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Formula 1

Formula 1 (also F1) is the fastest and probably the most exciting car race. It consists of a series of races taking place on special tracks (i.e. circuits) or public roads, closed for that purpose. The results of each race are evaluated in two categories and they determine two types of winners:

-the best Formula 1 driver, and

-the best Formula 1 constructor.

The competition was established in 1950 and it is sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation – FIA (French: Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile). During the race, the vehicles move faster than 320km/h, and their performance depends on several factors. Europe is the traditional base of Formula 1. The headquarters of all teams are located in Europe and around half of the races take place on this continent. The races are broadcast on television to over 200 countries and attract a massive television audience. Formula 1 is one of the most expensive sports and involves large investments from sponsors, and consequently large team budgets.

History

The first Formula 1 world championship race was held in 1950. The first World Championship for Drivers was won by Italian Giuseppe Farina in his Alfa Romeo in 1950, narrowly defeating his Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio won the title in 1951, and in the following six years, he won another four titles. However, his streak was interrupted by two-time world champion Alberto Ascari of Ferrari. Although UK's Stirling Moss was always one step away from winning the best driver title, he never actually won the world championship. Fangio is remembered for dominating Formula 1's first decade.

The first British world champion was Mike Hawthorn who managed to win the title for Ferrari in 1958. However, once Colin Chapman, who would go on to establish the sports car company Lotus Cars, joined F1 as a chassis constructor, UK drivers and teams dominated F1 for a whole decade. Between Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, and Graham Hill, British drivers won 12 championships from 1962 to 1973.

In 1962, a new car with an aluminum-sheet monocoque chassis was introduced instead of the traditional space-frame design. During 1968, Lotus painted an Imperial Tobacco livery on their cars, thus introducing sponsorship to the sport. Aerodynamic downforce slowly gained importance in car design with the appearance of aerofoils during the late 1960s. During the late 1970s, Lotus introduced ground-effect aerodynamics that provided enormous downforce and greatly increased cornering speeds. The formation of the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) during 1979 set off the FISA–FOCA controversy, during which FISA and its president Jean-Marie Balestre disputed repeatedly with FOCA over television revenues and technical regulations.

FISA imposed a ban on ground-effect aerodynamics during 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. Later, in 1987, turbocharged engines would achieve around 1000 bhp during races. These cars became 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 completely in 1989.

In the early 1990s, the teams started developing electronic driver aids, as well as semi-automatic gearboxes and traction control. The FIA, due to complaints that technology was determining the outcome of races more than driver skill, banned many such aids for 1994. However, many observers felt the ban on driver aids was imposed only because they "proved difficult to police effectively" by the FIA. The teams signed a second Concorde Agreement during 1992, and a third in 1997, which expired on the last day of 2007.

On the track, the McLaren and Williams teams dominated the 1980s and 1990s. Honda and McLaren were dominant in the 1980s, while Renault, joined by Williams’ drivers, won several championships during the 1990s. The rivalry between racers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost became F1's central focus during 1988 and continued until Prost retired at the end of 1993. Senna’s tragic death at the Tamburello curve at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix led to a major improvement in Formula 1 safety standards. From that weekend, no driver died of injuries sustained on the track for 20 years.

Due to technological advances in the 1990s, the cost of competing in Formula 1 increased dramatically. This increased financial burdens, which meant that low-budget teams could not compete in Formula 1 anymore for financial reasons. Since 1990, 28 teams have withdrawn from Formula 1. This prompted former Jordan owner, Eddie Jordan, to say that the days of competitive privateers are over.

Circuits

A typical circuit usually features a straight stretch of road on which the starting grid is situated. The pit lane, where the drivers stop for gas and where the teams work on their cars before the race, is normally located next to the starting grid, and a series of curves. In most cases, the circuit runs in a clockwise direction. Driving anticlockwise can cause strains on the drivers due to the g-forces in the curves. Some curves can also be challenging for the drivers, such as the fast Eau Rouge at the Spa Francorchamps circuit and the chicane before it, the Tamburello curve at the Imola circuit, as well as the Curva Grande at the circuit in Monza.

