Formula One Racing For Dummies book cover

Formula One Racing For Dummies

By: Jonathan Noble and Mark Hughes Published: 11-21-2003

Get to know what Formula One racing is all about

This book delves into the strategy, technology, and spirit needed to win a Formula One race. Every angle of a race weekend is covered in detail, from scrutineering to pitstops to podium. You’ll also read about the rivalries and politics that have turned the sport into a global televised drama. Illustrated with black and white photographs, Formula One Racing For Dummies will serve the die-hard spectator or armchair fan alike.

Discover how to:

  • Identify race strategies
  • Understand the role of each team member
  • Master the latest rules and regulations
  • Appreciate a Formula One car’s cutting-edge design
  • Enjoy Formula One from the stands and on TV

The Dummies Way

  • Explanations in plain English
  • "Get in, get out" information
  • Icons and other navigational aids
  • Tear-out cheat sheet
  • Top ten lists
  • A dash of humour and fun 

Articles From Formula One Racing For Dummies

5 results
5 results
Formula One Racing: What Happens during an F1 Pit Stop

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Pit stops are one of the most tense and exciting features of a Grand Prix or other formula one auto race. In fact, auto races are frequently won and lost because of the pit stops and pit crews. In just a few seconds a huge number of actions are carried out by a Formula One pit crew. Here they are broken down. Figure 1: A second-by-second look at the pit stop. Pre-programming: Once the strategists have agreed on when the driver is to make a pit stop and the intended duration of the next stint, the driver's fuel rig is programmed to deliver the precise amount of fuel required. Timing: The driver's race engineer tells him over the radio, usually on the preceding lap, when to pit. At the same time, the team manager — listening in to all team radio communications — scrambles the driver's pit crew, who gather their equipment and tires and move from the garage into the pit apron in front of the garage. The lollipop man — a crew member with a big carbon-fibre lollipop — stations himself in line with where the nose of the car will stop and holds out his lollipop directly in the driver's path, giving him a clearly visible guide for his precise stopping place. Pit lane entry: The driver enters the pit lane at full racing speed but brings the speed down to the pit lane speed limit of 80 km/h (60 km/h in the very tight pit lane of Monaco) before he crosses the white line that denotes the start of the speed limit area. As he crosses the line, he engages a pit lane speed limiter that electronically prevents the car from accelerating above the speed limit. Selecting the limiter automatically pops open the fuel filler flap. Although the pit lane limiter helps, the driver is the one responsible for being under the speed limit as he crosses the line entering the pits. The limiter only prevents the car accelerating beyond that speed once it's already below it. Hitting the marks: The driver stops the car in the appropriate spot. As the car stops, the lollipop man brings down his lollipop in front of the driver. Imprinted on the face of the lollipop is the word "brakes" to remind the driver to keep his foot on the brake pedal so that the wheels don't turn as the wheel nuts are spun loose. The driver must also prevent the engine from stalling, which they can be prone to. It is essential that the driver stop at precisely the same place that his crew are awaiting him. Failure to do so means that the crew have to drag their equipment and tires up to the car, costing valuable seconds. To help the driver hit the mark, the stopping place for the front and rear tires and the lollipop man are marked out by extremely tough-wearing adhesive tape. Front jack: Crouching next to the lollipop man is the front jack man. The instant the car stops he levers his jack under the nose of the car and lifts it into the air. The jack is made from steel tubing and has a quick-release button to bring the car back down. In most cases the car only needs to be jacked-up around two inches though at certain tracks the pit lane is on an incline and