Formula One

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Current Season Summary:
2009 Formula One season
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History of Formula One
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Tires · Races

Fernando Alonso qualifying in a Renault Formula One car at the 2005 United States Grand Prix

Formula One, abbreviated to F1 and also known as Grand Prix racing, is the highest class of single-seat open-wheel formula auto racing. It consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, held on purpose-built circuits or closed city streets, whose results determine two annual World Championships, one for drivers and one for constructors. The cars race at speeds often in excess of 300 km/h (185 mph).

Europe is Formula One's traditional centre and remains its leading market; however, Grands Prix have been held all over the world, and with new races in Bahrain, China, Malaysia and Turkey, its scope is continually expanding. Formula 1 cars are the most expensive race cars currently in production and the sport is among the most expensive in the world. As such, its economic impact is significant, and its financial and political battles are widely observed. In recent years, it has also become known for glamour.

The sport is regulated by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, whose president is Max Mosley, and is generally promoted and controlled by Bernie Ecclestone through a variety of corporate entities.


The Formula One series has its roots in the European Grand Prix motor racing (q.v. for pre-1947 history) of the 1920s and 1930s. A number of Grand Prix racing organisations laid out rules for a World Championship before World War II, but due to the suspension of racing during the war, the World Drivers Championship was not formalised until 1947, and was first run in 1950. A championship for constructors followed in 1958. Non-championship Formula One races were held for many years, but due to the rising cost of competition, the last of these occurred in the early 1980s.

The sport's title, Formula One, indicates that it is intended to be the most advanced and most competitive of the many racing formulae.

Early years

Juan Manuel Fangio drove this Alfa-Romeo 159 to the title in 1951.

The inaugural Formula One World Championship was won by Italian Giuseppe Farina in his Alfa Romeo in 1950, barely defeating his Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. However, Fangio won the title in 1951 and four more in the next six years, his streak interrupted by two-time champion Alberto Ascari of Ferrari. Though Britain's Stirling Moss was able to compete regularly, he was never able to win the World Championship. Fangio is remembered for dominating Formula One's first decade and has long been considered the "grand master" of Formula One.

The first major technological development, Cooper's re-introduction of mid-engined cars (following Porsche's pioneering and all-conquering Auto Unions of the 1930s), which evolved from the company's successful Formula 3 designs, occurred in the 1950s. Jack Brabham, champion in 1959 and 1960, soon proved the new design's superiority. By 1961, all competitors had switched to rear-engined cars.

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, Lotus 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 mid-engined cars. In 1968, Lotus painted an Imperial Tobacco livery on their cars, thus introducing sponsorship to the sport.

Aerodynamic downforce slowly gained importance in car design from 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 (though the concept had previously been tested by Jim Hall's Chaparral IndyCar team in the 1960s).

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 repeatedly with the Formula One Constructors Association over television profits and technical regulations.

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, after much negotiation.

The FIA imposed a ban on ground effect aerodynamics in 1983. By then, however, turbocharged engines, which Renault had pioneered in 1977, were producing over 700 bhp (520 kW) and were essential to be competitive. In later years, notably 1987, the Formula One turbo cars produced in excess of 1,000 bhp in racing trim (and perhaps as much as 1,250 bhp in qualifying trim). These cars were and still are the most powerful open-wheel circuit racing cars ever. To reduce engine power output and thus speeds, the FIA limited fuel tank capacity in 1984 and boost pressures in 1988 before banning turbocharged engines 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. However, many observers felt that the ban on driver aids was a ban in name only as the FIA did not have the technology or the methods to eliminate these features from competition.

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 McLaren and Williams teams dominated the 1980s and 1990s. Honda and McLaren dominated much of the 1980s, whilst Renault-powered Williams drivers won several world championships in the mid 1990s, with a McLaren comeback in the late 1990s. The rivalry between racing legends Senna and Prost became F1's central focus in 1988, and continued until Prost retired at the end of 1993. Tragically, Ayrton Senna died in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix having taken over Prost's lead drive at Williams that year. The FIA vowed to improve the sport's safety standards; since that weekend, no driver has died on the track during a race.

