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Formula One History & Personalities
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"Formula One"

Formula One. (2011, June 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:56, June 29, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Formula_One&oldid=436502326

Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship,[2] is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which all participants' cars must comply.[3] The F1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix (literally translated into English as "Big Prizes"[4]), held on purpose-built circuits and public roads. The results of each race are combined to determine two annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the constructors, with racing drivers, constructor teams, track officials, organizers, and circuits required to be holders of valid Super Licences, the highest class of racing licence issued by the FIA.[5]

Formula One cars are considered to be the fastest circuit-racing cars in the world, owing to very high cornering speeds achieved through the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic downforce. Formula One cars race at speeds of up to 360 km/h (220 mph) with engines limited in performance to a maximum of 18,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). The cars are capable of lateral acceleration in excess of 5 g in corners. The performance of the cars is very dependent on electronics  - although traction control and other driving aids have been banned since 2008  - and on aerodynamics, suspension and tyres. The formula has had much evolution and change through the history of the sport. Europe, the sport's traditional base, is where about half of each year's races occur. That said, the sport's scope has expanded significantly during recent years and an increasing number of Grands Prix are held on other continents.

Formula One had a total global television audience of 527 million people during the course of the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship.[6] The Formula One Group is the legal holder of the commercial rights.[7] With annual spending totalling billions of US dollars, Formula One's economic effect is significant, and its financial and political battles are widely reported. Its high profile and popularity make it a merchandising environment, which results in great investments from sponsors and budgets in the hundreds of millions for the constructors. However, mostly since 2000, due to the always increasing expenditures, several teams, including works teams from car makers and those teams with minimal support from the automotive industry, have become bankrupt or been bought out by companies wanting to establish a team within the sport; these buyouts are also influenced by Formula One limiting the number of participant teams.

The Formula One series originated with the European Grand Prix Motor Racing (q.v. for pre-1947 history) of the 1920s and 1930s. The "formula" is a set of rules which all participants' cars must meet. Formula One was a new formula agreed after World War II during 1946, with the first non-championship races being held that year. A number of Grand Prix racing organisations had laid out rules for a World Championship before the war, but due to the suspension of racing during the conflict, the World Drivers' Championship was not formalised until 1947. The first world championship race was held at Silverstone, United Kingdom during 1950. A championship for constructors followed during 1958. National championships existed in South Africa and the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. Non-championship Formula One events were held for many years but, due to the increasing cost of competition, the last of these occurred during 1983.[8]

The sport's name, Formula One, indicates it is intended to be the most advanced and most competitive of the FIA's racing formulae.[9]

The first Formula One World Championship was won by Italian Giuseppe Farina in his Alfa Romeo during 1950, barely defeating his Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. However Fangio won the title during 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 & 1957 (His record of five World Championship titles stood for 45 years until German driver Michael Schumacher took his sixth title during 2003), his streak interrupted (after an injury) by two-time champion Alberto Ascari of Ferrari. Although the UK's Stirling Moss was able to compete regularly, he was never able to win the World Championship, and is now widely considered to be the greatest driver never to have won the title.[10][11] Fangio, however, is remembered for dominating Formula One's first decade and has long been considered the "grand master" of Formula One.

This period featured teams managed by road car manufacturers - Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Maserati - all of whom had competed before the war. The first seasons were run using pre-war cars like Alfa's 158. They were front-engined, with narrow tyres and 1.5 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre normally aspirated engines. The 1952 and 1953 world championships were run to Formula Two regulations, for smaller, less powerful cars, due to concerns over the paucity of Formula One cars available.[12] When a new Formula One, for engines limited to 2.5 litres, was reinstated to the world championship during 1954, Mercedes-Benz introduced the advanced W196, which featured innovations such as desmodromic valves and fuel injection as well as enclosed streamlined bodywork. Mercedes drivers won the championship for two years, before the team withdrew from all motorsport in the wake of the 1955 Le Mans disaster.[13]

The first major technological development, Cooper's re-introduction of mid-engined cars (following Ferdinand Porsche's pioneering Auto Unions of the 1930s), which evolved from the company's successful Formula 3 designs, occurred during the 1950s. Australian Jack Brabham, World Champion during 1959, 1960, and 1966, soon proved the new design's superiority. By 1961, all regular competitors had switched to mid-engined cars.[14]

The first British World Champion was Mike Hawthorn, who drove a Ferrari to the title during 1958. However, when Colin Chapman entered F1 as a chassis designer and later founder of Team Lotus, British racing green came to dominate the field for the next decade. Between Brabham, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Graham Hill, and Denny Hulme, British teams and Commonwealth drivers won twelve world championships between 1962 and 1973.

During 1962, Lotus introduced a car with an aluminium-sheet monocoque chassis instead of the traditional space-frame design. This proved to be the greatest technological breakthrough since the introduction of mid-engined cars. During 1968, Lotus painted Imperial Tobacco livery on their cars, thus introducing sponsorship to the sport.[15][16]

Aerodynamic downforce slowly gained importance in car design from 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 (previously used on Jim Hall's Chaparral 2J during 1970). So great were the aerodynamic forces pressing the cars to the track (up to 5 times the car's weight), extremely stiff springs were needed to maintain a constant ride height, leaving the suspension virtually solid, depending entirely on the tyres for any small amount of cushioning of the car and driver from irregularities of the road surface.[17]

Beginning during the 1970s, Bernie Ecclestone rearranged the management of Formula One's commercial rights; he is widely credited with transforming the sport into the billion-dollar business it is now.[18][19] When Ecclestone bought the Brabham team during 1971 he gained a seat on the Formula One Constructors' Association and during 1978 became its President. Previously the circuit owners controlled the income of the teams and negotiated with each individually, however Ecclestone persuaded the teams to "hunt as a pack" through FOCA.[19] He offered Formula One to circuit owners as a package which they could take or leave. In return for the package almost all are required to surrender trackside advertising.[18]

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.[20] The Guardian said of FOCA that Ecclestone and Max Mosley "used it to wage a guerrilla war with a very long-term aim in view." FOCA threatened to establish a rival series, boycotted a Grand Prix and FISA withdrew its sanction from races.[18] The result was the 1981 Concorde Agreement, which guaranteed technical stability, as teams were to be given reasonable notice of new regulations.[21] Although FISA asserted its right to the TV revenues, it handed the administration of those rights to FOCA.[citation needed]

