Atlas F1 The F1 FAQ

  by Mark Alan Jones, Australia

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

"I'm a racing and especially Redbull-Sauber Team Fan from Switzerland. But there is one thing I still don't know about Formula One circuits: why is on some circuits (e.g. Imola, A1-Ring, Silverstone,) the starting-line (line where the driver on pole position starts) not the finish line (line where the times of the laps is taken) too? In other words, why are there on some circuits two different lines? Martin W. Switzerland"

The most common reason is practicality. There quite often is only a limited space on pit straight between corners. It is necessary, for example, that the finish will be by the tower where the start/finish flag marshal will await with the chequered flag, but also other such flags - like the black flag, the black/white 'bad sportsmanship' flag, and 'the meatball' - black with orange circle - flags which can only be shown at the start finish line.

A full grid of double-spaced Grand Prix cars can take up quite a bit of room - and at most Grand Prix circuits the various support categories have larger grids. To fit all the cars onto the grid it is sometimes necessary to move the start line forward of the finish line. Silverstone is a double exception in that the start line is behind the finish line. A reason for this is in the hope that the field will be slightly more spread out when the field arrived at Copse corner the first time, which is sharper now on entry than it used to be.

"Lotus ran much of the 1968 F1 season with Gold Leaf sponsorship, the beginning of the end of national colours in F1. However, in the first race of the season the Lotuses were in the old British Racing Green colours. But by the time of Jim Clark's death in April they (the F2 cars at least) were in Gold Leaf livery. When exactly did Lotus start running the Gold Leaf colours? Jeff U. United States"

The South African Grand Prix of 1968 was the first event of the season. Couldn't really help being that, it was held on New Year's Day. The Lotus-Cosworth were wearing only slightly more colourful version of the 1967 British Racing Green scheme, but for the first round of the Tasman Cup series in New Zealand a few weeks later at Auckland's Pukekohe racetrack, Clark drove his Lotus 49T in the colours and signage of Gold Leaf. When the Formula One circus restarted in Spain, the Lotus cars had done 8 races in New Zealand and Australia in Gold Leaf colours.

"Gentlemen, Could you find the track that has gone the longest without a change in configuration and show the pole time and speed for each year since then? My friend and I disagree on whether the 1993 or 1997 cars were the fastest. Thanks, Jeff USA"

Almost as soon as I thought, 'hrmm, that could be an interesting question', the answer arrived from our quizmaster Marcel Shot.

Well, Suzuka and Magny-Cours haven't changed in the previous 7 seasons, so here goes:

Suzuka since 1992:
1992  Nigel Mansell      (Williams FW14B Renault)  1:37.360
1993  Alain Prost        (Williams FW15C Renault)  1:37.154
1994  Michael Schumacher (Benetton B194 Ford)      1:37.209
1995  Michael Schumacher (Benetton B195 Renault)   1:38.023
1996  Jacques Villeneuve (Williams FW18 Renault)   1:38.909
1997  Jacques Villeneuve (Williams FW19 Renault)   1:36.071
1998  Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F300)            1:36.293

Magny Cours since 1992:
1992  Nigel Mansell      (Williams FW14B Renault)  1:13.864
1993  Damon Hill         (Williams FW15C Renault)  1:14.382
1994  Damon Hill         (Williams FW16 Renault)   1:16.282
1995  Damon Hill         (Williams FW17 Renault)   1:17.225
1996  Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F310)            1:15.989
1997  Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F310B)           1:14.548
1998  Mika Hakkinen      (McLaren MP4/13 Mercedes) 1:14.929
Marcel also adds that these are the only tracks to remain unchanged from the mentioned 1993. Obviously the weather circumstances have had their influence over the years, with different track temperatures and humidity as well as different tyre-configurations. Besides that, it's quite track-dependant on whether rule changes have big or little influences on the times. In other words... no way to compare with 100% reliability.

"MAJ, It has always seemed odd to me that Porsche does not have a Formula One team. If any manufacturer is synonymous with racing besides Ferrari, it's got to be Porsche. Three Questions: have they ever had a team in the past? Why don't they currently race in F1? Do they plan to in the future? Seems like it would perpetuate some great rivalries. Don B, Phoenix, United States"

Porsche ran a Formula Two and then Formula One team in the mid 60's. The only win though was for Dan Gurney in the 1962 French Grand Prix. Gradually, Porsche faded from the grid and disappeared completely with the advent of the 3 litre formulae. Porsche returned in 1984 with TAG as an engine supplier for McLaren, using a 1.5 litre turbo charged unit, and promptly finished 1st and 2nd in the world championship as Niki Lauda beat teammate Alain Prost by half a point. His day would come, and it did the following year. Prost won the world championship, and won it again in 1986 after the remarkable Adelaide Grand Prix. McLaren used the TAG Porsche engine from 1984 to 1987, collecting 25 wins. In 1991 Porsche returned with a 3.5 litre V12 which was so bad that Footwork/Arrows team went back to using customer Ford Cosworth's half way through the season.

As to whether they are expected to return? Who knows. It's unlikely that they will come back to Formula One as a factory team, like Ferrari; they prefer to invest their money in their own series - the Porsche Pirelli Supercup. And whether they will decide to supply engines to a Formula One team doesn't seem on the cards in the next few years.

"I have a question on the speedlimit in the pitlane yesterday at the Hungarian Grand Prix. What was the speedlimit during the race? If you could help me it would end a discussion we are having here, Thanks, Edwin S"

The pit lane speedlimit is either 80 or 120 kilometres per hour (or 50 or 75 miles per hour). This varies from circuit to circuit between those two settings. At Hungary it was 80kph.

"reading racing articles of pre war races, cars suffered from fouled plugs. they would have to make pit stops and change plugs. Why is this? This does not happen any more. Is it because of advances in petrol, lubricants, closer piston ring/cylinder tolerances? Giancarlo B"

The main reason is advancement of spark plug design and performance. Fuel burns hotter and cleaner in modern engines, and with less residue. Also, while Formula One car today are forced to use pump petrol, it's still a much higher octane than in pre-war petrol, which were almost kerosenes rather than petrol. The are less deposits forming as oil no longer leaks through the valves. Swirling head chambers also reduce the likelihood of fouled plugs.

"which teams has had the most wins McLaren, Williams or Ferrari? Tony B"

A nice short question - so I have a long answer. But first the short answer: Ferrari have 124 wins compared to McLaren's 121 and Williams' 103.

The history of the most win holding team is thus: Alfa Romeo won the early races and established the record at 11 races after the 1951 Spanish Grand Prix at Pedrables. Ferrari took it's 12th win at the 1953 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Ferrari raised the record to 49 wins. Lotus took it's 50th win at the 1973 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Lotus took the record to 56 wins before Ferrari took the record back with it's 57th win in the 1975 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Ferrari took the number of wins through the centurion barrier to 103. McLaren took its 104th win at the 1993 Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide. Ferrari retook the lead with it's 105th win at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal and have not lost the lead since. Eddie Irvine's win at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim leaves the record at 124 wins.

"One of the announcers on speedvision said during the Hungarian GP that in 1993 Michael Schumacher won the race with 3 pit stops. I was under the impression that Michael won his first race at Spa in 92, and didn't win again until his monster season of 94. I'll be shocked if I'm wrong... Joe C"

I'd be shocked too. And so would our Qualifying Differentials master, Marcel Borsboom, who supplied the following: Michael Schumacher won in 94 and 98 with 3 pitstops in Hungary, that after Schumacher won his first race at Spa in 1992. However, he also won the Portuguese GP of 1993 before his streak of wins in 1994.

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.

Mark Alan Jones© 1999 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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