standard helmet and it is compulsory. It is very strong, but light in weight so that it doesn’t disturb the driver at high speeds.
It consists of several layers that undergo many tests and the helmets should meet the FIA standards. The helmets are fire resistant also and usually weigh around 1.2kg.
HANS is an abbreviation for Head and Neck Support. It protects the vertebrae and also avoids the collision of the head to the steering wheel in case of an accident.
It is made of carbon fiber material and is attached to the seat belt in the cockpit. FIA introduced the HANS after a major collision in 1995, Australian Grand Prix.
The drivers wear a multilayered suit that conforms to the specifications of NASA. It protects the racers from fire accidents in case of a crash.
Nomex is the name of the material used to make suits for the F1 drivers. The suit undergoes thermal testing and is fire resistant and lightweight. The Nomex fiber survives temperatures up to 700 – 800 degrees Celsius for more than 10 seconds.
The pit crew also wears the suit. There are two handles on the suit with which the driver is attached to the seat. It helps the pit crew to recover the driver in one piece with the seat in case of a crash.
Formula One – Popular Terms
Know the popular terms used in Formula One and understand the language of the sport better.
107% rule – As per the rule, a driver should not exceed 107 percent of the fastest time in the qualifying session. The driver won’t be allowed to start the race if he fails to do so.
Backmarker – Backmarkers are the drivers who lag behind. They are shown a blue flag and they give way for leading drivers.
Blistering: It is the breaking off chunks of rubber from the tire and it is due to wrong selection of rubber compound.
Cockpit: It is the seating area of the driver in a F1 car.
Delta Time: It is the difference of time between two laps or two cars.
Drive-through penalty – It is a penalty given for minor violations of a rule on the track. The driver has to drive at minimum speed and enter the pit lane without stopping and then he can rejoin the race.
Flat Spot – It is the part of the tyre where it is heavily worn out due to spin or extreme braking.
Warm-up lap – The cars go for a lap from the grid position before the start of the race and then get back to grid positions. It is known as the warm-up lap.
Jumpstart – The cars should start from the grid position only after all the red lights go off. Sensors identify the cars which start before the signaling. And we call it a jump start.
Lollipop – It is the signboard at the pit stop that signals the driver to apply brakes and stay in first gear. Then the workers in the pit will lower the car from jacks.
Parc ferme – It is the area where no team members enter. After the completion of the race, the cars come back to this area and race stewards supervise the area.
Pit board – It is a board in the pit wall to inform the driver about delta time, the remaining number of laps, and the current position.
Pit wall – It is the area where the manager, engineers, and support staff watch their cars by using a small screen under a shelter.
Pits – It is the area of the track separated by a wall. The changing of wheels, refueling, and other changes of a team take place in this pit garage.
Pole position – It is the first grid position. The driver who recorded the fastest time during the qualifying round gets this position.
Steward – An official appointed for races who make important decisions.
Tyre warmer – It is an electronic monitoring system, which monitors the tyres. It helps to maintain the optimum temperatures before the start of the race.`
Visor strip − It is the extra protection for the top edge of the helmet and it is a high-resistant carbon fiber material.
Constructor – In the year 1981, FIA passed a rule, which stated that the teams have to build their own engine and chassis of the car. And, the Constructor is the owner of the engine and chassis.
Circuit – Formula One Circuits are the tracks on which the FIA conducts races and they build with the right specifications. The two types of circuits are Street Circuit and Road Circuit.
Formula One – Rules & Regulations
The Formula One race starts with a warm-up lap also called the formation lap. The racers use the pit lanes, which are the tracks away from the grid. They do it thirty minutes before the actual race begins.
There is no restriction and the racers can take any number of drives at this time. Then the drivers have to take their positions on the grid as per their qualifying order.
The starting light is a set of 10 red lights in 5 pairs of columns and the race begins with the starting lights after all the cars take the position on the grid.
Each column lights one after the other at an interval of one second from left to the right direction. After all the lights are on, it will stay in that way for a few seconds and all of them will go off to mark the beginning of the race.
In the case of any interruption, the five red lights will get illuminated again. Then, the lights won’t go off and orange lights will be lit up instead, to mark the restarting of the race.
The racers who finish in the first, second, and third positions will be awarded trophies. The winner’s team also will receive a trophy for the constructor.
In earlier times, the racers refueled the cars during the race. But from the year 2010, the organizers banned it and the cars had to enter with the loaded tank. Then, again from the year 2017, the racers refuel the cars and the rules allow it.
The flags are in use to signal some messages to the racers. As in other motorsports, in Formula One, the flags give signals to the drivers to indicate the start or finish, number of laps, bad weather, etc.
Three types of flags used in F1 racing are Status Flag, Instruction Flag, and The Chequered Flag.
In Formula One, we can see the usage of five types of status flags.
It indicates the start of the race or the restart of the race.
It cautions the driver to go slow. Any accident, hazard or rain might be reasons which require this warning.
It indicates danger like bad weather conditions and signals the drivers to return to the pit immediately.
Red and Yellow Striped Flag
It indicates the alteration in the condition of the track due to oil spills, car debris, or sand. It could cause loss of control or reduction in grip.
One can see this flag at the end of free practice sessions on the last corner and pit straight, indicating to the drivers that other drivers are practicing in the pit straight.
Unlike the status flag, the rules allow the instruction flags to use it for one driver only at a time and are of five types.
It is a signal of penalty the driver has to face for breaking some rules. And the driver has to get back to the pit.
Black Flag with Orange Circle
It signals the car to return to the cockpit due to technical problems like any leakages, which might interrupt the proceedings of the race.
Per-bend black/white flag
One diagonal of this flag is black and the other diagonal is white. It indicates a penalty because of the lack of sportsmanship behavior on the part of the driver.
Black flag with white cross
If a driver ignores other black flags this flag signals the driver that he is not scoring anymore.
It signals the driver to make way for the other faster car that comes in his direction.
The Chequered Flag
We all see the chequered flag at the finish line. It indicates that the race is officially over.
Formula One – Grand Prix Format
The Grand Prix takes place on a weekend for three days, i.e. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Different events that take place on these three days are
Friday − Free Practice Sessions
Saturday − Free Practice Session and Qualifying Session
Sunday − Race Day
The Grand Prix has three free practice sessions and the FIA conducts two of the events on Friday and the last one on Saturday.
Third drivers, the drivers who are not regular drivers, also can participate in the practice sessions. The third drivers are newcomers who try to get experience in the sporting event.
The FIA conducts the third practice session on the second day, Saturday for a duration of one hour.
The qualifying session follows in the afternoon and it helps to determine the starting order for the race day.
The qualifying round is of one-hour duration and has three knock out stages – Q1, Q2, & Q3, with a small time interval.
In Q1 all 20 cars participate and it lasts for 18 minutes. Among the cars, they eliminate the five slowest cars and the cars will occupy the positions 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 on the grid.
The Q2 begins after a few minutes and it lasts for 15 minutes. Another five slowest cars will face the elimination and they will occupy the places 11 to 15 on the grid.
The Q3 which lasts for only 12 minutes, helps in the positioning of the remaining drivers in the grid. Among them, the fastest driver occupies the position near the grid called ‘pole position’. And it is the best position to begin the race.
The FIA conducts the main event of the Grand Prix on a Sunday afternoon.
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