1.1 2003 SEASON
We witnessed a landmark occasion on the 12th of October 2003. Michael Schumacher
gained his sixth (and record breaking) World Championship beating Fangio and his
record five titles gained in the 50’s.
It’s been emotional, never before have we been so involved in the hearts and minds of the
drivers. We lived out fears and dreams with them, the highs and the lows.
We saw young blood winning Grand prix in an entirely Michael Schumacher dominant
era in the form of Alonso and Raikkonen and a total of eight different winners. This is a
year we will all have been proud to witness.
Michael truly is the best driver in the world (certainly in this era) and confirmed our love
of the sport after a couple of “boring” seasons. We have the same excitement that we had
during the Hill/ Schumacher years. Michael has that spark and you cannot help but
admire his ability and dedication to the sport and his team.
As a fan of the present and the future of the sport we can only be impressed at what we
see. We believe that we are witnessing a whole new beginning, not just in terms of
drivers, but also in groundbreaking technology. History books in decades to come will be
talking not only about Michael Schumacher but also Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso
and Juan Pablo Montoya and we can say that we witnessed history being made.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SPORT
Like every sport formula one has a grand and enduring history
1.2 F 1 ORIGINS
The modern era of Formula One Grand Prix racing began in 1950, but the roots of F1 are
far earlier, tracing to the pioneering road races in France in the 1890s, through the
Edwardian years, the bleak twenties, the German domination of the 1930s and the early
post-war years of Italian supremacy.
At the birth of racing, cars were upright and heavy, roads
were tarred sand or wood, reliability was problematic, drivers
were accompanied by mechanics, and races — usually on
public roads from town to town — were impossibly long by
modern standards. Regarded as the first motor race proper
was a 1,200 km road race from Paris to Bordeaux and back in
1895, won by Émile Levassor with his Panhard et Levassor in 48 hours at the blazing
average speed of 29.9 mph.
The first race using the appellation "Grand Prix" was 1901's
French Grand Prix at Le Mans, won by Ferencz Szisz with a
Renault, who covered the 700 miles at 63.0 mph. In 1908 the
Targa Florio in Sicily saw the appearance of "pits," shallow
emplacements dug by the side of the track where mechanics could labor with the
detachable rims on early GP car tires — themselves a major technical improvement over
the earlier technique of permanently attached wheels and spokes. But even so, racing cars
of the early years were too heavy and fast for their tires.
1.3 THE EARLY YEARS
Motor racing after World War II initiated a new formula —
originally called Formula A but soon to be known as
Formula 1 — for cars of 1,500 cc supercharged and 4,500 cc
unsupercharged. The minimum race distance was reduced
from 500 km (311 miles) to 300 km (186 miles), allowing the
Monaco Grand Prix to be re-introduced after a two-year interval in 1950. The FIA
(Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) announced plans for a World Championship
at a meeting held that year. On 10 April 1950, Juan Manuel Fangio, in a
Maserati, won the Pau Grand Prix, the first contest to be labeled an
"International Formula One" race. A month later Silverstone hosted the
British Grand Prix, the first sanctioned championship race for Formula One
Grand Prix cars, and the F1 World Championship was born!
1.4 Wings, Shunts & Ground Effects
The Formula one engineers, now referred to as "designers," had
been steadily working on aerodynamics for more than a decade.
The zenith of the art may have been reached in 1978 with the
"ground effects" Lotus 78/79.Ground effects (explained in
‘AERODYNAMICS’) turned the entire car into a large, inverted
wing, using side skirts and underbody design to literally glue the
car to the circuit. Mario Andretti, who took the Lotus to the
championship in 1978, explained that ground effects made the
racecar "feel like it's painted to the road." Colin Chapman's
careful development of the ground-effect car principle had
rendered conventional GP machines virtually uncompetitive in
a little over 12 months
1.5 The Turbo Era
With the benefit of hindsight, one can now say confidently that ground effects were less
important to the long-run development of F1 technology than turbo charging — although
both were introduced initially in the 1977 season, and both eventually banned. The first
turbo was remarkably quick, although suffering from "turbo lag" under acceleration, but
very unreliable. (The 1977 season also saw the introduction of
radial tires, first by Michelin, then followed by Goodyear and
Although Cosworth-powered teams would win the
championship in 1981 and 1982, Grand Prix was increasingly dominated by the turbos
from 1981 onwards.
1.6 The Active Cars
In the '87 season Team Lotus unveiled the first F1 car with a
computer-controlled "active suspension" system. Active
suspension — later joined by the semi-automatic gearbox,
traction control, and “black box" controlled starting programs
and anti-lock brakes — would produce fabulously complex
and fast cars.
1.7 After Tamburello
The beginning of the current era in Formula One is marked by
a single day: 1 May 1994. The F1 circus descended on the San
Marino GP at Imola. There in practice, something really
terrible did happen. Two devastatingly violent accidents —
one that killed first-year Simtek driver Roland Ratzenberger
(F1's first death in 12 years) and another that put Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the
hospital — shook the faith of the GP fraternity. In the race, after a starting line shunt and
six laps behind the safety car, Senna was in first place just car lengths ahead of
Schumacher when, on lap seven, his Rothmans Williams-Renault bottomed out in the fast
Tamburello corner, struck the wall nearly head-on at 180+ mph, and ricocheted back onto
the track, a mass of mangled carbon fibre. Senna was motionless in the car, finally being
pulled from the wreckage, given first aid and taken away in a helicopter. He died hours
later from massive head injuries — caused when a suspension arm from the
disintegrating Williams punctured his helmet. Ironically, despite all the tragic Formula
One deaths over the decades, Aryton Senna was still the first and only F1 World
Champion to have died during a Grand Prix race.
In the aftermath of Tamburello, the show went on, as it
always has. FIA implemented emergency rules to slow
the cars further, mandating pit speed limits, "stepped"
bottoms to reduce down force, limited wing sizes and
increased cockpit openings, among others.
