the FIA's 66 Answers to 66 Questions
Find out what the FIA's regulations allow and forbid; how Formula One cars are built; Where the races may take place; Who runs the events and how; and why Formula One is the Number One Formula.|
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1. Who organises the Formula One World Championship?
The sporting branch of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, FIA Sport. The FIA governs motor sport world-wide and, as such, administers the Formula One and World Rally Championships, and the F3000 and GT Championships, as well as all other international motor sport.
The Formula One World Championship was created in 1950 and is the oldest FIA Championship. It also has the greatest media impact. It is estimated that the sixteen Grands Prix of the 1998 season attracted over 55 billion television viewers, whilst the printed press maintained a significant presence, with an average of 650 journalists and photographers from 63 countries travelling from all over the world to cover each event. Back to Top
There was no "formula" from the heroic era of the motor car in 1894 (the year of the first motor race in history, from Paris to Rouen) up until 1900. The existing vehicles were simply raced. A differentiation was made between the cars on the basis of their method of propulsion (petrol or steam), and their number of seats. At the time, cars always had at least two seats, and it was not until the end of the 1920s that single-seater cars were used. The invention of the rear-view mirror made an important contribution to this development, since one of the mechanic's tasks was to warn the driver that someone was trying to overtake him.
Immediately after its creation in 1904, the FIA, which is the international sporting authority, became obliged to formulate restrictions to ensure the safety of the drivers and spectators, and to guide motor sport in a direction which would benefit the development of road cars, thus setting a pattern which has been repeated throughout the long history of motor sport. From 1907 to 1939, almost every possible formula was tried. The minimum weight, maximum weight, consumption and bore were each restricted in their turn, but the formula most frequently used, even after 1939, was to limit the cylinder capacity of the engines. This restriction was first introduced in 1914.
Following the introduction of the first "formula" defined by the FIA (which restricted maximum weight) in 1904, categories were created for the smaller cars, yet the name "Formula One" did not appear until after the Second World War. The FIA Formula One World Championship was created in 1950, and the first Formula One race counting for the FIA Formula One World Championship was the British Grand Prix, which took place in Silverstone the 13th May 1950. Back to Top
Prior to 1904, every country and automobile club organised races, each with its own set of regulations.
It was thus virtually impossible to organise international races, since there were no common regulations.
The most influential Automobile Clubs of the time therefore decided to put an end to this situation, which was preventing motor sport from flourishing, by creating an international organisation which would draw up common regulations, applicable to races all over the world. This led to the birth of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (the FIA), which was thus able to guarantee to English or German drivers, for example, that the same rules would apply whether they were racing in France, Italy, Belgium, or Monaco. Back to Top
In addition to a large number of specifications relating, in particular, to safety and aerodynamics, the current formula restricts the cylinder capacity of the engine to 3 litres, prohibits supercharging and stipulates a minimum weight of 600 kg, including the weight of the driver and his race equipment. Back to Top
The first race to be given the "Grand Prix" title was the Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France held at Le Mans in 1906. It was restricted to "big cars", which could be described as the "Formula One" cars of the period. From then on, the term Grand Prix became associated with all types of circuit races for cars. Major events, which were the equivalent of today's Grands Prix, were called "Grandes Epreuves" (Great Events). However, the FIA was opposed to the popular usage of the "Grand Prix" title, which it wished to reserve for events counting towards its Formula One World Championship. Henceforth, it became prohibited to use the Grand Prix title for an event which did not count towards this Championship, except for very rare cases with historic justification, such as the Grand Prix de Pau, which is currently a Formula 3 event. Back to Top
There are two titles: "drivers" and "constructors". The drivers' title has been awarded since 1950, whilst the Constructors' title was introduced in 1958. The constructors add together the points scored in every race by each car of their make (they cannot enter more than two), in the same way as the drivers accumulate the total number of points scored in each event (at one time they could cancel their worst results).
In the event of a dead heat, the title is decided on the basis of the quality of the places obtained, that is, the number of first places, followed by the number of second places, etc. Back to Top
The scale of points awarded to the first six finishers in each race has been modified on two occasions, the most recent of which was in 1991; the first now obtains 10 points (previously nine, and only eight between 1950 and 1960), and the following five are awarded: 6 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 points. There was a time when the driver who recorded the fastest lap was given 1 point. Back to Top
When the World Championship was created, Formula One was not as popular as it is today, and the 1950 Championship, for example, consisted of only 7 Grands Prix. This figure gradually increased, peaking at 17 events in 1977. It was then limited to 16, and the possibility of holding a maximum of 17 events was reintroduced in 1996.