Most of the circuits currently in use are specially constructed for competition, although there is a street circuit used in the Monaco Grand Prix (formerly Las Vegas and Detroit as well). The Monaco Grand Prix is still held each year due to its glamour and history, even though it does not meet the safety requirements imposed on other races and track construction.

Circuit design requires extreme sophistication (for example, the Bahrain International Circuit) and most of new circuits were designed by Hermann Tilke. At the beginning of the development of the championships, the drivers who would drive off the track would be stopped by haystacks, patches of grass, or tires placed along the track to reduce the force of collision. Since the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger in Imola in 1994, the FIA imposed radical changes on tracks and drivers. The speed of the vehicles was reduced and the tracks were now equipped with run-off zones to prevent cars from colliding with the barriers or at least to reduce the force of the collision. These new speed restrictions did not sit well with many fans, because they felt that the thrill of the race was also diminished.

Racing and strategy

A Formula One Grand Prix weekend begins with two free practice sessions on the Friday and one free practice on the Saturday. A qualifying session for the Sunday’s race is held after the last free practice session. The current qualifying system is known as "knock-out" qualifying. There are 3 periods. The first period starts with 20 cars and eliminates the slowest five drivers. It runs for 18 minutes. The second period runs for 15 minutes, and the ten fastest drivers proceed to the next period. The third period runs for 12 minutes The fastest in this period wins the pole position.

Light signals mark the beginning of the race. The race distance is a little over 300 km and there is a two-hour limit. Throughout the race, drivers may make pit stops to change tires, once or twice, if this is necessary for the driver to continue the race.

The drivers and the teams are awarded points according to their position at the end of the race. The FIA determined that the ten fastest drivers are awarded points using the points system 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 (the fastest driver wins 25 points, the second fastest wins 18 points, etc.). The driver and the constructor (team) with the most points at the end of the season are crowned World Champions.

Drivers and constructors

The sport's debut season, in 1950, saw eighteen teams compete, but due to high costs, many dropped out quickly. Ferrari is the only still-active team which competed in 1950. Although teams rarely disclose information about their budgets, it is estimated they range from US$75 million to US$500 million each.

Entering a new team into the Formula One World Championship requires a £25 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 (for example, BAR's purchase of Tyrrell).

Each car has a number. The number 1 is reserved for the reigning Drivers' Champion and number 2 for his teammate. Other teams are allocated numbers based on the Constructors' Championship standings at the end of the previous season. In the case that the World Champion (driver) retires from Formula 1, his team gets the numbers 0 and 2 for their drivers. This rule was introduced since the driver’s numbers are not assigned to the drivers, but to the teams. Number 13 is not used for cars, so the seventh team has numbers 14 and 15, the eighth has 16 and 17, and so on.

Michael Schumacher holds the record for most driver championships won (7), while the Ferrari team holds the record for most constructor championships won (14). Jochen Rindt has been the only posthumous World Champion.

Grands Prix

The number of Grands Prix held in a season has varied over the years. The inaugural 1950 World Championship season comprised only seven races, in the 1980s that number was around 16 or 17, while there were 19 races in 2005.

Six of the original seven races took place in Europe; the only non-European race in 1950 was the Indianapolis 500, which was later replaced by the United States Grand Prix. The F1 championship gradually expanded to other continents. Argentina hosted the first South American Grand Prix in 1953, and Morocco hosted the first African World Championship race in 1958, followed by the Japanese Grand Prix in 1976 in Asia, and the 1985 FIA Formula One World Championship Oceania in Australia. Nowadays, races are held all around the world (Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America).

Traditionally each nation has hosted a single Grand Prix, which carries the name of the country (for example, if a race is held in Germany, it is called the German Grand Prix), and if a single country hosts multiple Grands Prix in a year they receive different names.

Grands Prix which have been a part of the World Championship since the beginning (or for a long time) are not always held at the same circuit each year. For example, the British Grand Prix has taken place at the Silverstone and Brands Hatch circuits. The Italian Formula One Grand Prix is the only one which has been held at the same track, at Monza, except in 1980, when it was held at Imola, where the San Marino Grand Prix was later held.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East. It takes place on a track in the desert and, along with new races (and circuits) in China and Turkey, provides an opportunity for the further expansion of the sport.


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