ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 29 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   The F1 Rulebook

  by Will Gray, England

In a new series of articles, Will Gray delves into Formula One's rulebook and investigates the in-depth documentation that governs Formula One: from rules defining how the event should be run, to those restricting designers and engineers in technical areas

Part I: The Organisers

There is no doubting that Bernie Ecclestone has built Formula One Grand Prix racing up from what was an enthusiasts' sport into a multi-million dollar business, and that he has a significant controlling factor in who does what in Formula One (so much so, that it is strongly rumored he has 'advised' teams on driver selection). However, it is the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (the FIA) who, through their sporting and technical regulations, decide what the sport of Formula One really is.

Formed in 1904, the FIA aimed to unite the national motor clubs of the world. Now, headed by its Chairman Max Mosley, it has over 150 members, and each of these national sporting authorities (ASNs - L'Autorite Sportive Nationale) organise the motor sport events in their particular country. The FIA's World Motor Sport Council is the controlling body for Formula One, and is responsible for administering not only Formula One Grands Prix, but all types of Motor Racing throughout the world, from the very top all the way to club racing. In fact, the FIA rules over all forms of international motor sport involving land vehicles with four or more wheels, which can include championships from world rally to truck racing, and from historic cars to solar cars.

Although Bernie Ecclestone is often regarded as the man behind Formula One, the FIA are the true rulers of the Grand Prix circus. They are the body that issues the 'Superlicence'; without a 'Superlicence', no driver or team can race in Formula One, no circuit can hold a Formula One race, and no official can work at a Formula One event. It is not only the all ruling Mr Ecclestone, therefore, who can determine who races in Formula One, or where the events take place - the FIA holds the major trump card.

For a Formula One race to be held, the country's ASN must apply to the FIA for an international license. If it is refused, it may not run an international event, and therefore, it may not hold a Grand Prix. Portugal had such a problem when it couldn't provide a suitable track in time for their race which had been held at Estoril, and with competition to hold a Grand Prix growing as the spectacle increases in worldwide popularity, they are now finding it hard to get back on the calendar. Once the ASN has been approved for a Superlicence, they may decide to run the event themselves, or hand it over to an approved organiser, who will be wholly responsible for putting on the show.

As for officials, drivers, and teams, any applicant for an international Superlicence must already hold a national license, issued by his or her country's ASN. They must then apply to the FIA for the upgrade - and it is stated in the rules that the FIA reserve the right to refuse the issuing of a Superlicence without having to give any reason! However, this hasn't successfully stopped the moving chicane that is the pay driver from getting into Formula One, so perhaps the FIA should exercise their right a little more!

The International Sporting Code is a general list of rules for all competitions, and is supplemented by the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. In these, the competition guidelines are defined, and the rulemakers are named. At the top of the tree, there are four FIA nominated delegates to control the safety, medical, technical and press areas. The technical delegate is Charlie Whiting, who was an engineer at the Brabham team when Bernie Ecclestone was its boss. Through his experience in using the loopholes in the rules, he is now trying to stop the teams from finding or using loopholes in the current rules. He is responsible for all rulings in the technical area, with the ultimate say over whether the teams are running within the rules.

To run the meeting, the FIA and the national ASN appoint a number of personnel in different positions. The FIA will nominate two stewards from a country other than that which is holding the event, and the national ASN will nominate a third. These stewards will officiate the meeting, and while operating under the authority of the chairman (which must be one of the two FIA nominated stewards), they have the right to recommend the disqualification of any rule-breaking competitor.

The ASN will also nominate a clerk of the course, who works together with the FIA appointed race director to control the Formula One practice, qualification, and race events. They make sure that all trackside officials are at their posts and are capable of doing their job before each session, and they are responsible for starting and stopping the practice or race, stopping a non rule-abiding car, and sending out the safety car if things go wrong. The race director, clerk of the course, and chairman of the stewards are in radio contact at all times when the cars are on the track, and the clerk of the course must additionally be in radio contact with all the marshaling posts around the circuit.

Sited at each of these posts are flag marshals and fire marshals, all of which must have a Superlicence, but are trained by the ASN of the country holding the Grand Prix. This creates a band of dedicated race fans in each country working to guide motorsport, tirelessly grafting on windy rain soaked days at race circuits in the middle of nowhere, ensuring that the local club racer can bomb around safely. When their country runs a Grand Prix, they get the opportunity to work on the world stage, and many drivers have commended marshals for their skills.

When Mika Hakkinen hit the wall during practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1995, it was the speed of the locally trained rescue services, headed by FIA safety delegate Professor Sid Watkins, which limited his injuries, enabling him to recover and go on to dominate the World Championship years later. In the scrutineering bay, yet more locally trained officials work to ensure the competitors abide by the FIA's rules, and that the cars are safe. Some of these scrutineers will also act as pit observers, who literally observe everything that goes on in pit lane during the sessions, and ensure there is nothing underhand going on.

All these officials will have gained much experience at club level before they can apply to work at the Grand Prix, but once there, people from track marshals to chief scrutineers and the secretary of the meeting are all from the motor club of that particular country. In the ultra-competitive world of Formula One, where teams will stop at nothing to gain speed, these rulemakers and rule enforcers keep Formula One on the right track.

Will Gray© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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