A Formula One Primer
My friends often say that I am a little bit crazy, and I don't deny that. But being a little bit nuts is not all bad. They don't understand my devotion to racing, the fact that I will watch anything race. I have watched clowns on tricycles race as well as men on camels. I have watched airplanes in Reno and skiers in the alps.I have been to NASCAR races, Indy Car races, NHRA drag races, Moto GP motorcycles races, Formula 1 races, and back in high school, I even went to a few submarine races (if you don’t know what a submarine race is you must be less than 45 years old). But of all of the racing series I have attended, F1 ranks at the top of my list.
I have been following Formula 1 for many, many years. F1 races on four continents and in eighteen countries, in exotic locales like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Monte Carlo, Monaco. F1 has a unique international flavor and features drivers from Japan, India, Germany, Britain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries. F1 has the most technically sophisticated race cars on the planet. I find the sport fascinating.
The 2011 F1 schedule takes the traveling international circus all over the globe but doesn't have an event in the US. However, to quote Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing.” With the 2012 introduction of the U.S. Grand Prix, the U.S. will join the international F1 racing scene at the world's newest venue, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
My interest in Formula 1 began in 1965 while I listened to the Indy 500 via AM radio. My father, my brother and I listened to five talented broadcasters cover the race while strategically located around the circuit. The event was historic in that the 1963 Formula 1 world champion, Jim Clark, won the race in a Formula 1 car, a Lotus 38. One of F1’s greatest personalities and engineers, Colin Chapman, owned and designed the car.
The tried and true formula for winning Indy was the front engined roadster, built by numerous race teams, and paired with Offenhauser inline four cylinder engines. In one configuration or another, these cars had dominated Indy for decades. But Colin Chapman, Jim Clark, and Team Lotus proved that the days of front-engined roadsters were over in American oval racing. A.J. Foyt's 1964 victory in a roadster would be the last win ever for a front-engined car at Indy. The Lotus 38, a Formula 1 car, became the first mid-engined car to win the 500, and all winners from that point on have been mid-engined. The 1965 race was a pivotal event in the history of the Indy 500, but it also introduced Formula 1 to American race fans like me.
Grand Prix racing had been going on in Europe for decades when interrupted by the horrors of WW2, but there had never been a world championship. As Europe recovered from the War in the late forties, and car manufacturing re-started, Grand Prix racing re-emerged. Pre-war discussions considered a world driver’s championship, but failed to establish the ground rules. However, in 1947 a world championship “formula” was agreed to under the auspices of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile). The championship was to feature the highest specification of race car and employ Europe’s best drivers. It was to appear at the best circuits and would guarantee a full field of cars and drivers for each of the events. Points would be awarded based on finishing position and a champion would be named at the last event based on the points tally. The lofty ambition of having the premiere racing series in the world became reality: Formula 1.
It took a couple of years to fully develop the series, but on May 13th 1950, Italian Nino Farina drove his Alpha Romeo 158 to victory in the first officially sanctioned FIA Formula 1 World Championship event at Silverstone, England.
The 2011 F1 season is the 62nd consecutive year of the world championship. The rules and regulations have changed over the years, but the original intent to offer the best drivers, the best cars, and the best circuits continues.
And in 2012, Texas joins the world championship with the US Grand Prix of Austin. I will be there, and until then, I will share my Formula 1 thoughts with CultureMap, and I hope you will share your thoughts with me.
Flood1 writes the Formula 1 Journal Blog.