1.8 Grooves & The New Legends
Formula One '98 proved to be the most exciting F1 season in
years. Despite the rule changes and grooved tires (supplied
by both Goodyear and Bridgestone) the cars once again were
faster, and overtaking just as difficult. Then Hakkinen's
dominant MP 4/13 McLaren won four of the first six races,
including opening 1-2 finishes with Coulthard in Melbourne
and Interlagos. But Schumacher split the McLarens on the
Buenos Aires grid, and outfoxed Coulthard into making a mistake to capture the
By the time the F1 circus moved on to Spa-Francorchamps,
Schumi was again seven points down and hanging on just
barely to Hakkinen in the title battle. Belgium indeed proved
the turning point of the season — with another controversial
race — where a massive 13-car shunt at the La Source hairpin,
initiated by Coulthard, put many cars out of action at the first
corner. On the restart, Hakkinen then spun and destroyed his McLaren when hit by
Johnny Herbert's Sauber-Petronas. In atrocious rain, Schumacher opened up a massive
lead, but then reamed a slow-moving Coulthard from behind in the spray, wiping off the
Ferrari's entire right-side suspension and wheel. Eventually, Damon Hill went by to give
Team Jordan its first GP victory.
WHAT THE FUTURE BEHOLDS????????????
ONLY TIME WILL
2. ENGINE AND TECHNOLOGY
2.1 THE ENGINE
The engine and transmission of a modern Formula One
car are some of the most highly stressed pieces of
machinery on the planet, and the competition to have the
most power on the grid is still intense. The development
of racing engines has always held to the dictum of the
great automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche that "the
perfect race car crosses the finish line in first place and
then falls to pieces." Designing such engines is always a
balancing act between the power that can be extracted and the need for enough durability
to get to the chequered flag.
Engine power outputs in Formula One racing are also a fascinating insight into how far
the sport has moved on. In the 1950s Formula One cars were managing specific power
outputs of around 100 bhp / litre (about what a modern 'performance' road car can
manage now). That figure rose steadily until the arrival of the 'turbo age' of 1.5 litre turbo
engines, some of which were producing anything up to 750 bhp / litre. Then, once the
sport returned to normal aspiration in 1989 that figure fell back, before steadily rising
again. The 'power battle' of the last few years has seen outputs creeping back towards the
1000 bhp barrier, some teams producing more than 300 bhp / litre from the current
generation of 3 litre engines.
Revving to over 18,000 RPM a modern Formula One engine will consume a phenomenal
650 litres of air every second, with race fuel consumption typically around the 75 l/100
km (4 mpg) mark. Revving at such massive speeds equates to an accelerative force on the
pistons of nearly 9000 times gravity. Unsurprisingly, engine failure remains one of the
most common causes of retirement in races.
Modern Formula One engines owe little except their fundamental design of cylinders,
pistons and valves to road-car engines. The engine is a
stressed component within the car, bolting to the
carbonfibre 'tub' and having the transmission and rear
suspension bolted to it in turn. Therefore it has to be
enormously strong. A conflicting demand is that it should
be light, compact and with its mass in as low a position as
possible, to help reduce the car's centre of gravity and to
enable the height of rear bodywork to be minimized.
2.2 THE REGULATIONS
Formula One engines may be no more than 3 litres in
capacity. They must have 10 cylinders, with a maximum
of 5 valves per cylinder, and must be normally aspirated.
Devices designed to pre-cool air before it enters the
cylinders are not allowed. Nor is the injection of any
substance into the cylinders other than air and fuel.
Variable-length exhaust systems are also forbidden.
The crankshaft and camshafts must be made of steel or cast iron. For the cylinder block,
cylinder head and pistons, the use of carbon-composite materials is not allowed.
Separate starting devices may be used to start engines in the pits and on the grid. If the
engine is fitted with an anti-stall device, this must be set to cut the engine within ten
seconds in the event of an accident.
2.3 GEARBOXES AND TRANSMISSION
The gearboxes of modern Formula One cars are now highly automated with drivers
selecting gears via paddles fitted behind the steering wheel. The 'sequential' gearboxes
used are very similar in principle to those of motorbikes, allowing gear changes to be
made far faster than with the traditional "H" gate selector, with the gearbox selectors
operated electrically. Despite such high levels of technology, under 2004 regulations
fully automatic transmission systems have been outlawed, as has launch-control, meaning
drivers must control the clutch themselves, at least at the start of a race.
Transmissions bolt directly to the back of the engine and incorporate a torque-biasing
differential that works in conjunction with the electronic traction control systems to
ensure the maximum amount of power is applied to the road. After several years of six-
speed gearboxes, most of the grid is now running seven-speed units.
Mindful of the massive cost of these ultra high-tech engines, the FIA has introduced new
regulations for 2004, which limit each car to one engine per Grand Prix weekend. Should
a car require an engine change prior to the race, the driver of that car will be forced to
drop ten positions on the grid. More rule changes designed to extend engine life still
further are expected in the future.
2.4 TRACTION CONTROL
One of the clearest areas of the much spoken of 'cross
over' between Formula One and road cars is traction
control. And although built to perform slightly different
purposes - in ordinary cars ensuring stability under
everyday use, in Formula One delivering the maximum
amount of power to the road at all times - the fundamental
principles remain very similar.
Formula One cars are massively powerful. Even with the grip of modern racing tyres and
the assistance of aerodynamic down force, they are still capable of 'breaking traction' or
developing wheel spin up to very high speeds, especially under the loads imposed by
cornering. This is inefficient, slows the car down and can damage tyres. Traction control
therefore gives drivers a competitive advantage.
To understand traction control it is best to consider the 'traction circle'. The tyres of a
Formula One car, like any car, can only offer a certain amount of grip. This can be the
longitudinal grip used for braking and accelerating in a straight line, or the lateral grip
required for cornering - or a combination of the two. Judging the exact 'mixture' of
acceleration and cornering grip that can be extracted from the tyre is one of the hardest
tasks faced by a racing driver - too much will result in a 'power slide', too little will see
the car putting in a slow time. And it is in this that traction control is of the greatest
assistance to drivers.
Not that traction control gets rid of the need for driver skill. The highly 'aggressive'
systems on a Formula One car will allow a car to operate very close to the edges of the
tyre's capability. But simply traveling around every corner on full throttle would have a
very serious impact on the tyres' life and require more frequent pit stops. Discretion is
still called for.
Traction control is not new to Formula One motor sport.
It has been around in various guises since the 1980s, and
cars like the 1992 Williams-Renault FW14-B, which took
Nigel Mansell to his Driver’s Championship title, were
even more electronic-packed than the current cars -
featuring computer controlled active suspension in
addition. After a long period during which traction
control was banned, the FIA decided to re-allow its use at the start of the 2002 season as
it was becoming increasingly difficult to prove that ECUs (Engine Control Units) were
not being used to replicate traction control functions.
