ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 33

  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

"in what situation does the safety car come out? I ask because I saw an accident in a race, but the safey car was not sent out. Loke"

Rule 154 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations ( is all about the safety car. Rule 154c is the part that answers your question: "The safety car may be brought into operation to neutralise a race upon the decision of the clerk of the course. It will be used only if competitors or officials are in immediate physical danger but the circumstances are not such as to necessitate stopping the race." This and starting the race behind the safety car are the only times a safety car can be brought out. So if a car crashes out into the gravel, but without a substantial chance another car will land in the same spot, it can be removed by marshalls while the race continues. However, if parts of the car end up in the racing line, like the wheels of Jean Alesi's Prost at Hockenheim, it becomes necessary to remove them, since they can easily cause a lot of damage to other cars. Another example is last weekend's Formula 3000 race, when the entire chicane on the back of the track became covered with gravel when a car ran through the gravelpit next to it.

"What is the optimum racing line when approaching a right hand turn off a straightway? Thanks, KK"

In dry conditions, the ideal line is always the same: approach from the outside, go to the inside of the corner and exit to the outside. This way, the time that the car is actually cornering is minimized. That's always the driver's target, since upon cornering, there's a part of the car's energy going forward, but also a part that pushes the car sideways. This sideways power takes away part of the forward speed, which slows the car down. Wet conditions marginally changes this approach, as driving on one side of the circuit gives a bigger chance of sliding off the road, so drivers tend to stay in the middle of the road on the approach of the corner. Also, the dry racing line often contains soaked-in oil which comes out of the track in wet conditions, which may also see drivers taking different lines to maximise grip.

"Previously WEST cigarettes sponsored the Zakspeed team, before they sponsored the Mclaren team. But recently I have been shown photographs of the Zakspeed cars (driven by Aguri Suzuki) with EAST sponsorship. Was this just a way to get around the cigarette sponsorship laws in a certain country, or was it just used in the Eastern Block countries were the communist rulers prohibited the use of WEST on the cars?"

West indeed sponsored the German Zakspeed team from 1985 until 1989, their entire Formula One career. The mentioning of East was indeed a way to get around tobacco sponsorship bans, similar to Jordan's Buzzin' Hornets nowadays. Zakspeed pulled the trick for the first time at Hockenheim in 1986. Until then, the letters of West were replaced by solid black blocks when necessary. The Eastern bloc also played a small part, as Jonathan Palmer's T-car at the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix, the first to be held behind the iron curtain, bore East sponsorship, while both regular cars were in regular West outfit.

"Did the first six cars on the grid ever finish the race in the same order in the history of GP racing? Thanks. J.Z."

In short no, it has never happened. Several times, the first four from qualifying have finished in order, first in Portugal in 1958 and later in the 1960 Italian Grand Prix, the 1988 German Grand Prix and the 1990 Italian Grand Prix.

In fact, in one race the first five cars finished as they had started. The 1974 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort started and finished with Niki Lauda first, followed by his Ferrari teammate Clay Regazzoni, the two McLarens of Emerson Fittipaldi and Mike Hailwood and Tyrrell's Jody Scheckter. Sixth on the grid was James Hunt in a Hesketh. However, the future World Champion's role was quickly played out in this race. On the first lap he collided with Tom Pryce who had made a lightning start from eleventh in his Shadow. In the race Patrick Depailler in the second Tyrrell finished sixth, coming from eight on the grid.

"I was reading about improvements of Formula One cars, like the wings, the suspension inside, the six wheeler car, but I want to know a little bit more about the Brabham's Fan Car. If you have a photo I'll thank you. Camilo"

The fan car was Brabham designer Gordon Murray's answer to Colin Chapman's ground effect Lotus 79. In fact, the idea was born of a serious problem in the Brabham BT46 design. When the car was first tested in the winter of 1978 in England, it suffered from overheating problems very quickly. As English winters aren't particularly known for their warm temperatures, it was evident that this would provide huge problems during the season.

Murray came up with the idea to put a huge fan at the back of the car to provide cooling. The fan was nearly as high as the rear tyres. Since the car was very wide, because of the flat 12 Alfa Romeo engine, there was more than enough room. With the underside of the car closed up with skirts, the effect was incredible. The fan literally sucked the car onto the asphalt, as well as taking care of the overheating problem in a very effective way.

On the first outing of the car, the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp, Brabham's rivals were first stunned, but quickly started protesting against this invention. They believed it was breaking the rule saying that no movable aerodynamic devices were allowed. Murray clearly explained that this rule said that this rule applied to those parts whose primary function was to influence aerodynamic performance, and that this device's primary function was to cool the car and that without the device working, the car would almost certainly overheat.

With the arguments of the competition declared null and void, the fan car was allowed to start. After 19 laps the first Brabham retired when John Watson suffered throttle problems. A little more than half way through the race it became one on one, Brabham vs Lotus, as Mario Andretti's engine had blown in his Lotus. Niki Lauda took the fan car all the way to the finish and beat Peterson's Lotus by a massive 34 seconds, with Riccardo Patrese in the Arrows finishing one tenth before Peterson in second.

After this demonstration of power, Bernie Ecclestone, then owner of Brabham, sensed that if the car kept winning as easily as it had in its first race, the car would get banned anyway. Ecclestone immediately withdrew the car to avoid a major fight between Brabham and the other teams. Conclusion of this story is that the fan car was never officially banned and that to this day it remains one of the very few cars to win its only race.

"I would like to know which F1-drivers do not left foot brake? And why not? Rally and racing regards, Pentti"

It's not exactly known which drivers brake with what foot, but from what I've heard at least Rubens Barrichello, both McLaren drivers and Jos Verstappen use their right foot for braking as well as accelerating. The technique of left foot braking actually comes from karting, when there's no way to reach the brake pedal with your right foot. However, it appears that even if a driver is very much used to left foot braking in karts, it can be very difficult to do it in bigger cars. Both Verstappen and Hakkinen were successful karters in their junior days.

"Is there any rule that governs/restricts the minimum/maximum number of mechanics/pit crew for a pit stop? TL Chee"

There's no rule limiting the number of crewmembers that can work on a car, the rules only state that they must be over 16 years of age and can not be animals. Of course there's only limited space around the cars, effectively limiting the number of personnel working on the car to about 18 people.

"Was there a driver who drove for two or more teams in one season between 1990 and 2000? Andreas"

This happened several times, including Mika Salo driving for BAR and Ferrari last year. During 1994, Johnny Herbert drove for three teams, starting the season at Lotus, being swapped to Ligier for Eric Bernard, only to be moved to Benetton for the final two races to help Schumacher secure the Constructor's Championship.

Here's a list of the drivers that scored points in a year while driving for two or more teams:

1990: Roberto Moreno (Eurobrunn & Benetton)
1991: Roberto Moreno (Benetton & Jordan)
1991: Bertrand Gachot (Jordan & Larrousse)
1991: Michael Schumacher (Jordan & Benetton)
1994: Eric Bernard (Ligier & Lotus)
1994: Andrea de Cesaris (Jordan & Sauber)
1997: Jarno Trulli (Minardi & Prost)
1999: Mika Salo (BAR & Ferrari)

Editorial Remark:

  • 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.
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