Drivers from McLaren, Williams, Renault (formerly Benetton) and Ferrari, dubbed the "Big Four", have won every World Championship from 1984 to the present day. Due to the technological advances of the 1990s, the cost of competing in Formula One rose dramatically. This increased financial burden, combined with four teams' dominance (largely funded by big car manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler), caused the poorer independent teams to struggle not only to remain competitive, but to stay in business. Financial troubles forced several teams to withdraw. Since 1990, 28 teams have pulled out of Formula One. This has prompted former Jordan owner Eddie Jordan to say that the days of competitive privateers are over.

Modern F1

Safety is of paramount concern in modern F1.
File:F1 logo.png
The official Formula One logo is part of the Formula One Administration's efforts to give F1 a corporate identity.

The early 2000s have been dominated by Michael Schumacher and a resurgent Ferrari. The opening of the 21st century saw several records in Formula One being shattered. In 2001, Schumacher set the new record for most Grands Prix ever won; the earlier record holder was Alain Prost, with 51 wins to his name. In 2002, Schumacher also set a new record by claiming the championship earlier in the season than any previous driver by winning the French Grand Prix in July that year. In 2003, Schumacher claimed his sixth championship title, beating out the earlier record-holder, Juan Manuel Fangio with five championships. Schumacher and Ferrari haven't been the only record breakers in this period though. In 2003 Fernando Alonso became the youngest ever pole sitter by qualifying first at Malaysia. Later that year he became the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix when he took the chequered flag at Hungary.

Despite Ferrari's dominance, Kimi Räikkönen had a theoretical chance of claiming the championship in 2003 right until the end of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix. Juan Pablo Montoya also came close in 2003. Ferrari's championship streak finally came to an end on September 25, 2005 when Fernando Alonso clinched the 2005 championship with a third place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix to become the youngest champion to date. Michael Schumacher had been world champion for more than 1,800 days.

In the rulebook, several driver aids returned due in part to developments that allowed teams to evade the FIA "restrictions". Meanwhile, several changes to the rules were made in a bid to improve the on-track action and cut spiralling costs. Most notably, the qualifying format has changed several times since 2003. Another new regulation made drivers start each race with the same level of fuel they had during qualifying, introducing a new tactical element to each team's strategy. Other new restrictions included one making it mandatory for each engine to last two races; a driver that had to have his engine replaced would be penalised by starting at a lower position in the starting grid of the race. Drivers are also no longer allowed to change tires during the race, unless the tires are deemed to be dangerously worn.

The first few years of the 21st century in F1 also saw some controversies and scandals. At the Austrian Grand Prix in 2002, Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher's teammate at Ferrari who was leading the race, was ordered to allow Schumacher to overtake him. The ensuing scandal saw Ferrari slapped with a fine by the FIA, who also banned any further use of team orders in the new rules and regulations. In 2005, the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis saw only three out of ten teams race in a bizarre mishap when it turned out that the Michelin tires for the other seven teams could not be safely used on the surface of the track, causing them to pull out when the FIA refused a change for safety reasons, insisting on keeping to the letter of the regulations.

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

Racing and strategy

Main Articles: Formula One racing, Formula One regulations

A Formula One Grand Prix event spans an entire weekend, beginning with two free practices on Friday, and two free practices on Saturday. Third drivers are allowed to run on Fridays. After these practice sessions, a qualifying session consisting of one "flying lap" (whereby the driver is given an empty track to set his time on, with time measured from a rolling start) determines a driver's position on the starting grid for Sunday's race, with the fastest driver during qualifying given "pole position" and the slowest driver starting last.

The race begins with a warm-up formation 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 may make one or more pit stops in order to refuel, although they are currently not allowed to change tires unless the change is essential (for instance, due to a puncture).

