ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 43

  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

Recently, quite a few questions arrived about what the differences are between CART and Formula One.

Rukesh asks:

"Technically, what are the difference between a Formula1 car and a cart racing they have in America?" and Wichitsawat asked "I would like to ask you the question that what is the major difference between cart and F1? and that between cart and F1, which one has more speed?"

Firstly, let's compare the cars in the two series.

          CART                                   Formula One
Width:    between 77.5" & 78.5" (1969-1994 mm)   less than 70.9" (1800 mm)
Height:   lower than 32" (813 mm)                lower than 37.4" (950 mm)
Length:   between 190" & 199" (4826-5055 mm)     no limit (see below)

Although in Formula One there is no regulation that limits the length of the car, the rules state that the bodywork may only extend to 47.2" (1200 mm) in front of the front wheels and 19.7" (500 mm) behind the rear wheels. Any big differences with CART thus have to be because of either a very short wheelbase or a very long one. This is further limited by the fact that the airbox bodywork has to start 52.4" (1330 mm) before the rear wheels, the size of the cockpit (30.5"/775 mm) and the required size of the monocoque, 36.4" (925 mm) ahead of the cockpit opening. These measurements total 186.2" (4730 mm), slightly smaller than in CART. So in general, a Champ Car is slightly bigger than a Formula One car, and are allowed a greater minimum weight than a Formula One car.

Another difference is the fuel which is used. Formula One used regular everyday fuel, albeit in a special mixture for increased performance. CART on the other side uses methanol. The most obvious difference between the two, is that you can see regular fuel burn, while you can't see methanol burn. This is the reason why you can sometimes see panic around a Champ Car with which seemingly nothing is wrong. However, methanol fires can be put out with water, while foam extinguishers are required to put out petrol fires. In recent years, the type of tyres have become significantly different. Whereas Formula One opted have changed to grooved tyres, CART cars still race on slicks.

These are the main technical differences between the two series. To discover the exact differences requires a thoroughly comparison of the regulations of each series; these regulations can be found at (Formula One) and (CART).

In terms of racing there are also a few differences. The main difference of course is the location of both series. CART mainly takes place in the United States of America, while Formula One is mostly a European affair, although both series have some excursions to different territories. Other than that, the big difference is that CART drives part of the season on oval tracks, which is something that never happens in Formula One (with the exception of the banked turn at Indianapolis this year).

"I wonder what number the substitute driver would have if the reigning WC with number 1 on his car had to "walk-over" some races, like M Schumacher last year? Would the sub use number 1? Regards, Peter"

The substitute driver would indeed use the number 1. Numbers are appointed to teams at the start of the season and under no circumstances change. The situation you describe has happened since the FIA started to assign numbers this way in 1973. In the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, John Watson substituted for reigning World Champion Niki Lauda at McLaren. Lauda had injured his wrist at the previous race in Spa.

"which driver was first to reach 500 points in his career?"

Alain Prost was the first to achieve that historical milestone. On 30 October 1988, the Frenchman scored a second place at Suzuka, to bring his total to 502.5 points.

"If a new team were allowed to pick any car ever constructed in the history of F1 to campaign against today's current cars, what would be some of the top contenders and would they be likely to fare well in today's competition (I know the issue of grooved tires is going to further complicate this comparison)? Mike"

Of course this is a very difficult comparison, since times have changed and technically the progress has been so big, that legendary cars like the Maserati 250F wouldn't stand a chance against today's cars. However, if we take a look at the most successful cars in Formula One history, an interesting list develops.

The top 5 point scoring cars:

  1. McLaren M23 (1973-1977, designed by Gordon Coppuck) 319 points
  2. Ferrari 500 (1952-1953, designed by Aurelio Lampredi) 243 points, this car was only beaten in a Grand Prix once!
  3. Maserati 250F (1954-1957, designed by Gioacchino Colombo and Luigi Bellentani) 228.42 points
  4. Ferrari 246 (1958-1960, designed by Vittorio Jano and Carlo Chiti) 208 points
  5. McLaren MP4-4 (1988, designed by Gordon Murray and Steve Nichols) 199 points

Based on the number of points per start, the McLaren MP4-4 is clearly the best : a staggering 6.2 points per start and 15 wins in 16 races. As this is a relatively modern car, it would probably be the best bet against today's competition.

To get another idea of how older Formula One cars do today, you could take a look at the Thoroughbred Formula One Championship, where cars of various ages compete against each other. In recent years, Martin Stretton in his Tyrrell P34 6 wheeler has been dominating the championship. To give you an idea of which cars compete in the series, the top six of the last race, 1 October at the Nurburgring, consisted of a Williams FW08, a McLaren M29C, an Ensign N175, a Tyrrell 009, a Tyrrell P34 and an Ensign N180.

"With Tomas Scheckter getting his testing contract with Jaguar and so looking likely to enter F1 in the future, it seems we are now entering a period where the Sons of the Greats are likely to be competing! Did any of the Fathers (i.e. Jody Scheckter, Graham Hill, Gilles Villeneuve & others I might have missed) ever race together and if so, what was their relationship? William"

In fact, the fathers of Jacques Villeneuve and Tomas Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter, were teammates at Ferrari in 1979. Also, Jody Scheckter drove against Graham Hill between 1972 and 1975. Besides these three father/son combinations, we've also had Michael Andretti following in his father Mario's footsteps, with Mario driving against Hill, Villeneuve and Scheckter. Christian Fittipaldi is the son of Wilson Fittipaldi, who also competed in Formula One in the 70s, like the other fathers. In Australia we find a unique family business, one with no less than three members who have raced in Formula One. Jack Brabham, himself triple World Champion, saw his sons David and Gary enter Formula One in the 90s. However, both didn't make much of an impact and quickly disappeared.

"Do the teams change transmission ratios for different tracks and do they also change differental gearing? How would they do this for Indy or for any new track they would run on having nothing to look back on from other runs?Having limited tires they cant experiment or can they use computers to simulate tracks? Thanks Gary "

Yes, they change nearly everything from race to race, trying to make the best possible setup considering track and other circumstances. In this age of computers, the teams are able to simulate tracks. This is very important, not only for making the basic setup of the car, but also to study tyre wear and fuel consumption, on which the pitstop strategy will be based. Also something to keep in mind is that quite a lot of tracks have changes each year. A good example is the radical change of the first corner at Monza this season, which has changed the approach to the entire first sector. Brakes at the end of the straight were more important this year, as well as the longer acceleration out of the chicane.

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