As with systems on road cars, Formula One traction control works by a comparison of
wheel and track speeds, the information gathered by electronic sensors. If the wheel is
traveling quicker than the road it is passing over then the engine will be progressively
throttled back to prevent wheel spin. Until recently the system was also vital to the
'launch control' mechanism, which allowed drivers to make optimum starts. This has been
outlawed for the 2004 season.
The role of traction control in Formula One racing is an ongoing source of debate, with
critics arguing that driver skill alone should regulate the amount of power transferred to a
car’s rear wheels. However, others have argued that any ban on such systems would be
difficult or impossible to police and traction control remains legal for 2004.
2.5 LAUNCH CONTROL
Making the best possible start has always been vital in
any motor sport series, and especially so in Formula One
racing. With limited opportunities to pass other cars on
modern circuits, thanks to the aerodynamic demands of
the cars and the very high speeds involved in Grand Prix
racing, a good start can be one of the best ways to gain a
competitive advantage and track position. On circuits
where it is particularly difficult to pass, such as Monaco, a good or bad start for a front-
runner can literally make or break their race.
From the start of the 2004 season, launch control systems have been banned from
Formula One racing again. The systems had been allowed to return under the belief that it
was 'impossible' to police a ban on them, but technological advances and the ability to
investigate car's Engine Control Units (ECUs) led the FIA to decide to re-ban such
systems so as to improve the spectacle of the sport and help teams to reduce development
costs. With the loss of launch control, the skill required from a Formula One driver at the
beginning of the race has improved markedly. Once again it is a driver's reaction time
and good technique that are critical for getting a car off the grid and accelerating as
quickly as possible.
The principals behind a racing start remain constant, with or without launch control. It is
the task of the driver to minimize the time it takes to react to the red lights going out at
the start of the race. Then optimum acceleration is achieved by synchronizing the throttle
and clutch so as to ensure the rear tyres are working as hard as they possibly can. This
means a small percentage of slip, the tyre turning slightly faster than it is moving over the
road. With their vastly powerful engines working against lightweight bodies, Formula
One cars are always 'traction limited' at the start of the race, capable of spinning their
wheels wastefully if too much power is applied. This will see the car 'bog down' (and will
be obvious thanks to clouds of tyre smoke); the car is almost certain to lose advantage to
rivals who have made better starts.
Launch control systems automated many of the steps necessary to making good starts.
Using them meant a 0-100-km/h time of under 3.0 seconds on a dry track, that time
having increased by anything up to 0.5 seconds this season according to experts. Drivers
are now responsible for launching their cars, holding engine revs at a pre-determined
optimum point and then progressively feeding in the clutch.
The clutch is not a pedal as in a conventional road car, but a paddle lever, operated by
hand (usually the left) and most commonly situated immediately behind the steering
wheel. As in a road car, though, getting the correct balance between throttle and clutch is
vital to a fast getaway. Feed the clutch in too quickly and you risk stalling; too slowly and
your rivals will be disappearing into the distance.
One way of reducing the risk of driver error in this process has already been seen on the
2004 grid, in the form of an additional ‘locking lever’ on the opposite side of the steering
wheel to the clutch. As the driver pulls up to his grid slot he uses the clutch paddle to find
the biting point and then ‘locks’ the clutch in place with the second lever. When the lights
go out, clutch and throttle should in theory already be at their optimum levels and the
driver simply releases the locking lever to get the car off the line.
To ensure that the traction control (TC) systems (which are still permitted under the
Sporting Regulations) are not used to replicate any launch control functions, conventional
TC is inhibited below 100 km/h. It is possible that some of the teams that are achieving
very good starts in the 2004 season have found another way, within the existing
regulations, to regulate engine power at low speed. It has been suggested that this might
be by limiting the fuel supply to the engine.
A modern Formula One car has almost as much in
common with a jet fighter as it does with an ordinary
road car. Aerodynamics have become key to success in
the sport and teams spend tens of millions of dollars on
research and development in the field each year.
3.1 WHY AERODYNAMICS?
The aerodynamic designer has two primary concerns: the creation of down force, to help
push the car's tyres onto the track and improve cornering forces; and minimizing the drag
that gets caused by turbulence and acts to slow the car down.
Several teams started to experiment with the now familiar wings in the late 1960s.
Racecar wings operate on exactly the same principle as aircraft wings, only in reverse.
Air flows at different speeds over the two sides of the wing (by having to travel different
distances over its contours) and this creates a difference in pressure, a physical rule
known as Bernoulli's Principle. As this pressure tries to balance, the wing tries to move in
the direction of the low pressure. Planes use their wings to create lift; racecars use theirs
to create down force. A modern Formula One car is capable of developing 3.5 g lateral
cornering force (three and a half times its own weight) thanks to aerodynamic down
force. That means that, theoretically, at high speeds they could drive upside down.
3.2 THE RESEARCH
Early experiments with movable wings and high mountings led to some spectacular
accidents, and for the 1970 season regulations were introduced to limit the size and
location of wings. Evolved over time, those rules still hold largely true today.
By the mid 1970s 'ground effect' down force had been discovered. Lotus engineers found
out that the entire car could be made to act like a wing by the creation of a giant wing on
its underside, which would help to suck it to the road. The ultimate example of this
thinking was the Brabham BT46B, designed by Gordon Murray, which actually used a
cooling fan to extract air from the skirted area under the car, creating enormous down
force. After technical challenges from other teams it was withdrawn after a single race.
And rule changes followed to limit the benefits of 'ground effects' - firstly a ban on the
skirts used to contain the low-pressure area, later a requirement for a 'stepped floor'.
Despite the full-sized wind tunnels and vast computing power used by the aerodynamic
departments of most teams, the fundamental principles of Formula One aerodynamics
still apply: to create the maximum amount of down force for the minimal amount of drag.
The primary wings mounted front and rear are fitted with different profiles depending on
the down force requirements of a particular track. Tight, slow circuits like Monaco
require very aggressive wing profiles - you will see that cars run two separate 'blades' of
'elements' on the rear wings (two is the maximum permitted under new 2004 regulations).
In contrast, high-speed circuits like Monza see the cars stripped of as much wing as
possible, to reduce drag and increase speed on the long straights.
3.3 THE FAR REACHES OF AERODYNAMICS
Every single surface of a modern Formula One car, from
the shape of the suspension links to that of the driver's
helmet - has its aerodynamic effects considered.