A minimum of eight events out of those entered on the calendar must take place for the World Champion Drivers' and Constructors' titles to be awarded. The 1997 Argentine Grand Prix was the 600th Grand Prix counting towards the FIA Formula One World Championship. Back to Top
Yes, as follows:
Originally, a Grand Prix could be held anywhere, but the increases in car performance have forced the FIA to impose stringent conditions on the lay-out, width and length of a circuit, as well as the surface, safety provisions and facilities. Back to Top
Each circuit must be homologated by the FIA Circuits and Safety Commission following a series of inspections which are carried out from the start of the work right up until the inauguration of the circuit. The homologation criteria are less strict for circuits hosting events for slower formulae. In addition to the initial procedure, the circuits sometimes have to carry out maintenance work or update their facilities so that their homologation may be renewed. In the past, with the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix, which is the only event to take place within a town itself, circuits tended to be very fast with long straights. The increase in the cars' performances has meant that these straights have had to give way to series of bends, which are the only means of preventing excessive speeds. Similarly, very long tracks, like that at the old Nurburgring (22.835 km), have had to be abandoned, since the costs involved in providing the safety facilities and personnel required by the regulations together with the technical facilities necessary for television broadcasting are too great. Monaco is still the shortest circuit (3.328 km), whilst Spa is the longest (6.940 km). Back to Top
A constructor who wishes to become involved in Formula One must submit his entry to the FIA, to which he must provide evidence that he is both the designer and constructor of the chassis of his car, and that he also has sufficient technical and financial resources to take part in the whole of the Championship. Back to Top
By Formula One constructor, we mean the chassis manufacturer. In most cases, this is not the same as the engine manufacturer, and the name of the chassis manufacturer is always given before that of the engine manufacturer. In the event of winning the Constructors' World Championship, the title is awarded to the chassis manufacturer. Back to Top
Yes. Any constructor who fails to turn up at an event may be fined several hundred thousand dollars per event and per car, except in the case of exceptional circumstances (but the FIA is very strict when it comes to defining such a case). A constructor may not join the championship during the season. Back to Top
They address two main concerns:
Moreover, there are stipulations relating not only to the strength of the chassis and the protective rollbars, but also to flexible fuel tanks (inspired by military aviation), fire extinguishers, harnesses, head and neck protection, and so on. The positions of the fuel and oil tanks are specified and they must have special protection. Access to and from the cockpit together with its dimensions are also controlled.
For financial reasons, engines which are not reciprocating or 4-stroke are prohibited, and the engines are restricted to a maximum of twelve cylinders which cannot have an oval section. It is obligatory for each car to have four wheels, only two of which are driven (yes, in the past there were Formula One cars with six wheels!). Back to Top
In order to be able to take part in a Grand Prix, a driver must hold a "Super Licence", which is awarded on the basis of his past record in junior formulae and of his having a valid contract with a Formula One team which has entered the World Championship. Back to Top
Yes, each team with two cars may change the driver of its first car once in the season. For the second car, a maximum of three drivers may take turns, without restriction, during any one season. This excludes cases of exceptional circumstances, which are considered separately. Notification of a change of driver must be made before the end of the scrutineering and the sporting checks (the Thursday preceding the event, at 16:00). Back to Top
Yes, if they stay with the same team, as the numbers are attributed to the constructors, not the drivers, at the beginning of the season. The only exceptions to this are the reigning World Champion, who is always allocated number 1 even if he is driving for a different make from that with which he won the title, and his team mate who is given number 2. Back to Top
For qualifying practice, a maximum of 12 laps is allowed and any driver running over the maximum of 12 laps will have its best qualifying time withdrawn. The number of laps is no longer limited for the free practice sessions, including the warm-up. Back to Top
The warm-up is a free practice session which takes place on the morning of the race and lasts for half an hour. Only drivers who have qualified may take part in it. It is obligatory for this practice session to begin four and a half hours before the start of the race. If all the practice sessions have taken place in dry conditions and it begins to rain after the warm-up, or vice-versa, the Race Director may authorise an additional 15-minute practice session, which will allow the cars to adapt to the weather conditions.
