ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 35 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   The F1 FAQ

  by Marcel Schot, Netherlands

Have a question about Formula One statistics or history? Well you're not the only one, and it's about time someone came up with the answers to Formula One's most Frequently Asked Questions. Send us your questions, to - we may not know everything, but we will sure make the effort to find out

Firstly, a small addition to the last F1 FAQ column: In 1991, Roberto Moreno not only drove for Benetton and Jordan, he also drove for Minardi in the last race of the season.

Now, back to the questions.

Recently, a few questions have arrived asking about the Grand Prix Drivers Association:

"A friend and I were discussing the fact that Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis (and others???) are not members of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association)... What does the GPDA do and what are the benefits of being a member? Thanks in advance, Jocelyn"

"We often hear about the Formula One Drivers' Association but does it really do anything? Do drivers meet regularly and if so, under what conditions? (chair, minutes, other persons allowed, enforcement of decisions, if any, etc.)"

And, in the same area:

"Are there any minutes of Sunday morning drivers' meetings that we can read? Who can officially attend these meetings besides drivers? Are all drivers obligated to attend? Marc"

The Grand Prix Drivers Association has its origins in 1961, when drivers first became conscious of the necessity of added safety measures. Headed by Jackie Stewart in the late 60s, the drivers campaigned for improved security on the circuits, such as the adding of armco barriers. Up until then, there was little to prevent the drivers from driving straight into walls or trees.

Until the early 80s it worked well, with people like Denny Hulme, Jody Scheckter, Niki Lauda and Didier Pironi representing the drivers in safety issues. An example of how the GPDA worked for safety is the fact that they managed to get the 1970 German Grand Prix moved from the Nurburgring to Hockenheim, because suggested safety measures at The 'Ring hadn't been carried out in time.

However in 1982, Lauda and Pironi, who was then the head of GPDA, organized some sort of strike in South Africa, because they felt the newly introduced super licenses were used to bind drivers to teams, rather than keeping the extremely untalented out of Formula One. Overnight Pironi and FISA chief Jean-Marie Balestre manage to come to an agreement. This was in fact the original GPDA's last action. After South Africa it was disbanded, and the Professional Racing Drivers' Association was formed. The difference between the two was that any professional racing driver could be member of the PRDA, instead of only Formula One drivers. Subsequently things faded away.

An example of how the GPDA made recommendations to circuits as to how improve safety and drivability is this list, sent to the organizers of the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix:

  1. Make Turn 1 in the Renaissance Center parking lot a wider sweep and increase the number of safety tires on the outer wall.
  2. Make a sweeping, high-speed turn out of the 90-degree No. 2 turn from Atwater onto St. Antoine.
  3. Eliminate the No. 3, 90-degree turn from St. Antoine onto Woodbridge and make it a sweeping turn right onto Jefferson.
  4. Eliminate the hairpin turn on Jefferson and have the cars turn directly onto the Chrysler Service Drive.
  5. Make the 90-degree turn from Jefferson onto Washington Boulevard at Cobo Hall a sweeping turn by eliminating a sidewalk island along the streetcar tracks.
  6. Resurface Atwater east of the Hart Plaza tunnel.
  7. Move the zig-zag chicane farther west, giving the cars a longer straightaway into the first turn and stretching the pit road.
  8. Wherever possible, have a service lane run parallel to the course so cherry-picker trucks could pickup disabled or wrecked cars and remove them from the course.

The GPDA was given new life when Ayrton Senna along with other drivers suggested to restart it after the accidents of Rubens Barrichello and Roland Ratzenberger during practice at Imola in 1994. Two weeks later in Monaco, the first meeting of the new GPDA was held, sadly without Ayrton Senna for whom the renewed debate about safety in Formula One had come too late. Gerhard Berger, Michael Schumacher, Christian Fittipaldi and Niki Lauda acted as the representatives of the GPDA from Monaco onwards.

Currently, the representatives of the GPDA are Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Alexander Wurz. These representatives are chosen by the drivers. Before every race, on Sunday morning, they have a meeting. From what I understand, this meeting is just the drivers discussing things amongst themselves. If they conclude action has to be taken on something, the three representatives will do this. However, recent comments of Michael Schumacher during the Spanish Grand Prix Press Conference make it clear that there's currently a rather large gap between what the drivers want and what they can actually achieve.