Disrupted air, where the flow 'separates' from the body,
creates turbulence, which creates drag - which slows the
car down. Look at a recent car and you will see that
almost as much effort has been spent reducing drag as
increasing down force - from the vertical end-plates fitted to wings to prevent vortices
forming to the diffuser plates mounted low at the back, which help to re-equalize pressure
of the faster-flowing air that has passed under the car and would otherwise create a low-
pressure 'balloon' dragging at the back. Despite this, designers can't make their cars too
'slippery', as a good supply of airflow has to be ensured to help dissipate the vast amounts
of heat produced by a modern Formula One engine.
Recently most Formula One teams have been trying to emulate Ferrari's 'narrow waist'
design, where the rear of the car is made as narrow and low as possible. This reduces
drag and maximizes the amount of air available to the rear wing. The 'barge boards'
increasingly fitted to the sides of cars also help to shape the flow of the air and minimize
the amount of turbulence.
The size and dimensions of Formula One cars are tightly
controlled by the regulations.
They must be no more than 180cm wide. The length and
height of the car are effectively governed by other
specific parameters. For example, bodywork ahead of the
rear wheel centre line must be a maximum of 140cm
wide. Bodywork behind it must be no more than 100cm
wide. Front and rear overhangs are limited to 120cm and 60cm
respectively from the wheel centre lines.
The strict regulations mean that the teams inevitably end up with
very similarly sized cars. As an example, the 2004 season Renault
R24 is 460cm long, 180cm wide and 95cm high, while Ferrari's
F2004 measures 454.5cm by 179.6cm by 95.9cm.
4. THE STEERING WHEEL,
BRAKES AND SUSPENSION
4.1 STEERING WHEEL
Formula One drivers have no spare concentration for
operating fiddly controls, or trying to look at small,
hidden gauges. Hence the controls and instrumentation
for modern Formula One cars have almost entirely
migrated to the steering wheel itself - the critical interface
between the driver and the car.
Early Formula One cars used steering wheels taken
directly from road cars. They were normally made from wood (necessitating the use of
driving gloves), and in the absence of packaging constraints they tended to be made as
large a diameter as possible, to reduce the effort needed to turn. As cars grew
progressively lower and cockpits narrower throughout the 1960s and 1970s, steering
wheels became smaller, so as to fit into the more compact space available.
The introduction of semi-automatic gear changes via the now familiar 'paddles' marked
the beginning of the move to concentrate controls as close to the driver's fingers as
possible. The first buttons to appear on the face of the steering wheel were the 'neutral'
button (vital for taking the car out of gear in the event of a spin), and the on-board radio
system's push-to-talk button.
As time went on the trend continued. Excepting the throttle and brake pedals, few
Formula One cars have any controls other than those on the face of the wheel. Buttons
tend to be used for 'on/off' functions, such as engaging the pit-lane speed limiter system,
while rotary controls govern functions with multiple settings, such as the traction control
programme, fuel mixture and even the car's front-to-rear brake bias - all functions the
driver might wish to alter to take account of changing conditions during the race.
The steering wheel is also used to house instrumentation, normally via a multi-function
LCD display screen and - more visibly - the ultra-bright 'change up' lights that tell the
driver the perfect time for the optimum gearshift. The steering wheels are not designed to
make more than three quarters of a turn of lock in total, so there is no need for a
continuous rim, instead there are just two 'cut outs' for the driver's hands.
One of the most technically complicated parts of the whole Formula One car is the snap-
on connector that joins the wheel to the steering column. This has to be tough enough to
take the steering forces, but it also provides the electrical connections between the
controls and the car itself. The FIA technical regulations state that the driver must be able
to get out of the car within five seconds, removing nothing except the steering wheel - so
rapid release is vitally important.
Formula One cars now run with power assisted steering, reducing the forces that must be
transmitted by the steering wheel. This has enabled designers to continue with the trend
of reducing the steering wheel size, with the typical item now being about half the
diameter of that of a normal road car.
When it comes to the business of slowing down, Formula
One cars are surprisingly closely related to their road-
going cousins. Indeed as ABS anti-skid systems have
been banned from Formula One racing, most modern road
cars can lay claim to having considerably cleverer
The principle of braking is simple: slowing an object down by removing kinetic energy
from it. Formula One cars have disc brakes (like most road-cars) with rotating discs
(attached to the wheels) being squeezed between two brake pads by the action of a
hydraulic caliper. This turns a car's momentum into large amounts of heat and light -
notice the way Formula One brake discs glow yellow hot.
In the same way that too much power applied through a wheel will cause it to spin, too
much braking will cause it to lock as the brakes overpower the available levels of grip
from the tyre. Formula One previously allowed anti-skid braking systems (which would
reduce the brake pressure to allow the wheel to turn again and then continue to slow it at
the maximum possible rate) but these were banned in the 1990s. Braking therefore
remains one of the sternest tests of a Formula One driver's skill.
The technical regulations also require that each car have a twin-circuit hydraulic braking
system with two separate reservoirs for the front and rear wheels. This ensures that, even
in the event of one complete circuit failure, braking should still be available through the
second circuit. The amount of braking power going to the front and rear circuits can be
'biased' by a control in the cockpit, allowing a driver to stabilize handling or take account
of falling fuel load. Under normal operation about 60 percent of braking power goes to
the front wheels which, because of load transfer under deceleration, take the brunt of the
retardation duties. (Think of what would happen if you tried to slow down a skateboard
with a tennis ball on it).
In one area Formula One brakes are empirically more
advanced than road-car systems: materials. All the cars
on the grid now use carbon fibre composite brake discs
which save weight and are able to operate at higher
temperatures than steel discs. A typical Formula One
brake disc weighs about 1.5 kg (versus 3.0 kg for the similar sized steel discs used in the
American CART series). These are gripped by special compound brake pads and are
capable of running at vast temperatures – anything up to 750 degrees Celsius. Previously
different sized discs would be used for qualifying and racing, but the 2003 changes to the
rules means that all cars enter parc ferme after qualifying - and so therefore set their one-
lap time on their race brakes.
Formula One brakes are remarkably efficient. In combination with the modern advanced
tyre compounds they have dramatically reduced braking distances. It takes a Formula
One car considerably less distance to stop from 160 km/h than a road car uses to stop
from 100 km/h. So good are the brakes in fact that one of the topics for debate during the
recent technical dialogue between the constructors and the FIA has been whether an
increase in braking distances would make for closer racing with more overtaking. This
could involve limiting brake technology through restrictions on materials or design.