FISA imposed a ban on ground effect aerodynamics during 1983.[22] By then, however, turbocharged engines, which Renault had pioneered in 1977, were producing over 700 bhp (520 kW) and were essential to be competitive. By 1986, a BMW turbocharged engine achieved a flash reading of 5.5 bar pressure, estimated to be over 1,300 bhp (970 kW) in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix. The next year power in race trim reached around 1,100 bhp (820 kW), with boost pressure limited to only 4.0 bar.[23] These cars were 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.[24]

The development of electronic driver aids began during the 1980s. Lotus began to develop a system of active suspension which first appeared during 1982 on the F1 Lotus 91 and Lotus Esprit road car. By 1987, this system had been perfected and was driven to victory by Ayrton Senna in the Monaco Grand Prix that year. In the early 1990s, other teams followed suit and semi-automatic gearboxes and traction control were a natural progression. The FIA, due to complaints that technology was determining the outcome of races more than driver skill, banned many such aids for 1994. This resulted in cars that were previously dependent on electronic aids becoming very "twitchy" and difficult to drive (notably the Williams FW16), and many observers felt the ban on driver aids was in name only as they "have proved difficult to police effectively".[25]

The teams signed a second Concorde Agreement during 1992 and a third in 1997, which expired on the last day of 2007.[26]

On the track, the McLaren and Williams teams dominated the 1980s and 1990s, with Brabham also being competitive during the early part of the 1980s, winning two drivers' championships with Nelson Piquet. Powered by Porsche, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz, McLaren won sixteen championships (seven constructors', nine drivers') in that period, while Williams used engines from Ford, Honda, and Renault to also win sixteen titles (nine constructors', seven drivers'). 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 died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix after crashing into a wall on the exit of the notorious curve Tamburello, having taken over Prost's lead drive at Williams that year. The FIA worked to improve the sport's safety standards since that weekend, during which Roland Ratzenberger also lost his life in an accident during Saturday qualifying. No driver has died on the track at the wheel of a Formula One car since, though two track marshals have lost their lives, one at the 2000 Italian Grand Prix,[27] and the other at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.[27]

Since the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, the FIA has used safety as a reason to impose rule changes which otherwise, under the Concorde Agreement, would have had to be agreed upon by all the teams  - most notably the changes introduced for 1998. This so called 'narrow track' era resulted in cars with smaller rear tyres, a narrower track overall and the introduction of 'grooved' tyres to reduce mechanical grip. There would be four grooves, on the front and rear  - although initially three on the front tyres in the first year  - that ran through the entire circumference of the tyre. The objective was to reduce cornering speeds and to produce racing similar to rain conditions by enforcing a smaller contact patch between tyre and track. This, according to the FIA, was to promote driver skill and provide a better spectacle.[citation needed]

Results have been mixed as the lack of mechanical grip has resulted in the more ingenious designers clawing back the deficit with aerodynamic grip  - pushing more force onto the tyres through wings, aerodynamic devices etc.  - which in turn has resulted in less overtaking as these devices tend to make the wake behind the car 'dirty' (turbulent), preventing other cars from following closely, due to their dependence on 'clean' air to make the car stick to the track. The grooved tyres also had the unfortunate side effect of initially being of a harder compound, to be able to hold the groove tread blocks, which resulted in spectacular accidents in times of aerodynamic grip failure (e.g., rear wing failures), as the harder compound could not grip the track as well.

Drivers from McLaren, Williams, Renault (formerly Benetton) and Ferrari, dubbed the "Big Four", have won every World Championship from 1984 to 2008 and the constructors won from 1979 to 2008. Due to the technological advances of the 1990s, the cost of competing in Formula One increased dramatically. This increased financial burden, combined with four teams' dominance (largely funded by big car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz), 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, twenty-eight teams have withdrawn from Formula One. This has prompted former Jordan owner Eddie Jordan to say the days of competitive privateers are over.[28]

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won an unprecedented five consecutive drivers' championships and five consecutive constructors' championships between 2000 and 2004. Schumacher set many new records, including those for Grand Prix wins (91), wins in a season (13 of 18), and most drivers' championships (7).[29] Schumacher's championship streak ended on 25 September 2005 when Renault driver Fernando Alonso became Formula One's youngest champion at that time. During 2006, Renault and Alonso won both titles again. Schumacher retired at the end of 2006 after sixteen years in Formula One, but came out of retirement for the 2010 season, racing for the newly formed Mercedes GP.

During this period the championship rules were changed frequently by the FIA with the intention of improving the on-track action and cutting costs.[30] Team orders, legal since the championship started during 1950, were banned during 2002 after several incidents in which teams openly manipulated race results, generating negative publicity, most famously by Ferrari at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. Other changes included the qualifying format, the points scoring system, the technical regulations, and rules specifying how long engines and tyres must last. A 'tyre war' between suppliers Michelin and Bridgestone saw lap times fall, although at the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis seven out of ten teams did not race when their Michelin tyres were deemed unsafe for use. During 2006, Max Mosley outlined a 'green' future for Formula One, in which efficient use of energy would become an important factor.[31] And the tyre war ended, as Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier to Formula One for the 2007 season.

Since 1983, Formula One had been dominated by specialist race teams like Williams, McLaren, and Benetton, using engines supplied by large car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Renault, and Ford. Starting in 2000, with Ford's creation of the largely unsuccessful Jaguar team, new manufacturer-owned teams entered Formula One for the first time since the departure of Alfa Romeo and Renault at the end of 1985. By 2006, the manufacturer teams - Renault, BMW, Toyota, Honda, and Ferrari - dominated the championship, taking five of the first six places in the constructors' championship. The sole exception was McLaren, which at the time was part-owned by Mercedes Benz. Through the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association (GPMA) they negotiated a larger share of Formula One's commercial profit and a greater say in the running of the sport.[citation needed]

In 2008 and 2009 Honda, BMW, and Toyota all withdrew from Formula One racing within the space of a year, blaming the economic recession. This resulted in the end of manufacturer dominance within the sport. The Honda F1 team went through a management buyout to become Brawn GP with the notable F1 designer Ross Brawn and Nick Fry running and owning the majority of the organisation. Brawn GP went through a painful size reduction laying off hundreds of employees but eventually won the year's world championships with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. BMW F1 was bought out by the original founder of the team Peter Sauber. McLaren announced that it was to reacquire the shares in the team from Mercedes Benz (McLaren's partnership with Mercedes was reported to have started to sour with the McLaren Mercedes SLR road car project and tough F1 championships which included McLaren being found guilty of spying on Ferrari).