The warm-up is very important, since it enables the teams to test the cars in their race configuration, in conditions (pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.) which are, theoretically, very similar to those of the race itself. Back to Top
During the practice sessions, each two-car team may use a maximum of two cars for each day of free practice, and a maximum of three cars for qualifying practice, provided that all the cars have been checked by the Scrutineers and are of the same make (chassis and engine).
During the race, however, no change of car is authorised following the green light signalling the start of the formation lap.
Nevertheless, if the race is interrupted before two laps have been completed, the starting procedure is repeated and starts again from the T-15 point. Car changes are authorised once again until the green light (indicating the start of the formation lap) is shown. Back to Top
Qualifying practice is on Saturday, from 1 PM to 2 PM. During this hour each driver has a maximum of 12 laps to set the fastest possible time.
The driver who set the fastest time will start from the first line in the so-called "pole position", and the others will line up on the grid in the order of the times they have achieved. In the event of a tie, the driver who achieved the time first is given priority.
Any driver whose fastest time in qualifying practice exceeds the pole position time by 107% or more is not allowed to start without special permission of the stewards. Back to Top
The starting grid consists of two cars per row in staggered formation, with an interval of eight metres between each row and the next. Back to Top
Special cars as such are not built specifically for qualification, but, in a few cases only, special engines, or even special set-ups, are designed for qualifying practice, so that the engine's full potential may be reached, even though this shortens its life-span. Back to Top
The distance of a Grand Prix is the least number of laps which exceeds 305 km, and no race may last for more than two hours. On certain slower circuits (such as Monaco), in the event of rain, the Clerk of the Course is sometimes obliged to stop the race after two hours. Back to Top
Yes, a Formula One Grand Prix takes place in all weather conditions, and the tyre manufacturers have developed treaded tyres which help to avoid the risk of aquaplaning. Nevertheless, the Race Director has the power to stop the event, if this becomes necessary for safety reasons. Apart from grip, the greatest problem in the event of rain is visibility, which is significantly reduced due to the spray thrown up by the cars' tyres. In order to counteract this problem, the cars are equipped with a red light at the rear which must be switched on if it starts to rain. Back to Top
Even though the constructors refuse to divulge details of their engine power, it is rumoured that during the 1998 season the maximum power easily exceeded seven hundred horse power and that now, in some case, it may exceed eight hundred. Manufacturers of engines with eight or ten cylinders maintain that maximum power is not always the most important factor, since there is also the power curve which in their case is better at a low engine speed. Having power available at lower engine speeds is of equal importance, especially on slow circuits. Back to Top
The Grand Prix with the highest average speed in history was the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, won by Peter Gethin in a BRM at an average speed of 242.615 kph (150.754 mph) on the Monza circuit which at the time did not yet have any chicanes (interestingly, a recent computer simulation suggested that current Formula One cars would achieve an average speed of well over 300 kph - 190 mph - on the original circuit). In 1998, the fastest Grand Prix was the Italian, won by Michael Schumacher at an average of 237.591 kph (147.633 mph). The highest speed recorded during practice in 1998 was 244.413 kph (151.971 mph), which was set at Monza by Eddie Irvine, whilst the highest straight line speed recorded during a Grand Prix in the 1998 season was set by David Coulthard, at 356.5 kph (221.5 mph), during the German Grand Prix. The lowest average speed of a Grand Prix winner in 1998 was 141.458 kph (87.898 mph), and was recorded by Mika Hakkinnen in the Monaco Grand Prix. Back to Top
