ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 30 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 2: The Season

Just to get onto the grid for a Formula One race costs any team a mint - and this could suggest why these days, Formula One merely involves big-buck factory teams. In a bid to keep Formula One healthy, each year every team that failed to score a point must supply information to the FIA on the size and financial position of their company. This also means that if you fluke a point, you can carry on racing, so financially unstable teams are seen praying for rain each race weekend!

BAR's controversial dual liveriesAny new team wanting in on Formula One faces tough hurdles. Firstly, to put a stop to an overgrowth of Formula One on the scale of the pre-qualifying days, where there were over 35 cars trying for the 26 spots on the grid, the FIA have introduced a rule banning any more than 24 cars entering a race. With 22 on the grid this year, and Toyota taking the last two in 2002, that means the grid will be full!

There still remains another preventative rule for any teams wanting to jump into Formula One team ownership. When submitting a new application, as Toyota did when they applied to enter late last year, the team must pay a deposit of 48 million US dollars! If the team's application is successful, the money will be paid back in monthly installments during the first year, to ensure the new team complies with all the rules and regulations they are required to, helping keep the team afloat.

If a team makes it into the series, it must obey the FIA at all times. British American Racing, the newest team on the grid, bumped into the governing body very early in their career, and came off worse the wear. In the American CART series, teams are allowed to run in two different liveries, so BAR felt it would not be unreasonable to do the same. However, the FIA disagreed with this, and banned BAR from running their separate Lucky Strike and 555 liveries. There had been a loophole in the rules, but it has now been cleared up to state both team cars must be of 'substantially the same livery'.

Before and throughout the season, testing is very important to a Grand Prix team - it's very simple: without testing, there is no development. Testing is a costly exercise, and with more and more teams heading to the warmer climes of Europe, a three day test can produce as big a dent in the pocket as a trip to a Grand Prix! To prevent the rich winning more and the poorer getting left behind, the FIA have introduced rules to limit testing. Except for a supervised shakedown test which is no longer than 50km, no team is allowed to test on any circuit in the seven days before a Grand Prix.

There is also no testing allowed between the end of the Championship and the start of December - a rule which appears to be trying to force the workaholic Formula One fraternity to take some time off! Also, to prevent teams testing set-ups for Grands Prix before the event, with the exception of the British, French, Italian, and Spanish Grands Prix, no testing is allowed on a circuit which will host a race during the year.

Despite these restrictions, teams still manage to test extremely regularly. If more than one team tests together, the FIA must be informed, and a representative will be sent. However this is simply to observe, and no official timing is provided from the FIA for most test sessions - teams have to do it themselves. To do this, they set up simple laser light gates on the start finish straight to record every car that goes past. However, as there are no identifiable transponders on the cars, a member of each team will have to log every time to a particular car - you would have thought that at least on this one, the teams could work together!

One of the many FIA organised press conferencesDespite the fact that each circuit is very different, the races are in some way very similar. A Grand Prix must cover just enough laps to take the race over a distance of 305km (190 miles), or a time of two hours - whichever comes first. In that way, the FIA ensures that each race presents a similar challenge...and that the TV coverage will not run over time! Racing is not the only thing on the mind of the teams, however, and with the worldwide interest in Formula One ever growing, the teams have many obligations in public relations. Not only do drivers and team personalities have to do their bit to please the sponsors, the FIA puts demands on their time too.

The more success you have, the more people want to talk to you, and through one of its rules, the governing body ensures the right of free speech. 'No driver', the rule states, 'may enter into a contract which restricts his right to talk to the media', and this goes both ways, as the teams must ensure their drivers do not shy away from the limelight either. It's a fairly open rule, but an important one which can easily be enforced if a driver or team aren't pulling their weight in the publicity show!

Five randomly selected drivers and two 'team personalities' must attend a one hour press conference at the track on the day before the first free practice, and the following day, another group of six will have their go. After the random selection of the first two days, the FIA ensures the press get to talk to the people who matter, and immediately (some say too immediately!) after qualifying and the race, the top three drivers will be required to step in front of the press. On qualifying day, they will do TV interviews before a 30 minute press conference, whilst on the Sunday, they spend a massive one and a half hours after the race with the world's media - no wonder they don't celebrate too much after winning!

With points awarded for each Grand Prix, the title chase can often go down to the wire, but still, after the sixteen or seventeen races of the season, it is unusual to find two drivers on the same points in the championship. However, if they are, the FIA have a simple way to separate them. The higher place in the championship will go to the man with the most wins, failing that the most seconds, failing that the most thirds, and so on down the list. It is so unlikely that this procedure will fail that the rules state if it does, 'the FIA will nominate a winner according to such criteria it thinks fit'. I presume that the FIA's favourite colour is not the criterion to be used for this assessment!

Previous Parts in this Series: Part 1

Will Gray© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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