During the 2010 season Mercedes Benz re-entered the sport as a manufacturer after its purchase of Brawn GP, and split with McLaren after 15 seasons with the team. This leaves Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari as the only car manufacturers in the sport.

AT&T Williams confirmed towards the end of 2009 their new engine deal with Cosworth, who also supplied the wave of new teams Virgin Racing, Hispania Racing F1, and the newly formed Lotus Racing team. The exit of car manufacturers has also paved the way for teams representing their countries, with some having the funding by their respective national governments (such as Lotus being funded by Malaysia, Lotus Cars being owned by Proton, a Malaysian manufacturer, and Lotus Racing being run by Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian business man known for his Asian low-cost airline).

The battle for control of Formula One was contested between the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), at the time an autonomous subcommittee of the FIA, and FOCA (the Formula One Constructors' Association).

The beginnings of the dispute are numerous, and many of the underlying reasons may be lost in history. The teams (excepting Ferrari and the other major manufacturers  - Renault and Alfa Romeo in particular) were of the opinion that their rights and ability to compete against the larger and better funded teams were being negatively affected by a perceived bias on the part of the controlling organisation (FISA) toward the major manufacturers.

In addition, the battle revolved around the commercial aspects of the sport (the FOCA teams were unhappy with the disbursement of proceeds from the races) and the technical regulations which, in FOCA's opinion, tended to be malleable according to the nature of the transgressor more than the nature of the transgression.

The war culminated in a FOCA boycott of the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix months later. In theory, all FOCA teams were supposed to boycott the Grand Prix as a sign of solidarity and complaint at the handling of the regulations and financial compensation (and extreme opposition to the accession of Balestre to the position of FISA president: both Colin Chapman of Lotus and Frank Williams of Williams stated clearly that they would not continue in Formula One with Balestre as its governor).[original research?] In practice, several of the FOCA teams backed out of the boycott, citing "sponsor obligations". Notable among these were the Tyrrell and Toleman teams.

During the 2009 season of Formula One, the sport was gripped in a governance crisis. The FIA President Max Mosley proposed numerous cost cutting measures for the following season, including an optional budget cap for the teams;[32] teams electing to take the budget cap would be granted greater technical freedom, adjustable front and rear wings and an engine not subject to a rev limiter.[32] The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) believed that allowing some teams to have such technical freedom would have created a 'two-tier' championship, and thus requested urgent talks with the FIA. However talks broke down and FOTA teams announced, with the exception of Williams and Force India,[33][34] that 'they had no choice' but to form a breakaway championship series.[34]

On 24 June, an agreement was reached between Formula One's governing body and the teams to prevent a breakaway series. It was agreed teams must cut spending to the level of the early 1990s within two years; exact figures were not specified,[35] and Max Mosley agreed he would not stand for re-election to the FIA presidency in October.[36] Following further disagreements after Max Mosley suggested he would stand for re-election,[37] FOTA made it clear that breakaway plans were still being pursued. On 8 July, FOTA issued a press release stating they had been informed they were not entered for the 2010 season,[38] and an FIA press release said the FOTA representatives had walked out of the meeting.[39] On 1 August, it was announced FIA and FOTA had signed a new Concorde Agreement, bringing an end to the crisis and securing the sport's future until 2012.[40]

The terms "Formula One race" and "World Championship race" are effectively synonymous; since 1984, every Formula One race has counted towards an official FIA World Championship, and every World Championship race has been held to Formula One regulations.[41] In the earlier history of Formula One, many races took place outside the world championship, and local championships run to Formula One regulations also occurred. These events often took place on circuits that were not suitable for the World Championship, and featured local cars and drivers as well as those competing in the Championship.[8]

In the early years of Formula One, before the world championship was established, there were around twenty races held from late Spring to early Autumn in Europe, although not all of these were considered significant. Most competitive cars came from Italy, particularly Alfa Romeo. After the start of the world championship, these non-championship races continued. In the 1950s and 1960s, there were many Formula One races which did not count for the World Championship; in 1950 a total of twenty-two Formula One races were held, of which only six counted towards the World Championship.[41] In 1952 and 1953, when the world championship was run for Formula Two cars, non-championship events were the only Formula One races that took place. Some races, particularly in the UK, including the Race of Champions, Oulton Park International Gold Cup and the International Trophy, were attended by the majority of the world championship contenders. Other smaller events were regularly held in locations not part of the championship, such as the Syracuse and Danish Grands Prix, although these only attracted a small amount of the championship teams and relied on private entries and lower Formula cars to make up the grid.[8] These became less common through the 1970s and 1983 saw the last non-championship Formula One race; the 1983 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, won by reigning World Champion Keke Rosberg in a Williams-Cosworth in a close fight with American Danny Sullivan.[8]

South Africa's flourishing domestic Formula One championship ran from 1960 through to 1975. The frontrunning cars in the series were recently retired from the world championship although there was also a healthy selection of locally built or modified machines. Frontrunning drivers from the series usually contested their local World Championship Grand Prix, as well as occasional European events, although they had little success at that level.[citation needed]

The DFV helped make the UK domestic Formula One series possible between 1978 and 1980. As in South Africa a decade before, second hand cars from manufacturers like Lotus and Fittipaldi Automotive were the order of the day, although some, such as the March 781, were built specifically for the series. In 1980, the series saw South African Desiré Wilson become the only woman to win a Formula One race when she triumphed at Brands Hatch in a Wolf WR3.[42]

A Formula One Grand Prix event spans a weekend. It begins with two free practice sessions on Friday (except in Monaco, where Friday practices are moved to Thursday), and one free practice on Saturday. Additional drivers (commonly known as third drivers) are allowed to run on Fridays, but only two cars may be used per team, requiring a race driver to give up his seat. A qualifying session is held after the last free practice session. This session determines the starting order for the race.[43][44]

For much of the sport's history, qualifying sessions differed little from practice sessions; drivers would have one or more entire sessions in which to attempt to set their fastest time, sometimes within a limited number of attempts, with the grid order determined by each driver's best single lap, fastest (on pole position) to slowest. Grids were limited to the fastest 26 cars and drivers had to lap within 107% of the pole sitter's time to qualify for the race; the 107% rule (as it is commonly known) was re-introduced for 2011. Other formats have included Friday pre-qualifying, and sessions in which each driver was allowed only one qualifying lap, run separately in a predetermined order.

