The Formula One reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Formula One

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Formula One, or Grand Prix racing, is the best known single-seater (open-wheel) auto racing class; though it has traditionally been centered in Europe, it is a worldwide sport, and involves an annual World Drivers Championship and World Constructors Championship. Many regard it as the pinnacle of auto racing; it is the most expensive sport in the world, with average annual team budgets in the hundreds of millions of US dollars. It is based around a series of races (18 in 2004), known as grands prix, on custom-constructed road courses or closed-off street circuits.  

While Europe undoubtedly remains the leading market for the sport, races have also been held in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia. New races in Bahrain, Malaysia, one planned for China and another discussed for Russia, show an international tendency to move away from Europe.

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

Table of contents
1 History
2 The cars
3 Racing & Strategy
4 Lists
5 See also
6 External links

History

Fangio and Moss at Monza in 1955Enlarge

Fangio and Moss at Monza in 1955

Main Article: History of Formula One

See also: Grand Prix motor racing

Historically, the series evolved from pre-war European Grand Prix motor racing of the 1920s and 1930s. With the reestablishment of motor racing post-WWII, the drivers championship was formalised in 1950 and in 1958 a championship for constructors was started. Additional non-championship Formula One races were held around the world, but ended in the early 1980s. Regulations have changed greatly as car technologies have improved, with the appearance of rear-engined cars in the late 1950s, the introduction of wings in the late 1960s, then ground effect aerodynamics in the late 1970s by Lotus, followed by the 1980s era of turbocharged engines developing upwards of 1000 horsepower (750 kW). The 1980s remain the time of the most powerful circuit racing cars of all time.

The late 1980s saw the creeping inclusion of all manner of electronic driver aids to help drivers control the skyrocketing horsepower, including active suspension, anti-lock brakes, automatic gearboxes, four-wheel steering and traction control. Some of these were borrowed from contemporary road cars; some, like active suspension, were primarily developed for the track and later made their way to the showroom.

In any case, whilst they made the cars faster, fans perceived that the new aids were taking away the need for driver skill and so in 1989 the series changed to naturally-aspirated engines and removed many of the driver aids. Some, like traction control, launch control and automatic gearboxes have gradually returned (at the Spanish GP in 2001) due in part to rumours that teams were evading the restrictions.

Since 1984, the championship has been dominated by just three teams, McLaren, Williams, and Ferrari, who have provided the vehicle for all but two of the World Champions for that period.

The cars

Ralf Schumacher driving for the BMW.WilliamsF1 team in 2003Enlarge

Ralf Schumacher driving for the BMW.WilliamsF1 team in 2003

Main Article: Formula One cars

Modern F1 cars are single-seat, open cockpit, open wheel, race cars. They must be constructed by the racing teams themselves and be powered by a 3.0-liter, ten-cylinder naturally aspirated engine. Estimates put the best engines at or about 900 bhp at 19,000 rpm. Transmissions are mostly 7-speed and may be manually controlled (i.e. the driver must signal a gear change); however, the clutch, throttle control, and actual gear change are handled electronically.

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 could easily drive sideways or upside down. They are constructed of ultra-lightweight carbon fiber and use a finely-tuned blend of fuels which rather closely approximate normal gasoline. They use grooved tires made of highly-engineered compounds built for maximum grip and very short lifespan.

Racing & Strategy

Main Article: Formula One racing

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 one 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 Sunday afternoon. Each team is allotted two entries and though DNQ (Did Not Qualify) was a common designation in the past, teams cannot afford to show up and not race; thus all cars who participate in qualifying take part in the race. The teams may not change anything to the car between qualifying and race. The drivers have to qualify with the same tyres, setup and amount of fuel as they start in the race.

The race begins with a warm-up "parade lap," after which the cars are assembled on the starting grid in the order they qualified. They are then started by a light system above the track. Races are a little over 300 kilometres (180 miles) long and will never last more than two hours.

Points are awarded to the top eight drivers in each race and their respective teams. The winner of the annual championship is the driver (or team, for the constructor's championship) with the most points at the end of the season.

Lists

Constructors & Drivers

See List of Formula One constructors for teams that are no longer active.

Formula One'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 for the 2004 season only ten teams remain on the grid, each fielding two cars. Of the ten, four are subsidiaries of major car companies (Ferrari, Renault, Jaguar, and Toyota) and one is a division of a tobacco company (BAR). Williams and McLaren, both privately-owned teams, have their engines produced by major car companies, BMW and Mercedes-Benz respectively, and Honda produces engines for BAR. The final three teams, Jordan, Sauber and Minardi, are also privately owned but receive little substantial sponsorship, and consequently tend to end up toward the back of the grid.

The following teams and drivers are currently competing in the Formula One World 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 & Circuits

See also: List of Formula One Championship events, List of Formula One circuits

Eighteen tracks in sixteen countries host the eighteen races of the 2004 season (in order by date):

People

See also: 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. Eccentric and flamboyant personalities have always populated the paddock; the men in power have traditionally contradicted and sniped at each other; the team bosses have been busy juggling their supermodel girlfriends. Of the numerous odd, rich, or eccentric people F1 attracts, a few are notable:

World Drivers & Constructors Champions

See also: List of Formula One Champions

See also

External links