the jacking height has to be increased, which is done by giving the jack bigger wheels. Because teams have different nosecones giving different aerodynamic characteristics, they need also to have specific jacks to suit them, with specially tailored mating points. Rear jack: The rear jack man has to wait until the car has passed him before getting into position. He then places his jack beneath the car and raises the rear of the car. Starter motor: The rear jack has a fitting incorporated into it for a starter motor. The starter is there ready to bring the engine back into life if the car stalls. A car may stall due to driver error or trouble with the gearbox, clutch, or hydraulics system. The starter is fitted with an extra-long lead as a precaution in the event that the car stalls after jumping forward a few feet. Wheel changing: Each wheel has two crew members. One operates the compressed air-driven gun that removes the single, central retaining nut. The other removes the old wheel and fits the new. The gun man then re-attaches the nut and tightens it to around 500 lb/ft (pounds per foot). The wheel nut and the socket of the gun are magnetised to prevent the nut falling to the ground. This whole process takes around three seconds. To prevent the nuts working loose, the right-hand side of the car uses right-handed threads, the left-hand side of the car left-sided threads. This means that the guns of the right and left sides have to work in opposite ways. Teams usually color code them to denote which is which. Each wheel man has a spare gun with him and usually a couple of spare wheel nuts too, just in case. Refuelling: A transparent plastic shield is fitted between the filler and the rear of the car to prevent any spilt fuel reaching the hot exhausts. (It's transparent so that the lollipop man can see through it and know when the right-rear tire has been attached.) Two refuellers attach the hose to the car's filler. One handles the hose itself, the other presses on the "dead man's handle" which has to be kept down in order for the fuel to flow. As soon as this handle is released — as it would be by the man running away, for example — the fuel stops flowing. The rig delivers the exact amount of fuel that's been programmed in, at the rate of 12-liters per second. Fuel shrinks in volume when it is chilled, enabling more of it to be contained within each liter. The regulations allow the fuel to be chilled to 10 degrees C below the ambient temperature. The rig is standardised and provided by the governing body to the teams who are not allowed to modify it in any way. Attached either to the hose or to the refuellers' helmets are indicators showing when the fuel is flowing and when the process is completed. As soon as these indicators tell the refuellers that the car is full-up, they release the latch that holds the nozzle to the filler and then use a second handle to release the nozzle from a connector on the car. Overseeing the whole operation are two crew members, each with a 60-liter fire extinguisher. Larger capacity fire hoses are at hand in the garage. An additional safety feature on the fuel rig are earthing strips that are wired to the refuelling rigs and reduce the chances of static electricity discharging — highly undesirable with all that fuel around. Lollipop up: The lollipop man, who's been watching the whole operation intently, lifts the lollipop. He does so only when he's satisfied that all four wheels have been attached, the refuelling completed, the nozzle removed from the car, and that another car isn't about to be in his man's path. Only then can the driver leave. Pit lane exit: The driver, while waiting for the crew to finish, will have armed his launch control. The launch control, in concert with his pit lane speed limiter, governs his getaway. As he crosses the line denoting the end of the pit lane speed limit he disengages the speed limiter and accelerates hard back up to race speed, taking care not to cross the next white line — the one that denotes the exit lane back onto the track — before he reaches the end of the pit lane itself. Failure to respect this will incur a penalty.

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A Week in the Life of a Formula One Driver