The current qualifying system was adopted for the 2006 season. Known as "knock-out" qualifying, it is split into three periods (or rounds). In each period, drivers run qualifying laps to attempt to advance to the next period, running as many laps as they wish, with the slowest drivers being "knocked out" at the end of the period and their grid positions set, based on their best lap times. Cars are eliminated in this manner until 10 cars remain eligible to attempt to qualify for pole position in the third and final period. For each period, all previous times are reset, and only a driver's fastest lap in that period (barring infractions) counts. For all periods, any timed lap started before the chequered flag falls signalling the end of that period may be completed, and will count toward that driver's placement, even if they cross the finish line after the period has ended.[43][45] In the first two periods, cars may run any tyre compound they wish, and drivers eliminated in these periods are allowed to change their choice of tyres prior to the race. Cars taking part in the final period, however, must start the race with the tyres used during their fastest lap (exactly the same tyres, not just the same compound), barring changes in weather that require usage of wet-weather tyres. With refuelling not allowed during races from 2010, the final session is run with low-fuel configuration and the cars are refuelled after qualifying.

For example, for a 20-car grid, all 20 cars are permitted to take part in the first period. At the end of the period, the slowest five cars are eliminated and take up the last five grid positions (16 to 20). In the second period, the remaining fifteen cars take part, with five more cars eliminated at the end, taking the next five lowest grid positions (11 to 15). In the third and final period, the remaining 10 cars compete for pole position, and fill grid positions 1 through 10.

The knock-out format has received minor updates since its inception, such as adjustments to the number of drivers eliminated in each period as the total number of cars entered has changed (from 20 drivers in 2009 to 24 in 2010).[46]

The race begins with a warm-up lap, after which the cars assemble on the starting grid in the order they qualified. This lap is often referred to as the formation lap, as the cars lap in formation with no overtaking (although a driver who makes a mistake may regain lost ground provided he has not fallen to the back of the field). The warm-up lap allows drivers to check the condition of the track and their car, gives the tyres a chance to get some heat in them to get some much-needed traction, and gives the pit crews time to clear themselves and their equipment from the grid.

Once all the cars have formed on the grid, a light system above the track indicates the start of the race: five red lights are illuminated at intervals of one second; they are all then extinguished simultaneously after an unspecified time (typically less than 3 seconds) to signal the start of the race. The start procedure may be abandoned if a driver stalls on the grid, signalled by raising his arm. If this happens the procedure restarts: a new formation lap begins with the offending car removed from the grid. The race may also be restarted in the event of a serious accident or dangerous conditions, with the original start voided. The race may be started from behind the Safety Car if officials feel a racing start would be excessively dangerous, such as extremely heavy rainfall. There is no formation lap when races start behind the Safety Car.[47]

Under normal circumstances the winner of the race is the first driver to cross the finish line having completed a set number of laps, which added together should give a distance of approximately 305 km (190 mi) (260 km (160 mi) for Monaco). Race officials may end the race early (putting out a red flag) due to unsafe conditions such as extreme rainfall, and it must finish within two hours, although races are only likely to last this long in the case of extreme weather. Drivers may overtake one another for position over the course of the race and are 'Classified' in the order they finished the race. If a leader comes across a back marker (slower car) who has completed fewer laps, the back marker is shown a blue flag[48] telling him he is obliged to allow the leader to overtake him. The slower car is said to be 'lapped' and, once the leader finishes the race, is classified as finishing the race 'one lap down'. A driver can be lapped numerous times, by any car in front of him. A driver who fails to finish a race, through mechanical problems, accident, or any other reason is said to have retired from the race and is 'Not Classified' in the results. However, if driver has completed more than 90% of the race distance, he will be classified.

Throughout the race drivers may make pit stops to change tyres and repair damage (until the 2010 season they could also refuel). Different teams and drivers employ different pit stop strategies in order to maximise their car's potential. Two tyre compounds, with different durability and adhesion characteristics, are available to drivers. Over the course of a race, drivers must use both. One compound will have a performance advantage over the other, and choosing when to use which compound is a key tactical decision to make. The prime and option tyres have different colours on their sidewalls; this allows spectators to understand the strategies. Under wet conditions drivers may switch to one of two specialised wet weather tyres with additional grooves (one "intermediate", for mild wet conditions, such as after recent rain, one "full wet", for racing in or immediately after rain). If rain tyres are used, drivers are no longer obliged to use both types of dry tyres. A driver must make at least one stop to use both tyre compounds; up to three stops are typically made, although further stops may be necessary to fix damage or if weather conditions change.

The format of the race has changed little through Formula One's history. The main changes have revolved around what is allowed at pit stops. In the early days of Grand Prix racing, a driver would be allowed to continue a race in his teammate's car should his develop a problem; cars are now so carefully fitted to drivers this is now impossible. In recent years, the focus has been on changing refuelling and tyre change regulations. From the 2010 season, refuelling - which was reintroduced in 1994 - is not allowed, to encourage less tactical racing following safety concerns. The rule requiring both compounds of tyre to be used during the race was introduced in 2007, again to encourage racing on the track. The safety car is another relatively recent innovation that reduced the need to deploy the red flag, allowing races to be completed on time for a growing international live television audience.

Various systems for awarding championship points have been used since 1950. As of 2010, the top ten cars are awarded points, the winner receiving 25 points. The total number of points won at each race are added up, and the driver and constructor with the most points at the end of the season are World Champions. If both a team's cars finish in the points, they both receive Constructors Championship points. Nevertheless, the Drivers and Constructors Championships often have different results.