The suspension of a modern Formula One car forms the
critical interface between the different elements that
work together to produce its performance. Suspension
is what harnesses the power of the engine, the down
force created by the wings and aerodynamic pack and
the grip of the tyres, and allows them all to be
combined effectively and translated into a fast on-track
Unlike road cars, occupant comfort does not enter the equation – spring and damper rates
are very firm to ensure the impact of hitting bumps and kerbs is defused as quickly as
possible. The spring absorbs the energy of the impact; the shock absorber releases it on
the return stroke, and prevents an oscillating force from building up. Think in terms of
catching a ball rather than letting it bounce.
Following the ban on computer-controlled 'active' suspension in the 1990s, all of the
Formula One car's suspension functions must be carried out without electronic
intervention. The cars feature 'multi-link' suspension front and rear, broadly equivalent to
the double wishbone layout of some road cars, with unequal length suspension arms top
and bottom to allow the best possible control of the camber angle the wheel takes during
cornering. As centrifugal force causes the body to roll, the longer effective radius of the
lower suspension arms means that the bottom of the tyre (viewed from ahead) slants out
further than the top, vital for maximizing the grip yielded by the tyre.
Unlike road cars, Formula One springs are no longer
mounted directly to the suspension arms, instead being
operated remotely via push rods and bell cranks which
(like the lobes of a camshaft) allow for variable rate
springing - softer initial compliance becoming stronger as the spring is compressed
further. The suspension links themselves are now made out of carbon fibre to add
strength and save weight. This is vital to reduce 'unsprung mass' - the weight of
components between the springs and the surface of the track.
Modern Formula One suspension is minutely adjustable. Initial set-up for a track will be
made according to weather conditions (wet weather settings are far softer) and experience
from previous years, which will determine basic spring and damper settings. These rates
can then be altered according to driver preference and tyre performance, as can the
suspension geometry under specific circumstances. Set-up depends on the aerodynamic
requirements of the track, weather conditions and driver preference for under steer or
over steer - this being nothing more complicated than whether the front or back of the car
loses grip first at the limits of adhesion.
5. TYRE TECHNOLOGY
A modern Formula One car is a technical masterpiece. But considering the development
effort invested in aerodynamics, composite construction and engines it is easy to forget
that tyres are still a race car’s biggest single performance variable. An average car with
good tyres can do well, even very well. But with bad tyres even the very best car does not
stand a chance.
An ordinary car tyre is made with heavy steel-belted radial plies and designed for
durability - typically a life of 16,000 kilometers or more (10,000 miles). A Formula One
tyre is designed to last for, at most, 200 kilometers and - like everything else on a the car -
is constructed to be as light and strong as possible. That means an underlying nylon and
polyester structure in a complicated weave pattern designed to withstand far larger forces
than road car tyres. In Formula One racing that means anything up to a tonne of down
force, 4g lateral loadings and 5g longitudinal loadings.
5.1 DIMENSIONS OF THE TYRE
The dimensions of the tyre as follows:
1] Overall diameter 660mm
2] Inner diameter 330mm
3] Rear tyre width: maximum 380mm; minimum 365mm
4] Front tyre width: maximum 355mm; minimum 305mm
5.2 DIMENSIONS OF THE TYRE GROOVES
Each front and rear dry-weather tyre, when new,
must incorporate 4 grooves which are:
1] arranged symmetrically about the centre of the
2] at least 14mm wide at the contact surface
3]at least 2.5mm deep across the whole lower surface;
4] the tread width of the front tyres must not exceed 270mm.
5.3 INSIDE OF THE TYRE
The structure is composed of
a Nylon and polyester
framework, in a complex
weave. This is the skeleton of
the tyre. It provides rigidity
against high aerodynamic
load (more than one tonne of
force at 250 km/h), strong
longitudinal forces (4 G),
lateral forces (5 G), and
violent crossing of the
5.4 COMPOUNDS PRESENT IN TYRE
Comprising more than one hundred ingredients, the compound is based on three main
elements: carbon, oil and sulphur. More or less soft depending on the characteristics of
each circuit, this sector changes considerably from one race to the next, whereas the
structure evolves little by little throughout the season.
5.5 TYPES OF TYRES
1] DRY TYRE
Formula One tyre for dry surfaces is a colossus of 660
mm in external diameter and 350 mm wide,
containing four longitudinal grooves of at least 2.5
mm imposed by the Depth Regulations. These
grooves are symmetrically placed from the centre of
the tyre tread and spaced 50 mm apart. Far from being
just an altered slick, the dry surface tyre is a completely new concept, introduced to F1
with the sole aim of reducing the size of the ground contact area, i.e. the surface which
ensures grip, resulting from the contact of the rubber compound and track. The aim of the
regulations: to reduce the speed of the cars on corners.
Life: from 80 km to 200 km, depending on the compound from 80°C to 100°C
2] INTERMEDIATE TYRE
Fine to moderate rain, precarious gripping conditions but which do not justify using Wet
tyres: intermediates are required. They have a special role and a wide range of uses: on a
drying track, they must evacuate the film of water but also remain competitive on the dry
without deteriorating too much. For this reason, quite discrete sculptures are used.
Life: extremely variable depending on weather conditions from 40° C (wet track) to 100° C (on the dry).
3] WET TYRE
'Wet’ tyres have full tread patterns, necessary to expel standing water when racing in the
wet. One of the worst possible situations for a race driver remains 'aquaplaning' – the
condition when a film of water builds up between the tyre and the road, meaning that the
car is effectively floating. This leads to vastly reduced levels of grip. The tread patterns
of modern racing tyres are mathematically designed to scrub the maximum amount of
water possible from the track surface to ensure the best possible contact between the
rubber and the track. As well as the constraints of compound and structure explained
above, the tyre for rain; full wet; - must meet another requirement: to evacuate the film of
water which infiltrates between the tyre contact area and the track. If this film is too
great, the tyre loses all grip: resulting in aquaplaning. Regulations allow three different
types of wet tyres by race. Generally, one is an intermediate type, the other two are; wet;
types, for soaked tracks. These types of tyre can only be used when the track has been
declared; wet; by the race director
Life: up to the total length of the race, depending on conditions from 30°C to 50°C
Choosing the right tyre pressure is important in order to optimize the tyre setup of a F1
car. The best tyre pressure is one that results in the greatest area of the "contact patch"
(the area of the tyre that makes contact with the track surface). An under-inflated tyre will
have a large contact patch but will not support the car very well, increasing the risk of the
bottom of the car scraping the surface of the tarmac. On the other hand, an over-inflated
tyre will have a small contact patch and is therefore not providing the maximum level of
grip. This exaggerated diagram
shows the principle well.