The FIA awards points to the top eight drivers and their respective teams of a grand prix on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis (the race winner receives ten points, the first runner-up eight, and so on). 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

Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari have each won their respective World Championships a record number of times.

See also: List of Formula One constructors, List of Formula One drivers, List of Formula One people, List of Formula One World Champions

Formula One teams must build the chassis in which they compete, and consequently the terms "team" and "constructor" are more or less interchangeable. This requirement distinguishes the sport from series such as IRL, Champ Cars, and NASCAR, which allow teams to purchase chassis, and "spec series" such as Formula 3000, which require all cars be kept to an identical specification. In its early years, Formula One teams sometimes also built their engines, though this became less common with the increased involvement of major car manufacturers such as BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Toyota, and Honda, whose large budgets rendered privately built engines less competitive (and redundant).

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, Peugeot or Renault. Companies such as Climax, Repco, Cosworth, Judd and Supertec, which had no direct team affiliation, often sold engines to teams who could not afford to manufacture them. As the manufacturers' deep pockets and engineering ability took over, these collaborations largely died out in favour of the present system in which a manufacturer supports a single team.

After having virtually disappeared by the early 1980s, factory teams made a comeback in the 1990s and 2000s, with Toyota, Ferrari (FIAT), and Renault owning their own teams and BMW following suit by purchasing another team. Honda has also recently gained control over what was once British American Racing. Others, such as DaimlerChrysler, provide engines and sponsorship for privately owned teams in return for prominent advertisement on their team clothing and car livery. The only remaining commercial engine manufacturer is Cosworth.

The sport's 1950 debut season saw eighteen teams compete, but due to high costs many dropped out quickly. In fact, such was the scarcity of competitive cars for much of the first decade of Formula One that Formula Two cars were admitted to fill the grids. Ferrari is the only still-active team which competed in 1950, and as of 2005 only ten teams remain on the grid, each fielding two cars. Although teams rarely disclose information about their budgets, it is estimated that they range from US$75 million to US$500 million each.

Entering a new team in the Formula One World Championship requires a £25 million (about US$50 million) up-front payment to the FIA, which is then repaid to the team over the course of the season. As a consequence, constructors desiring to enter Formula One often prefer to buy an existing team: B.A.R.'s purchase of Tyrrell and Midland's purchase of Jordan allowed both of these teams to sidestep the large deposit.

Each car is assigned a number. The previous season's World Drivers' Champion is designated number 1, with his teammate given number 2. Numbers are then assigned according to each team's position in the previous season's World Constructors' Championship. There have been exceptions to this rule, such as in 1993 and 1994, when the current World Drivers' Champion was no longer competing in Formula One. In this case the drivers for the team of the previous year's champion are given numbers 0 and 2. The number 13 has not been used since 1974, before which it was occasionally assigned at the discretion of individual race organizers. Before 1996, only the world championship winning driver and his team generally swapped numbers with the previous champion – the remainder held their numbers from prior years, as they had been originally set at the start of the 1974 season. For many years, for example, Ferrari held numbers 27 & 28, regardless of their finishing position in the world championship. As privateer teams quickly folded in the early 1990s, numbers were frequently shuffled around, until the current system was adopted in 1996.

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.

Grands Prix

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

See also: List of Formula One Grands Prix

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 had stayed at sixteen or seventeen since the 1980s, it 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 lack of participation by F1 teams, 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 in 1976) and Oceania (Australia in 1985) followed. The current nineteen races are spread over the continents of Europe, Asia, Oceania, 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 in a year, they receive different names. For example, every year two grands prix take place in Germany, one of which is 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 always taken place at Monza, with one exception in 1980 when it took place at Imola (which now hosts the San Marino Grand Prix).

One of the newest races on the Grand Prix, held in Bahrain, represents Formula One's first penetration into the Middle East with a high tech purpose-built desert track. The Bahrain Grand Prix, along with other new races in China and Turkey, present new opportunities for the growth and evolution of the Formula One Grand Prix franchise whilst new facilities also raise the bar for other Formula One racing venues around the world.