To receive points, a driver must be classified. Strictly speaking, in order to be classified, a driver need not finish the race, but complete at least 90% of the winner's race distance. Therefore, it is possible for a driver to receive some points even if he retired before the end of the race.

In the event that less than 75% of the race laps are completed by the winner, only half of the points listed in the table are awarded to the drivers and constructors for the listed positions. This has happened on only five occasions in the history of the championship, and it has decided the championship winner on one occasion. The last occurrence was at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix when the race was called off after 31 laps due to torrential rain.[50] This was the first time half points were awarded since the 1991 Australian Grand Prix.

A driver can switch teams during the season and, for the Drivers Championship, keep all points gained at the previous team.

In 2010, Formula One modified its points system, giving points to the first ten drivers instead of eight or six in previous years.

Since 1981,[51] Formula One teams have been required to build the chassis in which they compete, and consequently the terms "team" and "constructor" became more or less interchangeable. This requirement distinguishes the sport from series such as the IndyCar Series which allows teams to purchase chassis, and "spec series" such as GP2, which require all cars be kept to an identical specification. It also effectively prohibits privateers, which were common even in Formula One well into the 1970s.

The sport's debut season, 1950, 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.

Early manufacturer involvement came in the form of a "factory team" or "works team" (that is, one owned and staffed by a major car company), such as those of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, or Renault. After having virtually disappeared by the early 1980s, factory teams made a comeback in the 1990s and 2000s and formed up to half the grid with Ferrari, Jaguar, BMW, Renault, Toyota, and Honda either setting up their own teams or buying out existing ones. Mercedes-Benz owned 40% of the McLaren team and manufactures the team's engines. Factory teams make up the top competitive teams; in 2008 wholly owned factory teams took four of the top five positions in the Constructors' Championship, and McLaren the other. Ferrari holds the record for having won the most Constructors' Championships (fifteen). However by the end of the 2000s factory teams were once again on the decline with only Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Renault lodging entries to the 2010 championship.

Companies such as Climax, Repco, Cosworth, Hart, Judd and Supertec, which had no direct team affiliation, often sold engines to teams that could not afford to manufacture them. In the early years, independently owned Formula One teams sometimes also built their engines, though this became less common with the increased involvement of major car manufacturers such as BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, and Toyota, whose large budgets rendered privately built engines less competitive. Cosworth are the last independent engine supplier. Beginning in 2007, the manufacturers' deep pockets and engineering ability took over, eliminating the last of the independent engine manufacturers. It is estimated the major teams spend between €100 and €200 million ($125 - $225 million) per year per manufacturer on engines alone.[52][53]

In the 2007 season, for the first time since the 1984 rule, two teams used chassis built by other teams. Super Aguri started the season using a modified Honda Racing RA106 chassis (used by Honda in the 2006 season), while Scuderia Toro Rosso used a modified Red Bull Racing RB3 chassis (same as the one used by Red Bull in the 2007 season). This decision did not come as a surprise as costs were increasing, Super Aguri was partially owned by Honda, and Toro Rosso half-owned by Red Bull. Formula One team Spyker raised a complaint against this decision, and other teams such as McLaren and Ferrari have officially confirmed they support the campaign. Because of this use of other teams' chassis, the 2006 season could have been the last one in which the terms "team" and "constructor" were truly interchangeable. This attracted the Prodrive team to F1 to the 2008 season, where it intended to run a customer car. After not being able to secure a package from McLaren, Prodrive's intention to enter the 2008 season was dropped after Williams threatened legal action against them. Now, it seems customer cars will be formally banned in 2010.[54]

Although teams rarely disclose information about their budgets, it is estimated they range from US$66 million to US$400 million each.[55]

Entering a new team in the Formula One World Championship requires a £25 million (about US$47 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 and secure the benefits the team already had, such as TV revenue.

Every team in Formula One must run two cars in every session in a Grand Prix weekend, and every team may use up to four drivers in a season.[44] A team may also run two additional drivers in Free Practice sessions,[44] which are often used to test potential new drivers for a career as a Formula One driver or gain experienced drivers to evaluate the car.[56][57] Most modern drivers are contracted for at least the duration of a season, with driver changes taking place in between season, in comparison to early years where drivers often competed at an ad hoc basis from race to race. Each competitor must be in the possession of a FIA Super Licence to compete in a Grand Prix,[58] which is issued to drivers who have met the criteria of success in junior motorsport categories and having achieved 300 kilometres (190 mi) of running in a Formula One car. Drivers may also be issued a Super License by the World Motor Sport Council if they fail to meet the criteria.[58] Teams also contract test and reserve drivers, to stand in for regular drivers when necessary and develop the teams car; although with the reduction on testing the reserve drivers role mainly takes places on a simulator.[59] Although most drivers earn their seat on ability, commercial considerations also come into play with teams having to satisfy sponsors and financial demands.

Each driver is assigned a number for the season. The previous season's champion is designated number one, with his team-mate given number 2. Numbers are then assigned in the previous season's constructors' championship order,[60] with the exception of the number 13, unused since 1976.[61] Historically, before the 1996 Formula One season, teams would hold their race numbers from season to season, with only the world champion and their team-mate changing numbers to accommodate the number one.[62] The numbers were based upon the constructors standings from the 1973 season, which gave way to numbers being associated with a team, such as Ferrari's 27 and 28.[60] If the reigning driver's champion retires from Formula One, leading driver has the option of using the number 0 or 2; 0 was used in 1993 and 1994; with the retirement of Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, Damon Hill used zero.[62]

A total of 32 separate drivers have won the world championship, with Michael Schumacher holding the record for most championships with seven, as well as holding the race wins and pole position records. Juan Manuel Fangio has won the next most, with five championships won during the 1950s, as well as having won the greatest percentage of wins, with 24 out of 52 entries. Jochen Rindt is the only posthumous World Champion, after his points total was not overhauled despite his fatal accident at the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. Drivers from the United Kingdom have been the most successful in the sport, with 14 championships from 10 drivers, and 214 wins from 19 drivers.