If a 1.5-litre turbocharged car were produced today, as was the case up until 1988, it would be a great deal faster than the contemporary 3-litre cars. However, contemporary cars benefit from significant technological progress, allowing them to exceed the speeds of the 1988 turbocharged models, despite the fact that these were able to rely on over 1200 horse power in qualifying! Back to Top
The regulations stipulate genuine suspension - the fitting of silent-blocks is not sufficient. However, the current cars have very little suspension travel, in order to restrict changes in trim which would influence the effectiveness of the aerodynamic devices. Back to Top
It became evident that significant downforce could be achieved by giving the bottom of the two side members the shape of inverted aeroplane wings. In order to reduce downforce (the so-called "ground effect"), and thus reduce cornering speed, the FIA made it obligatory for each car to have a flat bottom between the rear wheel centre line and the rear of the front wheels, as well as a ground clearance obtained by means of a skid block attached to the flat bottom. The constructors have nevertheless managed to optimise the behaviour of the aerofoils and aerodynamic extractors situated behind the gear box, to such an extent that a current Formula One car is capable of a transverse acceleration of up to 4G, whereas a road car does not exceed 1G. Back to Top
A starter has not been obligatory for several years, and teams choose not to fit one in order to prevent an additional source of energy from causing incidents such as a fire or an explosion. They are authorised to use a portable starter in front of their pits, but if a driver stalls on the circuit during the race, he has to retire, even if the car restarts once the marshals have pushed it away from a dangerous position. Most cars are however fitted with sophisticated electronically controlled anti-stall systems. Back to Top
Automatic gearboxes are prohibited by the technical regulations. However, all the cars are equipped with semiautomatic gearboxes: to change gear, the driver no longer has to activate the clutch pedal at the same time as the gear lever. He simply presses a button on the side of his steering wheel. There is a button on each side: one for changing up, the other for changing down. He therefore no longer has to take his hand off the steering wheel, and this hydraulic device, which is electronically activated, allows the driver to change gear in one or two hundredths of a second, which is unquestionably faster than with a conventional system. Back to Top
The rapid changes possible with semiautomatic gearboxes mean that transmissions with a greater number of ratios (six or seven) can be installed. On circuits with a large number of bends, the drivers only use four or five ratios. Reverse gear is obligatory, but must not be used in the pit-lane. Back to Top
The brakes on series-produced cars are derived from the disc brakes which were first used in racing. All Formula One cars are equipped with brakes with calipers made from light alloy while the discs and pads tend to be made from synthetic materials, i.e. carbon/carbon. Their resistance to heat is much greater than that of series-produced brakes (which is why, in certain conditions, the insides of the wheels appear completely incandescent) and they weigh significantly less. Their braking power is thus uncommonly high: at the end of a straight, at maximum speed (around 340 kph - 212.5 mph), a Formula One car can brake at less than 100 metres in order to take a slow corner. Naturally, carbon/carbon is expensive: it takes six months to produce a disc, at a temperature of between 900 and 2000°C. The same material is now used to produce clutch discs. Back to Top
No. Unleaded ("green") fuel is used, similar to that available at petrol stations. It has to comply with the strictest EEC standards concerning pollution.
At one time, the fuel used in Formula One consisted of a mixture of hydrocarbons, and was a very special fuel, which bore little resemblance to commercial petrol.
The FIA introduced regulations, with the dual aim of steering the oil companies' research in the right direction, so that it would benefit the ordinary motor car, and of significantly reducing pollution: Formula One cars are already using fuel that complies with the specifications which will be mandatory in the European Union from the year 2000 (maximum sulphur content 150 parts per million); from 2000, Formula One cars will comply with the specification to be introduced in 2005 (maximum sulphur content 50 parts per million).