Different tyre pressures will also result in different rates of wear of the tyres. This is why
in some F1 races two team-mates racing in identical cars can have remarkably different
behaviors from the same compound of tyres, simply because they have each chosen a
different tyre pressure to race with. The driving style of the driver also plays a part.
A typical tyre pressure in F1 is approximately 1.1 bars, whereas a normal road-going tyre
pressure is in the region of 2.2 bars. This is because a F1 car weighs only 600kg and the
average family car about 1000kg; therefore less pressure is needed to support the lower
Another interesting point is that most of the F1 teams use dry nitrogen gas to inflate their
tyres instead of air. This is done for two reasons. Firstly the moisture content of air is
variable depending on the local weather conditions and this differs considerably between
some of the exotic locations on the GP calendar. By using dry nitrogen gas the tyres will
behave in a predictable way wherever they are being used. The second reason is that air is
a mixture of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%). Oxygen gas is far more reactive than
nitrogen and at the high operating temperatures of F1 tyres (> 100°C) the oxygen reacts
with the tyre, reducing the total pressure inside. Using pure nitrogen removes this
problem and tyre pressures remain far more consistent
The whole thing operates at an optimal temperature of around 100° C, resulting from
“centering” and should, in theory, be ideally distributed between the outside, the centre
and the inside of the tyre tread. This temperature should also be identical from left to
right, and from front to rear of the car. . To ensure that the tyre pressure stays as constant
as possible during these changes in temperature a special mixture of low density gases is
used to inflate them rather than air Too much heat at the rear? The car will tend to over-
steer. Too much heat at the front? It will under-steer.
The more rubber, the more grip. To get the maximum amount of grip out of tyres, the tyre
is as wide as possible, which means exactly the maximum limit the FIA has set. Another
advantage from having as much as possible tyres thread is to decrease wear, as more
rubber surface absorbs wear better, this extending the lifetime of a tyre, or allowing the
manufactures to use softer rubber compounds. To compensate for lost footprint area in F1
tyres, compared to the optimal (maximal diameter) size, tyre engineers are designing the
smaller diameter tyres with more flexible sidewalls so more tyre will come in contact
with the track. Judging from this knowledge, it is wise to choose a tyre with a taller
carcass when running on a track with a rough or bumpy surface so the stiffer sidewall
will help cope with the bumps and irregularities.
5.9 WHEEL TETHERS
Since 1998, F1 cars have had to fit wheel tethers connecting the
wheels to the chassis. This rule was introduced to try to stop wheels
coming free and bouncing around dangerously during an accident.
Unfortunately, wheels still do come off the cars during crashes,
tragically killing a Marshall at the Italian GP in 2000. The FIA have
introduced an extra tether to each wheel for the 2001 season to try to
stop the wheels coming off and causing injury to other drivers, marshals or spectators.
The tether must attach to the chassis at one end, with the other end connecting to the
The wheel tethers are made by one of three companies in the UK, Future Fibres in
London being one of them, and take the form of a rope. The tethers used in F1 are a
derivative of high performance marine ropes, made especially for each car. They are
made from a special polymer called polybenzoaoxide (PBO), which is often called Zylon.
This Zylon material has a very high strength and stiffness characteristic (around 280GPa)
much like carbon, but the advantage of Zylon is that it can be used as a pure fibre unlike
carbon, which has to be in composite form to gain its strength. The drawback of Zylon is
that is must be protected from light, so it is covered in a shrink-wrapped protective cover.
The tethers are designed to withstand about 5000 kg of load, but often they can break
quite easily during an accident, especially if the broken suspension members twist the
cable. The teams normally replace the tethers every two or three races to ensure that they
can withstand the loads put on them during an accident
F1 wheels are usually made from forged magnesium alloy due its low
density and high strength. They are machined in one piece to make
them as strong as possible, and are secured onto the suspension
uprights by a single central locking wheel nut. This 'lock' is quickly
pushed in to release the wheel during a pit stop, and the tyre changer
then pulls it again to lock the wheel once the tyres have been
The teams buy wheels from companies such as OZ Racing, Enkei and Fondmetal. Once
at the track, teams deliver their bare wheel rims to the tyre manufacturers truck where the
tyres are put onto the rims with special machines. The tyres are then inflated, carefully
balanced and delivered back to the teams.
5.11 SUPPLIERS OF TYRES
5.12 TYRE PRODUCTION
6. SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
For a dramatic expression of the relative performance of Formula One cars and road cars
you need to look no further than the familiar, silver forms of the safety cars that feature at
every Grand Prix.
6.1 SAFETY CAR
The safety car is very important to ensuring the spectacle
of a Formula One race does not suffer from undue
disruption, as its use allows the race to continue even after
a major accident, or other incident serious enough to
require the presence of marshals on the track. This
obviously cannot be allowed to happen with cars running
at full speed - or even under the caution of yellow flags
(as a driver may fail to observe them). Instead the safety car is deployed and the pack
'forms up' behind it - running in formation - until the obstacle or other problem has been
It sounds easy. Yet even some of the very fastest road cars in the world, driven flat-out,
are barely capable at maintaining a comfortable pace for Formula One cars (which lose
tyre temperature and can even suffer from engine overheating during slow running).
Since 1996 Mercedes-Benz has supplied Formula One safety cars to all rounds of the
championship, and the current model is an SLK 55 AMG. It has a slightly modified
engine over road-going specification, and has also been modified to reduce its weight and
improve braking response - but even with 270 kW (367-bhp) output from its V8 engine,
that's still less than half the power of a current Formula One car (combined with over
three times the mass.)
As with the medical response car, the safety car is on standby throughout a Grand Prix,
ready to be dispatched by race control at just seconds' notice. State of the art radio and
video equipment enable communication to be maintained at all times. When the race
controller decides to deploy the safety car it will join the track immediately. If it is at the
front of the field (the first car that will reach it is the race leader) then the orange flashing
lights on the roof will be activated immediately, signaling no overtaking. The leader will
reach the car and slow down, and then the pack will form up behind. If the safety car has
joined mid-field then - if circumstances permit - the green
lights on the roof will be left illuminated until the leader
is approaching, to allow lower-running competitors not to
be stranded in formation a whole lap down. A "Safety
Car" board is also displayed to drivers as they cross the
start-finish line, and the information will also be relayed
over radios from the pit lane.