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

We all like to think that driving a racing car flat-out would be easy, but it isn't, even if you have heaps of talent. A modern-day Formula One driver has to work very hard if he's going to win a race. Sometimes drivers work 15 hours a day at the racetrack and then spend their nights thinking about how to do it even better. Formula One racing isn't a job for clock-watchers. Here is an example of how the week of a Grand Prix may pan out for a driver: Thursday: The Formula One driver flies into the racetrack and spends some time with the team, checking that his car is OK and working out strategy for the weekend. He usually attends at least one press conference, and signs autographs for the many autograph hunters chasing him around. In the evening, the driver usually takes part in a sponsor function or press dinner, before escaping at about 10 p.m. to go to bed. Friday: Practice starts very early on Friday morning, especially if the driver's team has signed up for the extra two-hour test session. The driver usually gets to the track at about 8 a.m. (after having already spent maybe an hour in the hotel gym) and runs through the day's program with the team. The driver spends most of the rest of the day in practice and technical debriefs, when the team evaluates the set-up of the car and its performance. Afterward, he attends even more press conferences. Amid all these other responsibilities, the driver completes the first qualifying round, which decides the running order for Saturday's main qualifying session. In the evening, he usually attends another sponsor function, which can run on quite late. Saturday: Saturday is a very important day, because what happens today decides the grid for Sunday's race. The driver attends two practice sessions in the morning and then a warm-up before he actually qualifies his car. He has to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect with his car because he has only one lap to get his time in — if he makes a mistake and spins off the track or suffers a mechanical problem he could find himself starting right at the back of the grid. If qualifying goes well and the driver's time puts him in one of the top three positions, he attends a special press conference, broadcast all around the world. After this press conference he must attend more debriefs with the team and then even more press conferences. If an evening function has been planned for Saturday night, he must attend that, as well, although these don't run too late because the driver must get a good night's sleep before race day. Sunday: Race day is by far the most important, and busiest, day of the week. While in the past, drivers could just turn up a few minutes before the race started, jump in their cars, and then head off home as soon as the chequered flag came out, that's no longer the case. The day often involves everything from warming up and meeting sponsors to race day parades and post-race functions. And if the driver can't get a helicopter into the circuit he could find himself having to get up even earlier to beat the traffic jams caused by the fans. Monday: If a driver is lucky he'll wake up in his own bed on Monday morning — but it's back to work straight away. Even though he'll be tired and maybe a bit sore from the race, he has to go to the gym for a few hours to make sure he stays in shape. Monday afternoon, if he hasn't been called up for a sponsor function, he'll fly out to one of the European tracks to get ready for that week's testing schedule. Tuesday: Less than 48 hours after the Grand Prix, the Formula One driver is back in the cockpit, working hard on developments and improvements for the next race. The teams will be experimenting with new parts or different set-ups to try to make the car even quicker. Testing a Formula One car is a relentless job, and the track usually stays open from 9 a.m. until darkness. After that, the driver usually spends a few hours with the team, working through a technical debrief of the test, before dinner and then maybe an interview with journalists. (Many drivers prefer to do major interviews at tests because there's a lot less pressure on their time; the only time anyone gets to speak exclusively to Michael Schumacher is at a test.) Wednesday: Another day of testing, although a driver may be able to fly home this evening to get ready for the following week's Grand Prix. Big teams usually have one or two test drivers who help ease the workload on their regular drivers, because there's no point getting their stars completely shattered before the next race. Despite everything else he has to do in his life, being fast in a racing car and working with his team is still the most important part of a Formula One driver's job. At the end of the day, a Formula One driver is the single person who determines whether the team wins or loses. He is the one risking his life out on the track, he is the one who decides how the car should be set-up, and he is the one who gets the credit — or the blame — for how things go on Sunday afternoons.

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Discovering What Makes Formula One, Formula One