The fuel used by Formula One cars is in general not yet available from petrol pumps. However, the oil companies are now using fuels which could be commercialised, and which probably will be in the future. Thus Formula One serves as a laboratory, which will ultimately be of benefit to the ordinary motor car (see also question 40). Back to Top
The regulations stipulate that each driver may use a maximum of 32 dry-weather tyres (40 in 1998) and 28 wet-weather tyres throughout the duration of the event. Moreover, each driver may use a maximum of two rubber specifications for his dry-weather tyres during free practice, but he must designate the rubber specification he wishes to use for the rest of the event before the start of qualifying practice. Thus, the maximum number of tyres he may use for qualifying practice, the warm-up and the race is 28 (14 front and 14 rear), chosen from amongst the 32. All of these tyres are identified by means of an FIA-supplied bar-code system by the scrutineers, who are also responsible for checking that no driver exceeds the maximum number of tyres allowed. Back to Top
A hard or softer type of rubber is selected on the basis of the driver's style, the design of the car, the atmospheric temperature and the lay-out of the circuit. In general, the slower the circuit and the cooler the temperature, the softer the rubber, allowing greater grip. On the other hand, high speeds, together with a highly abrasive track and a heavy and powerful car wear the tyres down more quickly. The team and the driver must therefore strike a balance between various options, i.e. whether to mount harder tyres which grip less well but permit fewer pit-stops, or whether to use softer tyres which will have to be changed several times during the race. A judicious choice sometimes enables one of the less powerful cars to win a Grand Prix. Tyre changes have become a part of the Formula One racing, and the better trained teams usually manage to change all four tyres and refuel in the space of 5 to 10 seconds, depending on the quantity of fuel they want to put in the tank. Back to Top
The day before practice begins, the Scrutineers carry out a tour of the garages, checking that all the cars comply with the regulations. In addition to this, spot checks may be carried out at any time, and all the cars which finish the race are checked in the parc ferme once they have crossed the finish line. Any car which does not comply with the technical regulations is normally excluded, however the final decision rests with the Stewards. Back to Top
At the start of the season, each team entered in the Championship must provide a sample of 10 litres of the petrol it wishes to use. The sample is analysed in a specialised laboratory, to check not only that it is in conformity with the Technical Regulations, but also that it is a genuine commercial fuel (see also question 36).
If the sample is approved, an "imprint" (a sort of "genetic code" of the fuel is provided. At the events, the FIA Technical Delegate carries out spot checks, taking samples of petrol from the cars during the practice sessions or after the race. Using gas chromatography and a device for measuring the density of the fuel), the samples are analysed instantaneously, to see on site whether their "imprint" is identical to the reference imprint approved by the FIA.
If a sample is not in conformity, the Technical Delegate will make a report to the Stewards of the Meeting, who may impose a sanction.
A team may change the petrol it uses several times during the season, but it must have submitted a sample to the FIA and receive approval in each case. Back to Top
On site, at each Grand Prix, the FIA has an electronic laboratory as well as sophisticated equipment and a team of experts who, at any time (even on the starting grid!), may check whether the cars' electronics are concealing electronic driving aids prohibited by the regulations, such as traction control.
The electronics of a Formula One car comprise up to 500,000 lines of source code (software). Obviously, it would be impossible to carry out an in-depth check of such an electronic program, for example on the grid just before the start of the Grand Prix. Therefore, the procedure is similar to that used for the petrol. The teams provide the FIA with their electronic programme, and the FIA checks it in detail before the start of the season. Once the programme is approved, the FIA keeps an "imprint" (an electronic "genetic code" of the car); at the events, the FIA team assigned to check the electronic programmes makes sure that the programmes installed in the cars do not differ in any way from the approved model. If need be, they may examine in detail only the lines which do not correspond to those of the approved code, and check whether or not they contain one or more parameters in breach of the regulations.
Once again, if anything is not in conformity, the Technical Delegate makes a report to the Stewards of the Meeting who will decide which penalty to impose, including exclusion. Back to Top
The FIA Technical Delegate heads the team of Scrutineers responsible for checking that the cars comply with the Technical Regulations. If he finds that a car does not comply, he submits a report to the Stewards, but does not have the power to disqualify or penalise a car himself. Back to Top
The three Stewards are the judges, or the referees, of an Event. They examine the reports submitted by the various officials and, once they have heard the explanations and defence of all the parties concerned, decide on any sanctions. In order to ensure sporting equity, the Stewards vary from one event to another; two of them are nominated by the FIA from amongst holders of the Stewards' super licence. The third Steward is designated by the National Sporting Authority of the country in which the event is taking place. The Stewards appointed by the FIA are of a different nationality from that of the country in which the event is taking place.
They may, at any time, impose the sanctions set out in the International Sporting Code and, if they judge the behaviour of a competitor or a driver to be reprehensible, they may request that he be summoned before the World Motor Sport Council. Back to Top
The sanctions set out in the International Sporting Code range from a reprimand to disqualification (a life ban), and include fines, exclusion, suspension for one or more races, and even the withdrawal of Championship points.