The Autodromo Nazionale Monza, home to the Italian Grand Prix, is one of the oldest-used circuits in Formula One.

See also: List of Formula One circuits

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 during the race, and where the teams 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, although in most cases the circuit runs in a clockwise direction. Those few circuits that run anticlockwise (and therefore have predominantly left handed corners) can cause drivers neck problems due to the enormous lateral forces generated by F1 cars pulling their heads in the opposite direction to normal. Many corners have become well known in their own right, such as the high-speed Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps, and before the addition of chicanes to tame it, the Tamburello corner at Imola and the Curva Grande at Monza. Particularly lamented are the circuits at Zandvoort in the Netherlands and Kyalami in South Africa, neither of which are now used by F1.

Most of the circuits currently in use are specially constructed for competition. The only real street circuit is the Circuit de Monaco, used for the Monaco Grand Prix, although races in other urban locations come and go (Las Vegas and Detroit, for example) and proposals for such races are often discussed – most recently for London. Several other circuits are also completely or partially laid out on public roads, such as Spa-Francorchamps. The glamour and history of the Monaco race are the primary reasons why the circuit is still in use, since it is thought not to meet the strict safety requirements imposed on other tracks. Three-time World champion Nelson Piquet famously described racing in Monaco as "riding a bicycle around your living room."

Circuit design to protect the safety of drivers is becoming increasingly sophisticated, as exemplified by the new track in Bahrain, designed – like most of F1's new circuits – by Hermann Tilke. Whereas in the 1950s a driver was lucky to find a strategically placed bale of straw to absorb an impact, modern Formula One circuits feature large run-off areas, gravel traps and tire barriers to reduce the risk of injury in crashes. This is an ongoing task – after the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola during the 1994 season, the FIA mandated further changes to circuits. These were mostly aimed at better matching the speed of a car with both the available space to slow down in before reaching a barrier and the ability of those barriers to safely absorb the energy of a crash. An ongoing complaint of long time F1 fans is the emasculation of the world's greatest circuits in order to satisfy sometimes arbitrary demands from the FIA. Whilst circuit safety is of prime importance, this can often be achieved without the reduction of the modern circuit to parade route status.

The future of Formula One

Recent and proposed rule changes have attempted to reverse the trend of "tyre wars", which critics believe have shifted the competition from drivers and teams to tyres.

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, the FIA has been taxed with the responsibility of making rules to combat the spiralling costs which affect the smaller teams and to ensure that the sport remains as safe as possible. The sport's rapid expansion into new areas of the globe also leaves some question as to which races will be cut.

Venue changes

In the interest of making the sport truer to its designation as a World Championship, FOM president Bernie Ecclestone has initiated and organized a number of Grands Prix in new countries and continues to discuss new future races. As of 2005, this expansion has resulted in the disappearance of only one race, the Austrian Grand Prix, which was last held in 2003; however, several teams have expressed their preference for a shorter calendar, and the future of such races as the British, French and San Marino Grands Prix has recently fallen into doubt.

The inaugural Turkish Grand Prix took place in 2005 in IstanbulPark, a Mexican Grand Prix has been planned for 2006, and Ecclestone has asserted publicly that F1 will return to South Africa within five years. He has also expressed interest in a Russian Grand Prix in Moscow or St Petersburg in the near future. The European Union's ratification of laws prohibiting tobacco advertising went into effect on July 31, 2005, providing another incentive for the heavily tobacco-sponsored sport to find venues outside of Europe.

The future of the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also in doubt after only six cars started the 2005 race due to concerns about the safety of the supplied Michelin tyres. The US Grand Prix has been offically scheduled to occur again at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rule changes

In the interest of safety, the FIA instituted a number of rule changes at the start of the 2005 season, including restrictions on the changing of tyres and on downforce. In an attempt to reduce costs, a new rule requires each engine to be used for two consecutive races. These two issues, safety and cost, are paramount in all rule-change discussions, and the FIA has made public its intention to continue to modify the rules with these goals in mind.