"Has the layout of the Monaco GP ever had an influence in what building work takes place within Monte Carlo? i.e. to preserve the famous layout. Clive"

For this question I have asked Monaco resident and Bulletin Board administrator Pascal Straatsma for help. Here's what he said:

"Many things are indeed done with the Grand Prix in mind in Monaco. The easiest way to describe you is to go for a lap of the track and consider the recent changes made to the circuit.

"We'll start with the first straight on Avenue Albert 1er. There, no significant change has been made over the years. It's different with Sainte Devote, where the actual layout of the road was altered about 15 years ago to make the escape lane easier, and therefore safer, for the Formula One cars.

"Beau Rivage hasn't had any significant changes, and the same goes for Massenet. The Casino curve has been slightly widened on its exit side. Mirabeau was left untouched, except for the escape lane once again, which was widened.

"Then the Montecarlo Grand Hotel (formerly known as the Loews) was built on the old station site, but the tunnel is now longer than it was before, and wider. It's coming out of the tunnel that the most spectacular change took place in 1985, with the new chicane which was specifically built over water to force the cars to brake a lot harder than during the years before.

"Bureau de Tabac has remained the same for years, but the first of the swimming pool esses has been widened a lot a few years ago, and got named Louis Chiron curve. The second esses and Rascasse have been left untouched, but the pits' entrance and Antony Noghes (the old Gazometres curve) have changed a lot in the last decade, mostly because an underground tunnel comes out from that spot now, so the track is actually narrower than it was until the 80s.

"Another aspect is the tarmac. Every year, one third of the track gets resurfaced. The work takes place at night, and doesn't take very long. First, the old tarmac is physically removed in almost the same way you would remove a carpet. Then the following night, new tarmac is applied to the portion involved. All this takes place in about a week, and therefore has no real impact on the everyday life of the Principality.

"One last word, regarding the paddock; it has been enlarged a lot, but sadly, mostly for the benefit of only a few teams. Backmarkers still end up in the nearby Pecheurs parking structure, where they don't get much sun!"

"When did semi-automatic transmissions first come in to Formula One, and when did they become the norm in Formula One?"

The first team with a semi-automatic transmission was Ferrari in 1989. Initially this gave a lot of trouble, but as the season progressed things got better. By 1992, only Ferrari, Williams and McLaren had a semi-automatic gearbox, but in 1993 most teams were using them, and in 1994 only Pacific and Simtek were going through the gears manually.

"I have a question about what happened at the end of hockenheim's Formula One 1986 Grand Prix with Alain Prost: did he hit his McLaren near the end-line, because it was out of fuel? Jose"

Alain Prost did indeed run out of fuel in that race, as did Keke Rosberg, his McLaren teammate. In the mid 80s, drivers had to watch their fuel level constantly, as the turbo cars were limited in the amount of fuel they could use in a race due to an FIA regulation which attempted to equalise them with naturally aspirated cars, which were allowed to carry as much fuel as they wanted. In the pursuit of maximum power, all the teams tried to run as close to the limit of their fuel tanks as possible, without going that step too far.

For Alain Prost, who is known to have been a thinking driver, running out of fuel must have come as quite a shock. However, this race was actually a lap longer than it should have been, since the first start caused an accident and the race was restarted over the original distance. When Prost retired, Ayrton Senna had just passed him for third. However, since both Prost and Rosberg were a lap ahead of seventh placed Derek Warwick, they were classified fifth and sixth, Rosberg taking fifth.

"Why is the steering wheel of an F1 car always removed at the end of a race?"

This is simply because the size of the cockpit doesn't allow the driver to leave the car without removing the steering wheel first. However, each driver makes sure he puts the wheel back on the steering column after he has climbed out, otherwise he will be fined, as the track marshals are unable to steer the car out of the way without the steering wheel being re-attached.

Editorial Remarks:

  • Some of the questions we receive have already been replied to in previous F1 FAQ columns. Therefore, before sending in a question, we suggest you have a look at the back issues, by searching the FAQ database. Not that we mind getting so much mail, just that we feel bad for those who feel they are left unanswered...

  • We receive quite a few questions from you all, and it is absolutely impossible for us to research and respond to each of you, be it here or privately. Please, don't feel discouraged if your question was not replied to; it might come up in the next column. And don't forget - you can always look for answers at the Atlas F1 Bulletin Board.

Marcel Schot© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
Send questions and comments to: Terms & Conditions

 Back to Atlas F1 Front Page   Tell a Friend about this Article