For any faults committed during qualifying practice, whether they be of a sporting or technical nature, the Stewards may also cancel all the driver's times. Nevertheless, the Stewards have the power to authorise a driver who is penalised in this manner to take the start from the back of the grid. Back to Top
During the race, the Stewards may also impose a time penalty (sometimes called a "stop-go") on a driver. In this case, the driver must go to at his pit and remain there for 10 seconds. In reality, this penalty involves a far greater loss of time, given the time taken to return to the pit and to leave it again, both at reduced speed. Depending on the configuration of the circuit, this can result in a time loss of between 25 and 40 seconds.
If the time penalty is imposed during the last five laps of a race, 25 seconds will be added to the race time of the driver concerned, instead of a stop-go. Back to Top
No. Any competitor who feels that he has been unfairly penalised by a Stewards' decision may appeal against this decision before the International Court of Appeal. He must declare his intention to do so within one hour of being notified of the Stewards' decision. Similarly, the FIA has the right to defer a decision of the Stewards to the International Court of Appeal, if it believes that the Stewards have misjudged or inappropriately penalised the matter. There have already been cases in which the Stewards or the Clerk of the Course have been penalised by having their licences suspended, or in which competitors' rights have been restored by the International Court of Appeal. Back to Top
It is the final and highest recourse, and is, in a way, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile's very own "Supreme Court of Appeal". The International Court of Appeal is independent of the Sport, and its fifteen members, who have a three-year mandate, are chosen from amongst eminent judges and magistrates (some of whom are Supreme Court of Appeal judges in their own country). In order for the International Court of Appeal to be able to convene, at least three judges must be present, none of whom may be of the same nationality as any of the parties concerned. Back to Top
The Clerk of the Course, who is nominated by the National Sporting Authority from among holders of a FIA Super Licence, is responsible for the co-ordination of all the officials and track marshals at the Grand Prix. Nevertheless, the Clerk of the Course must work closely with, and under the authority of, the Race Director, who is nominated by the FIA. The same Race Director officiates at all the Grands Prix in the Championship.
The Race Director also acts, at present, as Safety Delegate and Official Starter. It is normally the Clerk of the Course who waves the traditional chequered flag at the end of the race. Back to Top
Each position on the grid is equipped with electronic sensors. These transmit a signal to a central unit located in the control tower if any car moves before the start signal has been given. The Stewards will usually inflict a time penalty on a driver who jumps the start. Back to Top
There are three distinct scenarios:
If more than one driver is stationary and unable to start the formation lap when the remaining cars have crossed the Line (normally as a result of mechanical problems or a stalled engine), they must all start from the back of the grid provided, of course, their mechanics are able to rectify the problem in time.
These cars must form up at the back of the grid in the order they left to start their formation lap. Back to Top
In the event of rain, the regulations provide for different possibilities, depending on the circumstances:
No, normally the race is not stopped if it starts to rain. It is up to the drivers and teams to decide whether they want to stop at their pit to change tyres or continue with the dry-weather tyres.
However, if the conditions are such that driving at racing speed would constitute a serious danger to safety, the Race Director may order the use of the Safety Car (in which case the normal Safety Car procedure would apply - see n°55 to 58). If the conditions are so extreme that to carry on driving would be dangerous even behind the Safety Car, the race could be stopped. Back to Top
Yes, the FIA Race Director may interrupt the race at any time in the interests of safety, and particularly if the circuit is blocked. This is done by ordering red flags to be shown around the entire the track. Back to Top
In the event of this happening, there are three possibilities, depending on the number of laps completed by the race leader:
A. Less than two laps completed
B. Two or more laps completed, but less than 75% of the total distance of the race
C. 75% or more of the total race distance completed.
In case A, which is typical when accidents occur during the start, the first start is considered null and void and the new start is given twenty minutes later.
In case B, the race is considered to be in two parts. Thus, if the safety conditions permit, there is a second start twenty minutes later, for which the grid is determined on the basis of the classification of the penultimate lap before the signal to stop the race was given (red flag). If a second start cannot be given, the classification of the race will be that of the penultimate lap preceding the signal to stop the race and only half the points will be awarded.
In case C, the race will be considered as finished, and all the points will be awarded on the basis of the classification of the penultimate lap preceding the signal to stop the race. Back to Top
The Safety Car may only be used when the track is not blocked. The purpose of the Safety Car is to neutralise the race in the event of an accident or other incident which exposes competitors or officials to immediate physical danger. It may also be used in the event of a very heavy and sudden shower (see n°52).