The current qualifying format, a single flying lap on race fuel, replaced one which was used for the first part of the 2005 season (until the 2005 European Grand Prix) which involved two separate sessions, one on Saturday and a second on Sunday morning, with the starting grid drawn up according to the fastest aggregate time of each driver. This was ditched after complaints from spectators, who felt that the Saturday session was meaningless, and broadcasters, who did not want to broadcast so much Formula One on a Sunday. Both the teams and the drivers are still unhappy with the qualifying system, however, and several alternative formats have been suggested for use from 2006 onwards.

Beginning with the 2006 season, engine displacement will be decreased, a 2.4L V8 replacing the current 3.0L V10. However, some teams will be allowed to continue using the V10 with a rev limiter in order to cut costs. In the long run, the FIA intends to introduce greater restrictions on testing and the introduction of standardised electronic units and tires.

Over the coming years, radical changes will be made to the rules. In 2005-10-05, the FIA proposal of enhancing overtaking won the support of the teams by agreeing about the new rear wing concept -that would eliminate the current single rear wing and replace it with two box-like wings, one behind each rear wheel. These changes are due in 2007. [1]

Also, in 2005-10-24, the Formula One commission decided to switch the competition to the "KO" system. It ruled that the qualifying session will not consist of racing individually any longer. Instead, after 15 minutes of the qualifying race stint, five cars are to be dropped out and another five after a second session. The remaining 10 will then fight for pole in a 20-minute final session. However, theses changes are due at least not before 2007. [2]

Small teams

The Ford Motor Company's decision to pull out of Formula One exposed the vulnerabilities of some small teams. Jaguar Racing was sold to Red Bull and is now known as Red Bull Racing.

Jordan and Minardi both relied on Ford's Cosworth engines. Jordan now has a deal to use Toyota engines, while Minardi continues to use Cosworth engines under Cosworth's new owners.

For 2006, Jordan will be rebadged as Midland F1. In June 2005, BMW bought a majority stake in Sauber and intends to run the team as a factory entry in 2006. The Williams team will cease their partnership with BMW as a result, instead opting to run Cosworth engines for 2006. Arguably, the final small team disappeared with the September 2005 purchase of Minardi by Red Bull. In 2006, the Faenza-based team will be run as a junior team named Squadra Toro Rosso, though separate, team to Red Bull Racing.


Template:Formula One teams

See also

External links

Official sites
News and reference

Formula One constructors
Current Constructors (2008)

Ferrari · BMW Sauber · Renault · Williams · Red Bull · Toyota · Toro Rosso · Honda · Force India · McLaren

Former Constructors:

AFMAGSAlfa RomeoAltaAmonAndrea ModaApollonArrowsArzani-VolpiniAston-ButterworthAston MartinATSATS (Germany)BARBehra-PorscheBellasiBenettonBoroBrabhamBRMBRPBugattiCisitaliaColoniConnaughtConnewCooperCosworthDallaraDe TomasoDelahayeDerrington-FrancisEagleEifellandEmerysonEMWENBEnsignERAEuroBrunFergusonFIRSTFittipaldiFondmetalFootworkFortiFrazer NashFryGilbyGordiniGreifzuHeskethHillHWMJaguarJBWJordanKauhsenKlenkKojimaKurtis KraftLanciaLarrousseLDSLECLeyton HouseLifeLigierLolaLotusLyncarMakiMarchMartiniMatraMcGuireMercedes-BenzMerzarioMidlandMilanoMinardiModenaOnyxOSCAOsellaPacificParnelliPenskePorscheProstRAMRebaqueReynardRialSauberScarabSciroccoSerenissimaShadowShannonSimtekSpiritStebroStewartSurteesTalbotTalbot-LagoTec-MecTecnoTheodoreTokenTolemanTrojanTyrrellVanwallVeritasWilliams (FWRC)WolfZakspeed