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Home > Sports > Formula One > Report


F1 for dummies

BS Motoring | March 05, 2005 13:15 IST

Even if you aren't one, don't miss our guide for Formula One 2005.

What is Formula One?
Formula One is regarded as the highest class of car racing in the world. A racing series with faster machinery does not exist. The cars routinely exceed 300 kph during races, which last just a bit over 300 km. The series takes place at tracks all over the world and F1 is in the news for the mind-boggling sums of money involved, as well as for high-speed thrills.

How do they decide who starts at the front?
The races are held over a three day period, with the race on Sunday. In the 2005 format, there is one qualifying session on Saturday, followed by one on Sunday morning. Each driver gets one lap in each session to post his fastest time. The aggregate of the time from the two sessions determines who starts from the front row. The order is called the grid. During the sessions, the drivers come out on Saturday in the finishing order of the previous race, and on Sunday morning, they get their laps in the reverse order of Saturday's lap times, slowest first.

When did F1 begin?
Formula One began in earnest in 1950 and quickly gained its reputation for being the fastest racing series known to man. Currently, the championship awards the best driver and the best constructor (team) on a points system.

What is a pitstop?
Given the length of the races and fearsome speed, the tyres and fuel cannot last the full race distance. The pitstop allows the drivers to come into the garages beside the track, called the pits, to change tyres, take on fuel and make any adjustments needed. Working at a frantic pace, a team of mechanics will refuel, re-tyre and put the car back on track in around ten to twelve seconds! The time spent in the pits counts in the race total and team directors often use them as strategic elements. Drivers often enter the pits when stuck behind slower drivers, just after a safety car period begins, or when they have a clear track, they stay out on track to post some fast laps and make up time on stopped competitors.

How safe is it as motorsports go?
Formula One has had its share of injuries and motorsports deaths. But after the death of Ayrton Senna, a charismatic champion, and Roland Ratzenberger, a rookie, at the same race weekend in 1994, new rules were put in. Today, it is one of the safest motorsports, with strict specifications for the cars and for the tracks they race at. Formula One cars do not have airbags though.

What is a safety car period?
When a racing crash leaves potentially dangerous debris or stuck cars on the track, a safety car, identifiable by flashing lights on top, comes out on track. F1 drivers are not allowed to overtake the car, and each other, as long as it is on track. The car is usually a very, very fast streetcar and serves to slow down the pace. Laps taken behind the safety car count in the race. The safety car will switch off the flashing lights roughly one lap before it returns to the pits and drivers can overtake each other after they cross the start-finish line.

Why do the marshals wave flags?
The marshals regulate the races. They use yellow flags to caution drivers of danger ahead - drivers are expected to slow down a little bit and not overtake under a yellow flag. A blue flag indicates to a driver that someone ahead of him in the race, but behind on the race track is approaching, and he is to let that car pass. A yellow flag with red stripes indicates a slippery surface. The green, red and chequered flags mean race on, race stopped and race over respectively.

What are the rules for this year?
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Formula One - Complete coverage


This year, the qualifying rules have been changed. See How do they decide... The cars will run on Saturday on unrestricted fuel, but on Sunday, they must run race fuel and they may not refuel until after the race starts. Drivers will be expected to make a single set of tyres last through both qualifying sessions and the race. Damage and punctures are the only scenarios where a tyre may be changed. Drivers will be allowed to test two types of tyres in Friday's practice sessions. But once they choose one before Saturday practice, they will have to stick with those. Three sets will be allotted - one for practice, one for qualifying and race and one as backup. Wet weather tyres may be used once the race is declared wet. From 2005, engines must last two race weekends - 1,500 km. Changes ahead of qualifying will incur a ten place penalty on the grid. If the engine is changed between qualifying and the race, the driver will start from the back of the grid. In both cases, the driver will have to make that engine last the next race weekend as well. If the engine fails during the race, the driver may start the next weekend with a fresh engine.

Why are aerodynamics so critical in F1?
As the car goes faster and faster, the pressure of the wind, and how the team's car uses it becomes critical to how fast it can get around the corners. The car operates like an upside down aircraft wing, and is effectively sucked down on to the track by the downforce (negative lift) the wind generates. The better the aerodynamics, the more chances the team will win. It does have consequences. The dependence of aerodynamic grip has been criticised for the lack of overtaking in F1 and every year the regulations change to reduce aerodynamic grip and encourage overtaking. For 2005, the regulations have cut down downforce by as much as 25 per cent over 2004.

Who has won the maximum world championships?
Michael Schumacher is now the winningest driver in Formula One history. The man has now won seven world titles, five with his current team, Ferrari. The German is pushing in his mid-thirties and shows no sign of cracking under the phenomenal stress. He is feared on track by rivals and is an absolute god when the rains come down. Hard to beat, the German is blamed for making F1 look boring. But his fans love him.

Who is Narain Karthikeyan?
Narain Karthikeyan is a Coimbatore lad with big dreams. He has single-mindedly pursued his dream and this year, he becomes India's first ever F1 driver. Karthikeyan is quite fast on track and should bring some points home for his team, Jordan Grand Prix, this year. His F1 stint is also expected to give Indian motorsport a huge boost.

How do I follow Narain's progress in 2005?
Our website, www.bsmotoring.com will carry regular race reports, images and updates on Narain's progress. Star Sports will be airing the F1 races live and a plethora of websites, Indian and foreign all track F1 with great interest.

How is the championship decided?
Drivers earn 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points for finishing first to eighth and so do the constructors. The driver and constructor with the maximum number of points from all the races in the season, wins.

What do the test drivers do?
An F1 car is always under development. The teams strive to reduce lap times, increase speeds in a highly competitive environment. The test drivers help the engineers fine tune the car and increase the mileage that the race drivers would otherwise have to run for the development.

Will India ever host an F1 race?
Bernie Ecclestone and Max Moseley, the leading lights of Formula One and the Federation Internationale d'Automobile have both stated that India is likely to host a race within the next three years. Fingers crossed.

How do you become an F1 driver?
It needs talent and tons of money from legions of sponsors to land an F1 driver these days. Once that is in place, you need to drive a 300+ km stint in an F1 car while FIA officials check you out for F1 driver etiquette. If they think you're okay, you get the superlicense, probably the most exclusive driving license in the world.

How powerful are the engines?
While exact numbers are never published, F1 cars today make more than 800 bhp from their 3000cc, usually V10 engines. The engines have to be normally aspirated (no turbos and superchargers) and usually run seven-speed gearboxes. Manual shifts have not been seen for sometime, and the current specification favours semi-automatic gearboxes. An F1 car is so mind-bogglingly fast that on a track, there is nothing that can catch it.

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