The Safety Car slows the racing cars so that they do not endanger emergency teams working on or near the track, and are not at risk from slow moving vehicles, such as ambulances. Back to Top
The Clerk of the Course (under the direction of the FIA Race Director) is responsible for giving the order to dispatch the Safety Car. When the Safety Car is in use, and as soon as it leaves the pit-lane, a yellow flag together with the "SC" board is shown at all the track marshals' posts. Overtaking is prohibited, the cars must reduce their speed and line up behind the Safety Car in the order they were on the track when the signal was shown. As soon as circuit (or weather) conditions permit, the Safety Car will extinguish its revolving lights and return to the pit lane to indicate that the race will start again when the cars next cross the Line. Back to Top
Yes, all the laps covered behind the Safety Car count as part of the total distance of the race. Back to Top
Yes, but it may only rejoin the track when the green light is on in the pit lane. It will be on at all times except when the Safety Car and the line of cars following it are about to pass or are passing the pit exit.
A car rejoining the track must proceed at reduced speed until it reaches the end of the line of cars behind the Safety Car.
Thus, a car which makes a pit stop in such circumstances will lose its position and rejoin the race at the back of the field, (but not necessarily in last place since there might be cars in the field which are one or more laps behind the car which made the pit-stop). Back to Top
Yes, but it must be carried out with the refuelling equipment specified by the FIA. The system is based on aviation equipment and complies with all the other safety requirements laid down by the FIA.
Refuelling is not obligatory. Back to Top
Strange though it may seem, yes, but only in the pit lane, where the speed limit is either 80 or 120 kph (50 or 75 mph), depending on the circuit and the configuration of the pit lane.
There are electronic devices checking the speed of the cars along the whole of the pit lane; if a competitor exceeds the limit during the race, he is usually penalised with a time penalty (see question 44), whereas if he exceeds it during a practice session, he is usually given a fine ($ x km). However, as in everyday life, the severity of the punishment is proportional to the seriousness of the offence, and also takes repeat offences into account.
To avoid this, most of the constructors have equipped their cars with a speed limiter which the driver has to activate (usually by pressing a button on the steering wheel) as soon as he enters the pit lane. However, sometimes drivers forget to do so... Back to Top
The Scrutineers may weigh the cars at all times, to make sure that they never weigh less than 600 kg, including driver. Electronic weighing devices are located at the entrance to the pit lane to enable these checks to be carried out. During qualifying practice, an electronic programme selects at random the cars which are to be checked. When a car is chosen by the computer, a red light comes on and the driver returning to his pit must proceed to the weighing area. If the weight of the car is insufficient, the driver could be excluded from the event, but he has the right to request that the car be weighed a second time. To avoid cheating, any car which breaks down on the circuit also has to pass in front of the computer which decides whether the car must be weighed in the same conditions. At the finish of the race, all the cars are directed to the parc ferme where they are weighed; the drivers are also weighed before proceeding to the podium or to their motorhome. If a car's weight does not comply at the finish, it maybe excluded from the classification. This has happened in the past. Back to Top
In addition to the red flag, "stopping the race", and the chequered flag, "end of the race", there are other flags, each having a specific meaning.
The blue flag during the race indicates that a driver is about to be lapped and it orders him to let the other car overtake, on pain of a time penalty for obstruction.
The yellow flag indicates danger, and overtaking under yellow flag is always prohibited. The yellow flag may have two meanings:
The flag with vertical red and yellow stripes warns the competitors that the track is slippery (usually oil), and a black flag with an orange disc accompanied by the number of a car warns the driver that his car has a mechanical problem and that he must go to his pit.
A flag with a white triangle and a black triangle accompanied by the number of a car is a warning for unsporting behaviour.
The black flag, accompanied by the number of a car, summons the driver of such car to immediately return to his pit. This procedure is mostly used to notify a competitor of his exclusion from the race. Back to Top
Yes, even if the chequered flag is waved too early, the race still ends when this signal is given. However, if the flag is waved too late the classification is that obtained at the end of the scheduled number of laps. Only cars which have covered 90% of the distance will be classified. A driver does not necessarily have to still be on the track to be classified, but if a car takes more than twice as long as the fastest lap time achieved by the winner to complete his last lap, this lap will not be taken into account. Back to Top
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