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In racing terms, "formula" implies a pure racing car, a single-seater with open wheels — a format largely unconnected with, and unrecognisable from, road cars. Formula One implies that this is the ultimate in formula racing. "Formula" One and the baby formulas that came later The reason why the sport is called "Formula" One is rooted in history. Pioneer motor racing placed no limitations on the size or power of the competing cars. With technological advances, this free-for-all quickly made for ludicrously dangerous conditions — especially as the early races were fought out on public roads. As a result, the governing body of the sport at the time began imposing key limitations on the format of the cars in terms of power, weight, and size. Only cars complying with this "formula" of rules could compete. The rules of Grand Prix racing have adapted to the technology and needs of the times. The rules formulated for racing immediately after World War II were given the tag of "Formula One", a name that has stuck ever since. Formula Two was invented shortly afterwards as a junior category, with a smaller engine capacity. Not long after that, Formula Three came into being for even smaller single-seaters. The Formula Two name was dropped in the mid-1980s and replaced by Formula 3000, denoting the cubic centimeter capacity of the engines. Formula Three remains. If illogical and inconsistent labelling bugs you, motor racing is not for you. The premiere racing sport in the world Formula One stands at the technological pinnacle of all motorsport. It's also the richest, most intense, most difficult, most political, and most international racing championship in the world. Most of the world's best drivers are either there or aspire to be there, and the same goes for the best designers, engineers, engine builders, and so on. It's a sport that takes no prisoners: Under-achievers are spat out with ruthless lack of ceremony. Formula One takes its position at the top of the motorsport tree very seriously. Formula One traces its lineage directly back to the very beginnings of motor racing itself, at the end of the nineteenth century, when public roads were the venues. All other racing series have sprung up in its wake. Unlike most racing categories, Formula One isn't just about competition between the drivers. It's about rivalry between the cars, too. The technology battle between teams is always an ongoing part of Formula One. Comparing Formula One and other types of racing Racing in America for a time overlapped in its development with European racing; then it veered off in the direction of oval track racing. CART and IRL racing in America Formula racing in America became Indy Car racing, spawning the CART and IRL series of today. These cars look like Formula One cars to a casual onlooker, but a Formula One car is lighter, more agile, and more powerful. Another difference is that Formula One cars never race on ovals; instead they race on purpose-built road racing tracks or street circuits. Furthermore, each Formula One team designs and builds its own cars rather than buy them off the shelf from a specialist producer. NASCAR and Touring Car racing Non-formula, road car-based racing spawned NASCAR in America and Touring Car racing in the rest of the world. Both are for cars that from the outside look like showroom road-going models but which underneath the skin are very different. NASCAR tailors to American production models and races mainly — though not exclusively — on ovals. Touring cars are based on European or Australian road cars and, like F1 cars, race on road racing or street tracks. The feeder formulas In Europe, feeder formulas to Formula One — where drivers, team owners, designers, and engineers can all hone their craft on the way to Formula One — developed. Today these are classed as Formula 3000 and Formula 3. The names and numbers have changed over the years, but Formula One remains what it has always been — the pinnacle. F3 is currently for single-seater cars with engines based on road-going production cars not exceeding 2-liter capacity. F3000 is for single seaters powered by a specific 3-liter racing engine defined by the governing body. The structure and hierarchy of motor racing is extremely complex and not very logical. All you really need to know is that, in global terms, Formula One is at the top of the pyramid.

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Checking Out Formula One Clothing