Most F1 drivers start in kart racing competitions, and then come up through traditional European single seater series like Formula Ford and Formula Renault to Formula 3, and finally the GP2 Series. GP2 started in 2005, replacing Formula 3000, which itself had replaced Formula Two as the last major "stepping stone" into F1. Most champions from this level graduate into F1, but 2006 GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton became the first F2, F3000 or GP2 champion to win the Formula One driver's title in 2008.[63] Drivers are not required to have competed at this level before entering Formula One. British F3 has supplied many F1 drivers, with champions including Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Mika Häkkinen having moved straight from that series to Formula One. More rarely a driver may be picked from an even lower level, as was the case with 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen, who went straight from Formula Renault to F1.

American Championship Car Racing has also contributed to the Formula One grid with mixed results. CART Champions Mario Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve became F1 World Champions, while Juan Pablo Montoya won seven races in F1. Other CART or ChampCar Champions, like Michael Andretti and Alessandro Zanardi won no races in F1. Other drivers have taken different paths to F1; Damon Hill raced motorbikes, and Michael Schumacher raced in sports cars, albeit after climbing through the junior single seater ranks. To race, however, the driver must hold an FIA Super Licence - ensuring that the driver has the requisite skills, and will not therefore be a danger to others. Some drivers have not had the license when first signed to a F1 team; Räikkönen received the license despite having only 23 car races to his credit.

Most F1 drivers retire in their mid to late 30s; however, many keep racing in disciplines which are less physically demanding. The German touring car championship, the DTM, is a popular category involving ex-drivers such as two-time champion Mika Häkkinen and F1 race winners Jean Alesi, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher. Some F1 drivers have left to race in America - Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi duelled for the 1993 CART title, while Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Nelson Piquet Jr and Scott Speed have moved to NASCAR. Some drivers, such as Vitantonio Liuzzi, Narain Karthikeyan and Jos Verstappen went on to race in the A1 Grand Prix series. Since its inaugural season in 2008, Superleague Formula has attracted such ex-Formula One drivers as Sébastien Bourdais, Antônio Pizzonia and Giorgio Pantano. A series for former Formula One drivers, called Grand Prix Masters, ran briefly in 2005 and 2006.[64] Others, like Jackie Stewart, Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost, returned to F1 as team owners while their former competitors have become colour commentators for TV coverage such as James Hunt (BBC), Martin Brundle (BBC and ITV), Luciano Burti for Globo (Brazil), and Jean Alesi for Italian national network RAI. Others, such as Damon Hill and Jackie Stewart take active roles in running motorsport in their own countries.

The number of Grands Prix held in a season has varied over the years. Only seven races comprised the inaugural 1950 world championship season; over the years the calendar has almost tripled in size. Though the number of races had stayed at sixteen or seventeen since the 1980s, it peaked at nineteen in both 2005 & 2010, though the 2011 season is expected to have 20 races.

Six of the original seven races took place in Europe; the only non-European race that counted towards the World Championship in 1950 was the Indianapolis 500, which, due to lack of participation by F1 teams, since it required cars with different specifications from the other races, 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 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, which carries the name of the country. If a single country hosts multiple Grands Prix in a year they receive different names. For instance, a European country (such as Britain, Germany or Spain) which has hosted two Grands Prix has the second one known as the European Grand Prix, while Italy's second grand prix was named after nearby republic of San Marino. Similarly, as two races were scheduled in Japan in 1994/1995, the second event was known as the Pacific Grand Prix. In 1982, the United States hosted three Grands Prix.

The Grands Prix, some of which have a history that pre-dates 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 season is the Italian Grand Prix. The World Championship event has taken place exclusively at Monza with just one exception: in 1980, it was held at Imola, host to the San Marino Grand Prix until 2006.

One of the newer races on the Grand Prix calendar, held in Bahrain, represents Formula One's first foray into the Middle East with a high-tech purpose-built desert track. The Bahrain Grand Prix, and other new races in China and Turkey, present new opportunities for the growth and evolution of the Formula One Grand Prix franchise while new facilities also raise the bar for other Formula One racing venues around the world. In order to make room on the schedule for the newer races, older or less successful events in Europe and the Americas have been dropped from the calendar, such as these in Argentina, Austria, Mexico, France, San Marino, and the United States.

Even more recent additions to the calendar include the Valencia Street Circuit, which became the host of the European Grand Prix in 2008, giving Spain two Grands Prix.[65] In September 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix, hosted the first night race ever held in Formula One, in order to be held at a time better suited to the sport's core European audience.[66] Another recent addition to the calendar is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which hosted the final race of the 2009 season, becoming the first day-to-night race. The newest event was the Korean Grand Prix, which was held in October 2010. Soon to come is the Indian Grand Prix which will be held in Delhi, India in October 2011.[67] The United States Grand Prix will be hosted in Austin, Texas from 2012 to 2021.[68] Russian Grand Prix will be hosted in Sochi from 2014 to 2020. [69]

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, tyres, or minor repairs (such as changing the car's nose due to front wing damage) 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.

Most of the circuits currently in use are specially constructed for competition. The current street circuits are Monaco, Melbourne, Valencia, and Singapore, 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 London and Paris. 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 "like riding a bicycle around your living room"[citation needed].

Circuit design to protect the safety of drivers is becoming increasingly sophisticated, as exemplified by the new Bahrain International Circuit, added in 2004 and designed - like most of F1's new circuits - by Hermann Tilke. Several of the new circuits in F1, especially those designed by Tilke, have been criticised as lacking the "flow" of such classics as Spa-Francorchamps and Imola. His redesign of the Hockenheim circuit in Germany for example, while providing more capacity for grandstands and eliminating extremely long and dangerous straights, has been frowned upon by many who argue that part of the character of the Hockenheim circuits was the long and blinding straights into dark forest sections. These newer circuits, however, are generally agreed to meet the safety standards of modern Formula One better than the older ones.

The most recent additions to the F1 calendar are Valencia,[65] Singapore[70], Abu Dhabi[71] and Korea. A Formula One Grand Prix will be held in India for the first time in 2011.[72] Tilke is designing the India circuit while Design Cell, a reputed landscape architectural firm based in India and US are designing the landscape for all the areas.