When the race controller orders the safety car to leave the track again, a similarly exact
procedure is followed. At the start of its final lap the safety car will turn off its orange
flashing lights. Competitors must still remain behind in formation, but they know that at
the beginning of the next lap they will be racing again. The safety car will pull off into
the pits at the end of the lap and - as they cross the line - the competitors restart their
At the heart of the modern Formula One car lies the
immensely strong 'monocoque' structure, often referred to
as the 'tub'. This incorporates the cockpit and the driver's
'survival cell', but also forms the principal component of
the car's chassis, with the engine and front suspension
mounted directly to it. Both roles - as structural
component and safety device - require it to be as strong as
Like the rest of the car, most of the monocoque is constructed from carbon fibre.
Normally it comprises high-density woven laminate exterior panels, and a strong, light
'honeycomb' structure inside. Constructing the monocoque is one of the biggest jobs
faced by a team's composite technicians. It's not dissimilar to a 1:1 scale model kit, with
hundreds of separate carbon fibre components being bonded together using very powerful
The fundamental principle remains, as always, that the driver should be able to get out in
the least possible time - five seconds, according to the regulations, and without having to
remove anything except the steering wheel. (The regulations also say that the driver
should be able to put the steering wheel back on in another five seconds, vital for the safe
maneuvering of stricken cars near the track). Crash protection areas are incorporated into
the front and rear of the survival cell, as is the mandatory rollover protection hoop behind
the driver's seat. In recent years effort has been concentrated on increasing the protection
for drivers' heads – the area most vulnerable to harm by flying debris, by specifying taller
and tougher cockpit sidewalls.
As with road-cars, all Formula One cars must pass several crash and loading tests before
being passed fit for racing. It is no coincidence that the FIA is one of the active partners
in the Euro-NCAP road-car testing programme. The impact tests require the car's survival
cell to be attached to a special trolley with a 75 kg crash-test dummy in place - this then
being collided with a solid object at a speed of 14 m/s (50 km/h, 30 mph), with the forces
applied to the dummy and the trolley carefully measured. The low speed of the test is no
reflection on a Formula One car's ability to absorb the forces of larger impacts – the
speeds have been chosen to allow the most accurate measurement of the car's ability to
safely absorb the unwanted momentum of an accident. Rear impact and steering column
loading tests are also carried out.
One of the most important safety devices in Formula One
racing is the driver's helmet. Although its fundamental
shape may look very similar to those worn by drivers in
the 1980s and even the 1970s, the underlying design and
construction technology has changed radically over the
As late as 1985 a typical Formula One helmet weighed around 2kg. That amount
increased dramatically under high G cornering or deceleration, adding to the risk of
'whiplash' type injuries in big accidents. As head and neck trauma has been identified as
the greatest single risk of injury to race drivers, helmet manufacturers place the greatest
importance on reducing the mass of helmets, while increasing their strength and
resistance to impacts.
Current Formula One helmets are massively strong, but they are also considerably lighter,
now weighing approximately 1.25 kg. Helmets are constructed from several separate
layers, offering a combination of strength and flexibility (vital to absorb the force of large
impacts). The outer shell has two layers, typically fibre-reinforced resin over carbon
fibre. Under that comes a layer formed of vastly strong plastic, the same material used in
many bulletproof vests. Then there is a softer, deformable layer made from a plastic
based on polystyrene, covered with the flameproof material used in racing overalls and
The visor will be made of a special clear polycarbonate, combining excellent impact
protection with flame resistance and excellent visibility. Most drivers use tinted visors,
the insides of which are coated with anti-fogging chemicals to prevent them misting up,
particularly in wet conditions. Several transparent tear-off strips are attached to the
outside. As the visor picks up dirt during the course of the race, the driver can remove
these to clear his vision.
In recent seasons the actual shape of helmets has gradually evolved, as more
aerodynamically efficient shapes are brought into use. Sitting directly below the main
engine air intake, helmets are increasingly shaped to assist in the process of reducing drag
in this notoriously high-turbulence aerodynamic area. The modern designs also reduce
the lift produced by more traditionally shaped helmets - which can be anything up to 15
kg at racing speeds.
The helmet design must also provide ventilation for the driver. This is achieved through
the use of various small air intakes. To prevent small particles of track debris entering the
helmet these intakes are equipped with special filters.
The FIA has currently commissioned work for the development of a next generation
'super helmet' for Formula One racing, intended to improve safety standards still further,
especially in conjunction with the now mandatory use of the HANS (Head And Neck
HANS stands for the Head and Neck Support system, an
innovative safety device that has been seen in other codes
of motor sport for years, but which became mandatory in
Formula One for the first time in 2003. Its purpose is
simple: to massively reduce the loadings caused to a
driver's head and neck during the rapid deceleration
caused by an accident. This in turn reduces the risk of the
neck and skull fractures, which are the greatest cause of
death in racing accidents.
The HANS system consists of a carbon fibre 'collar' worn by the driver around his neck
and fitted under the shoulder belts of the safety harness. The helmet is then loosely
connected to the collar by three tethers, which allow free movement of the head in normal
operation. In the event of a frontal impact these tethers will control the amount of helmet
deflection, while the collar is locked in place by the tightening safety harness. The energy
absorbed by the driver's neck and skull is dramatically reduced, while the helmet loading
is also transferred from the base of the skull to the forehead - which is far better suited to
taking the force.
6.5 DRIVERS OUTFIT
Formula One helmets are designed around the clear need
to protect drivers' heads from the risk of major impacts.
But the rest of his clothing has an equally serious
purpose: offering the best possible defense against the
risks of fire.
Fortunately fire is now extremely rare in Formula One
racing, although well into the 1970s drivers were being
routinely injured or even killed by terrible blazes caused by fuel igniting after accidents.
Modern overalls, gloves and boots are made from special fire-proof materials designed to
ensure that, even if a driver is trapped inside a burning car, he will remain protected until
the marshals have extinguished the blaze.
Today’s overalls feature multi-layer construction from a special form of Agamid plastic
fabric, which is tested with a white-hot propane flame. The overalls must also be made as
light as possible and - due to the physical stresses of driving a Formula One car - they
also have to 'breath', allowing the kilograms of sweat
7. STRATEGIES AND PITSTOPS
Part science, part magic - a decent strategy is essential to
the business of winning races. Or, indeed, losing them.
The basic variables of the equation are simple enough:
fuel load and tyre wear. But from then on, it gets vastly
Shortly after the reintroduction of fuelling stops to
Formula One racing, the teams' race strategists worked out that at some circuits benefit
could be gained from making two or three stops, rather than just one. This was because
the car could run substantially quicker on a lower fuel load (with less weight to carry
around) and using the grippier, but less durable, soft tyre compounds. A difference in
performance that could be sufficient to offset the effect of the thirty or so seconds lost
making a pit stop.