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

From the early years of the Formula One world championship, it became obvious that improvements to safety would not just depend on the design of cars and circuits. Racing drivers began to realize that if they wore long-sleeved tops, protective helmets and goggles then they were less likely to hurt themselves in accidents. Helmets: hard hats of the racing world Crash helmets are the most obvious piece of safety wear for a driver — and they are the one item that a driver absolutely cannot do without. The increased use of modern technology in Formula One has not overlooked helmets and the versions used by drivers today make use of the knowledge gained from space travel. Safety, comfort, and usefulness are all important components of today's helmets. Consider the following: The material used: The helmets are made with the same ultra-strong materials that teams build cars with. The material must adhere to tough regulations to ensure it is strong enough to survive an accident. The helmets have to comply with similar kinds of crash tests that the cars go through as well. If they are at all damaged in a race then they will be replaced for the following event. Drivers usually get through about 15 helmets during a season — and discarded ones do become collectors' items. How it is sized: Each driver has the helmet made to measure. This customized fit not only increases comfort when it is worn in action, but also ensures that the helmet is not likely to slip off in an accident or have gaps where fire or other debris could find their way inside the helmet during the races. Functionality and strength of the visor: The visor of the helmet has to be as strong as the rest of the helmet, but it also has to provide the driver with enough visibility. Some drivers fit special tinted visors to keep the sun out of their eyes, while all of them are fitted with tear-off strips that allow the driver to remove a layer if it is covered with oil or dirt. Drivers cannot risk smudges on their visors when racing at 200mph. Special padding: The inside of the helmet is full of special padding. This not only makes wearing the helmet as comfortable as possible for the driver, but also adds further protection in the event of an accident. The mouthpiece: At the mouthpiece of the helmet is a hole for a special tube that allows the driver to drink fluids during the race. Because of the incredible heat in a Formula One cockpit during the race, it is vital the drivers are kept well hydrated so they do not get tired and run-down, which could lead to them making mistakes and crashing out. Earplugs: Before drivers put on their helmets, they put in special earplugs to prevent their hearing being damaged by the very loud noise of Formula One engines —which is easily in excess of a Motorhead concert or a jet taking off. The earplugs also house the radio systems that allow drivers to communicate with their teams in the pits. Balaclavas: Drivers also wear fireproof balaclavas (a knit cap for the head and neck) to protect their head in the event of fire. Helmet technology —Top Gun in a car? Formula One drivers could soon be making use of the kind of high-tech Heads Up Display (HUD) technology that is now used every day by fighter pilots. Although the use of pit boards and radio communications now mean it is very easy for a driver to keep in touch with his team in the pits, there is still plenty of room for improvement. German car manufacturer BMW is looking at ways for special displays to be used in the helmets of their drivers that would warn them of dangers ahead on the track. The display could include information about warning flags, oil on the track and whether other cars have crashed out of the race. Grand Prix bosses are also looking at ways of automatically slowing down cars if there is an accident ahead, or if there is a chance that they might hit another car in poor weather conditions. This technology would have to be completely foolproof before it could be used in the sport though. Race wear: functional, fabulous, and pretty good-looking Formula One drivers often look like walking advertising hoardings. Their multi-colored overalls are full of the logos of their sponsors as every single last piece of material is covered with the names and badges of the companies that support the teams. But the overalls the drivers wear are not just sponsor billboards, because they have a much more important use. The all-in-one overalls have to be worn for safety reasons — which is why they are worn whenever the car is being driven. The days of drivers wearing a shirt, trousers and flowing silk scarf to fight it out for grand prix glory are long gone. Now drivers are decked out in all sorts of safety apparel: overalls, boots, gloves, and more (see Figure 1). The following sections explain function and safety features of what drivers wear when they race. Figure 1: What drivers wear Overalls and undies The driver's overalls look similar to a baby's romper suit. They zip up the front and cover their arms and legs. These suits are made of a special material called Nomex that is fire-resistant. The sport's governing body, the FIA, demands that the material used must protect a driver from a fire of up to 700 degrees centigrade for at least 12 seconds — and the sponsors' logos have to comply with this as well. To increase the drivers' protection, they also wear T-shirts, underwear and socks all made of Nomex. All of this makes it very hot in the car for the driver, but it is a small price to pay in the quest for safety. Boots, gloves and other accessories The use of Nomex is not just restricted to the overalls and underwear because the boots and gloves that the drivers wear are also made of this modern fabric — although comfort issues have to be considered in these areas. Gloves will be trimmed with leather to make sure that there is no chance of them slipping off the steering wheel at 200 mph, while the soles of the racing boots are very thin and made of rubber to ensure that the driver can feel exactly what is going on with the pedals. Although the overalls may provide protection in the event of serious fires, they do not protect the drivers from the bumps and heat of a Formula One cockpit. Some of the top stars also wear knee and ankle protectors to prevent bruises, while drivers have been known to get heat blisters from the bottom of their car. Driving is a dirty business and racing overalls are in a far from pristine condition at the end of the race — covered in sweat, oil, dirt and, if a driver has been successful, champagne. Some teams provide their drivers with a special jacket after the race that looks like the top half of their overalls so that they look pristine for the television cameras. These overalls have been nicknamed "bullet-proof vests" because they are made of specially toughened material to make sure the sponsors' logos are completely flat and fully visible in photos and on television.

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The Anatomy of a Formula One Pit Stop

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

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