A single race requires hotel rooms to accommodate at least 5000 visitors.[73]

Modern Formula One cars are mid-engined open cockpit, open wheel single-seaters. The chassis is made largely of carbon-fibre composites, rendering it light but extremely stiff and strong. The whole car, including engine, fluids and driver, weighs only 640 kg (1411 lbs) - the minimum weight set by the regulations. The construction of the cars is typically lighter than the minimum and so they are ballasted up to the minimum weight. The race teams take advantage of this by placing this ballast at the extreme bottom of the chassis, thereby locating the centre of gravity as low as possible in order to improve handling and weight transfer.[74]

The cornering speed of Formula One cars is largely determined by the aerodynamic downforce that they generate, which pushes the car down onto the track. This is provided by "wings" mounted at the front and rear of the vehicle, and by ground effect created by low pressure air under the flat bottom of the car. The aerodynamic design of the cars is very heavily constrained to limit performance and the current generation of cars sport a large number of small winglets, "barge boards" and turning vanes designed to closely control the flow of the air over, under and around the car.

The other major factor controlling the cornering speed of the cars is the design of the tyres. From 1998 to 2008, the tyres in Formula One were not "slicks" (tyres with no tread pattern) as in most other circuit racing series. Instead, each tyre had four large circumferential grooves on its surface designed to limit the cornering speed of the cars.[75] Slick tyres returned to Formula One in the 2009 season. Suspension is double wishbone or multilink all round with pushrod operated springs and dampers on the chassis. The only exception being on that of the 2009 specification Red Bull Racing car (RB5) which uses pullrod suspension at the rear, the first car in over 20 years to do so.[76]

Carbon-Carbon disc brakes are used for reduced weight and increased frictional performance. These provide a very high level of braking performance and are usually the element which provokes the greatest reaction from drivers new to the formula.

Engines must be 2.4 litre naturally aspirated V8s, with many other constraints on their design and the materials that may be used. Engines run on unleaded fuel closely resembling publicly available petrol.[77] The oil which lubricates and protects the engine from overheating is very similar in viscosity to water. The 2006 generation of engines spun up to 20,000 RPM and produced up to 780 bhp (580 kW).[78] For 2007 engines were restricted to 19,000 rpm with limited development areas allowed, following the engine specification freeze from the end of 2006.[79] For the 2009 Formula One season the engines have been further restricted to 18,000 rpm.[80]

A wide variety of technologies - including active suspension, ground effect, and turbochargers - are banned under the current regulations. Despite this the current generation of cars can reach speeds up to 350 km/h (220 mph) at some circuits.[81] The highest straight line speed recorded during a Grand Prix was 356.5 km/h (221.5 mph), set by David Coulthard during the 1998 German Grand Prix.[82] A Honda Formula One car, running with minimum downforce on a runway in the Mojave desert achieved a top speed of 415 km/h (258 mph) in 2006. According to Honda, the car fully met the FIA Formula One regulations.[83] Even with the limitations on aerodynamics, at 160 km/h (99 mph) aerodynamically generated downforce is equal to the weight of the car, and the oft-repeated claim that Formula One cars create enough downforce to "drive on the ceiling", while possible in principle, has never been put to the test. Downforce of 2.5 times the car's weight can be achieved at full speed. The downforce means that the cars can achieve a lateral force with a magnitude of up to 3.5 times that of the force of gravity (3.5g) in cornering.[84] Consequently, the driver's head is pulled sideways with a force equivalent to the weight of 20 kg in corners. Such high lateral forces are enough to make breathing difficult and the drivers need supreme concentration and fitness to maintain their focus for the one to two hours that it takes to complete the race. A high-performance road car like the Ferrari Enzo only achieves around 1g. [85]

As of 2010 each team may have no more than two cars available for use at any time. Each driver can use no more than eight engines during a season; if more are used, he drops ten places on the starting grid of the event at which an additional engine is used. Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for four consecutive events; every unscheduled gearbox change requires the driver to drop five places on the grid unless he failed to finish the previous race due to reasons beyond the team's control.[86]

Formula One is profitable for most parties involved - TV channels make profits from broadcasting the races, and teams get a slice of the money from the sale of broadcasting rights and from the sponsor's logos on their cars.

The cost of building a brand new permanent circuit like the Chinese Shanghai International Circuit can be up to hundreds of millions of dollars, while the cost of converting a public road, such as Albert Park, into a temporary circuit is much less. Permanent circuits, however, can generate revenue all year round from leasing the track for private races and other races, such as MotoGP. The Shanghai circuit cost over $300 million.[87] The owners are hoping to break-even by 2014. The Istanbul Park circuit cost $150 million to build.[88]

Not all circuits make profits - Albert Park, for example, lost $32 million in 2007.[89]

In March 2007, F1 Racing published its annual estimates of spending by Formula One teams. The total spending of all eleven teams in 2006 was estimated at $2.9 billion US. This was broken down as follows: Toyota $418.5 million, Ferrari $406.5 m, McLaren $402 m, Honda $380.5 m, BMW Sauber $355 m, Renault $324 m, Red Bull $252 m, Williams $195.5 m, Midland F1/Spyker-MF1 $120 m, Toro Rosso $75 m, and Super Aguri $57 million.

Costs vary greatly from team to team. Honda, Toyota, McLaren-Mercedes, and Ferrari are estimated to have spent approximately $200 million on engines in 2006, Renault spent approximately $125 million and Cosworth's 2006 V8 was developed for $15 million.[90] In contrast to the 2006 season on which these figures are based, the 2007 sporting regulations ban all performance related engine development.[91]

The FIA is responsible for making rules to combat the spiralling costs of Formula One racing (which affects the smaller teams the most) and for ensuring the sport remains as safe as possible, especially in the wake of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994. To this end the FIA have instituted a number of rule changes, including new tyre restrictions, multi-race engines, and reductions on downforce. Safety and cost have traditionally been paramount in all rule-change discussions. More recently the FIA has added efficiency to its priorities. Currently the FIA and manufacturers are discussing adding bio-fuel engines and regenerative braking for the 2011 season or from the start of the 2013 season. Former FIA President Max Mosley believes F1 must focus on efficiency to stay technologically relevant in the automotive industry as well as keep the public excited about F1 technology.