Strategy continued to evolve, especially when it became obvious that certain teams were
carefully working out just where in the order their driver would re-emerge after a stop.
This allowed a car being baulked by a slower but hard to overtake runner to pit early,
return to clear track and then put in faster laps that would ensure emerging ahead once the
slower car made its stop - ‘overtaking in the pit lane’ as it has become known. This called
on rigid pit stop timetables to be abandoned and replaced by a looser system of pit stop
‘windows’, with a number of laps on which a car can make its stop to gain best strategic
The introduction of the new one-lap qualifying format has posed even greater challenges
for the race strategists, the team now having to balance the conflicting demands of a
quick qualifying time with sufficient fuel load for the first stint of the race (teams are no
longer allowed to refuel their cars between final qualifying and the race).
Data such as weather forecasts, the likelihood of overtaking at a particular track and even
the chances of an accident likely to require the use of the safety car all come into play
when deciding strategy. And, of course, one of the largest ingredients remains, as always,
The drivers get most of the attention, but
Formula One racing remains a team sport even
during the race itself. The precisely timed,
millimetre perfect choreography of a modern pit
stop is vital to helping teams to turn their race
strategy into success - refueling and changing a
car’s tyres in a matter of seconds.
It was not always so. Pit stops tended to be
disorganized, long and often chaotic as late as
the 1970s - especially when (in the absence of
car-to-pit communication) a driver came in to
make an unscheduled stop. The age of the modern pit stop arrived when changes were
made to the sporting regulations to allow fuelling during the race itself, simultaneously
limiting the tank size of cars.
The car is guided into its pit by the ‘lollypop man’, named
for the distinctive shape of the long ‘stop/ first gear’ sign he
holds in front of the car. The car stops in a precise position
and is immediately jacked up front and rear. Three
mechanics are involved in changing each wheel, one
removing and refitting the nut with a high-speed air gun,
one removing the old wheel and one fitting the new one. At
the same time two mechanics will operate the heavy
fuelling rig, which needs to be precisely slotted into the car before fuelling can start.
Other mechanics may make other adjustments during the stop. Some changes can be
carried out very quickly - such as altering the angle of the wings front and rear, to
increase or decrease down force levels. Other tasks, such as the replacement of damaged
bodywork, will typically take longer - although front nose cones, the most frequently
broken components, are designed with quick changes in mind.
On tracks with debris or rubbish you often see mechanics
removing this from the car’s air intakes during a stop,
ensuring radiator efficiency is not compromised. And there
is always a mechanic on stand-by at the back of the car
with a power-operated engine starter, ready for instant use
if the car stalls.
When they have finished their work on the car the mechanics step back and raise their
hands. It is the responsibility of the ‘lollypop man’ to control the car’s departure from the
pit, ensuring no other cars are passing in the pit lane. Such is the skill of mechanics that
routine stops can be over in under seven seconds, longer halts tending to be determined
by the time it takes to transfer bigger fuel loads.
Surprising but true, despite the vast amounts of technical
effort spent developing a Formula One car, the fuel it runs
on is surprisingly close to the composition of ordinary,
commercially available petrol.
It was not always so. Early Grand Prix cars ran on a fierce
mixture of powerful chemicals and additives, often
featuring large quantities of benzene, alcohol and aviation
fuel. Indeed some early fuels were so potent that the car's engine had to be disassembled
and washed in ordinary petrol at the end of the race to prevent the mixture from corroding
The modern fuel is only allowed tiny quantities of 'non hydrocarbon' compounds,
effectively banning the most volatile power-boosting additives. Each fuel blend must be
submitted to the sport’s governing body, the FIA, for prior approval of its composition
and physical properties. A 'fingerprint' of the approved fuel is then taken, which will be
compared to the actual fuel being used at the event by the FIA's mobile testing
During a typical season a Formula One team will use over 200,000 litres of fuel for
testing and racing, and these can be of anything up to 50 slightly different blends, tuned
for the demands of different circuits - or even different
weather conditions. More potent fuels will give
noticeably more power but may result in increased
consumption or engine wear. All of Formula One's fuel
suppliers engage in extensive testing programmes to
optimize the fuel's performance, in the same way any
other component in the car will be tuned to give
maximum benefit. This will likely involve computer
modeling, static engine running and moving tests.
The fuel rigs are designed to operate as quickly and safely as possible, two-stage location
and double sealing ensuring the best possible fit. The rigs pass fuel at the rate of about 12
litres a second. The hose itself operates as a 'sealed system', requiring air and vapour to
be extracted as fuel is added. It is very heavy and requires one mechanic to hold its
weight while another engages and disengages the nozzle. Another mechanic will stand by
a fuel cut-off switch next to the pump itself. Leakages are extremely rare, although
accidents have happened, for example to Michael Schumacher at the 2003 Austrian
The car's engine oil is also worth a mention. It helps to perform a vital diagnostic role,
being closely analyzed after each race or test for traces of metals to help monitor the
engine's wear rate.
8. CHEQUERED FLAG
Marshals at various points around the circuit are issued with a number of standard flags,
all used to communicate vital messages to the drivers as they race around the track.
8.1 THE FLAGS
Indicates to drivers that the session has ended. During practice and qualifying sessions it
is waved at the allotted time, during the race it is shown
first to the winner and then to every car that crosses the
line behind him.
Indicates danger, such as a stranded car, ahead. A single
waved yellow flag warns drivers to slow down, while two
waved yellow flags at the same post means that drivers must slow down and be prepared
to stop if necessary. Overtaking is prohibited.
All clear. The driver has passed the potential danger point and prohibitions imposed by
yellow flags have been lifted.
The session has been stopped, usually due to an accident or poor track conditions.
Warns a driver that he is about to be lapped and to let the faster car overtake. Pass three
blue flags without complying and the driver risks being penalized. Blue lights are also
displayed at the end of the pit lane when the pit exit is open and a car on track is
Yellow and red striped flag
Warns a driver of a slippery track surface, usually due to oil or water.
Black with orange circle flag
Accompanied by a car number, it warns a driver that he has a mechanical problem and
must return to his pit.
Half black, half white flag
Accompanied by a car number, it warns of unsporting behavior. May be followed by a
black flag if the driver does not heed the warning.
Accompanied by a car number, it directs a driver to return to his pit and is most often
used to signal to the driver that he has been excluded from the race.
Warns of a slow moving vehicle on track.