In the interest of making the sport truer to its role as a World Championship, FOM president Bernie Ecclestone has initiated and organised a number of Grands Prix in new countries and continues to discuss new future races. Confirmation for the 2011 Indian Grand Prix is only subject to the homologation of the circuit.[92] The United States Grand Prix will celebrate its return onto the F1 circuit in 2012.[93] In October 2010, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin signed an agreement with Ecclestone establishing the Russian Grand Prix in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi from 2014, with the circuit to be run in and around the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Park.[94] Formula 1 is also exploring the potential for a revival of the South African Grand Prix,[95] while proposals for races to be held in Vietnam[96], the Ukraine[97] and Croatia[98] have also been put forward. The sport's rapid expansion into new areas of the globe also leaves some question as to which races will be cut.

In December 2010, reports emerged detailing new engine regulations set to take effect from 2013. The 2.4-litre V8 engines used since 2006 will be downsized to 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engines augmented by the KERS device,[99] with projected power outputs predicting that the new engine formula would remain constant from the 2006 design. The new engine regulations emphasise efficiency and eco-friendliness, and have been designed in an attempt to lure new engine suppliers back into the sport - with the mass exodus of manufacturers Toyota, Honda and BMW ahead of the 2010 season, the number of manufacturers on the grid was at a thirty-year low, with just Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and the independent Cosworth supplying engines, the lowest since 1980. The new engines will reportedly consume 35% less fuel than the pre-2013 engine formula.[100] However, after discussion among the teams, the FIA agreed to postpone the introduction of the new engine regulations until 2014 with a revised formula; rather than the previously agreed-upon four-cylinder turbocharged engines, the teams will instead use 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines limited to 12,000rpm, with the power of energy recovery systems - such as KERS - to be doubled.[101]

It has also been reported that ground effects - banned since 1983 - are being considered for a future return.[102] In December 2010, a proposal created by Rory Byrne and Patrick Head emerged, which outlined design specifications that included the re-introduction of ground effects in addition to greatly reduced downforce, and much smaller front and rear wings.[100] It has been estimated that the cars will become harder to drive - where drivers in 2010 can spend up to 70% of a lap at full throttle, they will only be able to spend 50% of the lap at full throttle from 2013.[100] Byrne and Head have speculated that their proposed regulations will make overtaking easier as a driver following another will lose less downforce when following closely courtesy of the car's shaped underside.[100]

Formula One can be seen live or tape delayed in almost every country and territory around the world and attracts one of the largest global television audiences. The 2008 season attracted a global audience of 600 million people per race.[103] It is a massive television event; the cumulative television audience was calculated to be 54 billion for the 2001 season, broadcast to two hundred countries.[104]

During the early 2000s, Formula One Group 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) which was launched at the 1996 German Grand Prix in cooperation with German digital television service "DF1", thirty years after the first GP colour TV broadcast, the 1967 German Grand Prix. This service offered the viewer several simultaneous feeds (such as super signal, onboard, top of field, backfield, highlights, pit lane, timing) which were produced with cameras, technical equipment and staff different from those used for the conventional coverage. It was introduced in many countries over the years, but was shut down after the 2002 season for financial reasons.

TV stations all take what is known as the "World Feed", either produced by the FOM (Formula One Management) or occasionally, the "host broadcaster". The only station that originally differed from this was "Premiere" - a German channel which offers all sessions live and interactive, with features such as the onboard channel. This service was more widely available around Europe until the end of 2002, when the cost of a whole different feed for the digital interactive services was thought too much. This was in large part because of the failure of the "F1 Digital +" Channel launched through Sky in the United Kingdom. Prices were too high for viewers, considering they could watch both the qualifying and the races themselves free on ITV.

However, upon the commencement of its coverage for the 2009 season, the BBC reintroduced complementary features such as the "red button" in-car camera angles, multiple soundtracks (broadcast commentary, CBBC commentary for children, or ambient sound only) and a rolling highlights package. Different combinations of these features are available across the various digital platforms (Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media cable and the BBC F1 web site) prior to, during, and after the race weekend. Not all services are available across all the various platforms due to technical constraints. The BBC also broadcasts a post-race programme called "F1 Forum" on the digital terrestrial platforms' "red button" interactive services.

An announcement made on 12 January 2011, on the official Formula 1 website, announced that F1 would adopt the HD format for the 2011 season offering a world feed at a data rate of 42 Megabits/second (MPEG-2).[105] The BBC subsequently announced later that day that their 2011 F1 coverage would be broadcast in HD [106] which has been made immediately possible due to SIS LIVE, the provider of the BBC's F1 outside broadcast coverage, having already upgraded their technical facilities to HD as of the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix.[107]

Formula One has an extensive web following, with most major TV companies covering it such as the BBC. The official Formula One website has a live timing Java applet that can be used during the race to keep up with the leaderboard in real time. Recently an official application has been made available in the iTunes App Store that allows iPhone / iPod Touch users to see a real time feed of driver positions,[108] timing and commentary. The same application is now available for Android phones and tablets from 2011.

Currently the terms "Formula One race" and "World Championship race" are effectively synonymous; since 1984, every Formula One race has counted towards the World Championship, and every World Championship race has been to Formula One regulations. But the two terms are not interchangeable. Consider that:

The distinction is most relevant when considering career summaries and "all time lists". For example, in the List of Formula One drivers, Clemente Biondetti is shown with 1 race against his name. Biondetti actually competed in four Formula One races in 1950, but only one of these counted for the World Championship. Similarly, several Indy 500 winners technically won their first world championship race, though most record books choose to ignore this and instead only record regular participants.

1 Vettel 2 Webber

3 Hamilton 4 Button

5 Alonso 6 Massa

7 Schumacher 8 Rosberg

9 Heidfeld 10 Petrov

11 Barrichello 12 Maldonado

14 Sutil 15 di Resta

16 Kobayashi 17 Pérez

18 Buemi 19 Alguersuari

20 Trulli 21 Kovalainen

22 Karthikeyan 23 Liuzzi

24 Glock 25 d'Ambrosio

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Formula One. (2011, June 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:56, June 29, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Formula_One&oldid=436502326

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