F1 Racing Guide

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A Guide to Flags
Allocation of points in F1 Racing
Pit Stop Strategy in F1 Racing
Anatomy of F1 Racing Pit Stop
Pictorial Anatomy of a Formula 1 Pit-Stop
The Driver’s Path to F1 Racing
How to tell Formula 1 team mates apart?
Driver Fitness in F1 Racing
Nutrition and the Formula 1 Driver
Mind Games in Formula 1 Racing
Logistics involved in  F1 Racing
A Look at Tyres
Do you want to work in Formula 1 Racing?
How Driver style and Setup varies: Part One
How Driver Style and Setup varies: Part Two
How Driver style and Setup varies: Part Three
F1 Racing and the art of overtaking: Part One
F1 Racing and the art of overtaking: Part Two
Who’s who in an F1 Race team?
Inside the mind of the Strategy whiz kid: Part One
Inside the mind of the Strategy whiz kid: Part Two

A Guide to Flags
Have you ever watched an F1 race and wondered what all the flags meant? Well, wonder no more.

Kicking off a new Beginner's Guide to Formula 1 Motor Racing - which tells you everything you need to know to follow and understand all the Grands Prix - is a look at the meaning of flags.

Marshals at various points around the circuit are issued with a number of standard flags, all used to communicate vital messages to the drivers as they race around the track.

Below is a guide as to what they all mean:
chakersflagChequered flag
Indicates to drivers that the session has ended. During practice and qualifying sessions it is waved at the allotted time, during the race it is shown first to the winner and then to every car that crosses the line behind him.


yellow_flagYellow flag
Indicates danger, such as a stranded car, ahead. A single waved yellow flag warns drivers to slow down, while two waved yellow flags at the same post means that drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. Overtaking is prohibited.

green_flagGreen flag
All clear. The driver has passed the potential danger point and prohibitions imposed by yellow flags have been lifted

red_flag Red flag
The session has been stopped.

blue_flagBlue flag
Warns a driver that he is about to be lapped and to let the faster car overtake, should he disobey penalties can be awarded. A blue light will also appear in the cockpit. Blue lights are also displayed at the end of the pit lane when the pit exit is open and a car on track is approaching.

red&yellow_flagYellow and red striped flag

Warns drivers of a slippery track surface, usually oil or water.



black&orange_flagBlack with orange circle flag
Accompanied by a car number, it warns a driver that he has a mechanical problem and must return to his pit.


black&whiteHalf black flag
Accompanied by a car number, it warns of unsporting behavior.



black_flagBlack flag
Accompanied by a car number, it directs a driver to return to his pit and is most often used to signal to the driver that he has been excluded from the race.

White flag
Warns of a slow moving vehicle on track

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Allocation of points in F1 Racing
A question often asked by those new to Formula 1 racing concerns how drivers and teams score points. As part of our Beginner's Guide to Formula 1 Motor Racing, this article should provide the answers.

In any given season there are two world championships - the drivers' championship and the constructors' (or team) championship. The top eight drivers in each Grand Prix earn points towards both championships.

Points are awarded as follows: ten points for first place, eight points for second place, six points for third place, five points for fourth place, four points for fifth place and three points for sixth place, two points for seventh place and one point for eighth place

As an example, let us assume Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa finish a race in first and second place. Kimi will score ten points towards the drivers' championship and ten towards the constructors' championship. Massa will score eight points towards each. Ferrari therefore score a total of 18 points towards the constructors' championship.

The only exception to this points structure is when a race is stopped and then restarted and run over a reduced distance.

In this case half points are awarded. This is a very rare occurrence these days as most track incidents can be dealt with using the safety car, making it unnecessary to stop the race.

The winner of each championship is the driver or team who finishes the season with the most points. In the case of a dead heat, the title goes to the party with the most first places. If the number of first places is the same it goes to the party with the most second places.

If the number of second places is the same, it goes to the party with the most third places and so on until a clear winner emerges. Should this method fail to establish a winner, then F1 racing's governing body, the FIA, can nominate a winner as they see fit.

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Pit Stop Strategy in F1 Racing
A pit stop is a pit stop, right? Car races in, four wheels changed, some fuel put rapidly into the tank and away she goes. Admittedly, it's on the quick side; ten seconds for a slow change and close to seven for a fast one. In the time the average motorist takes to find their keys Michael Schumacher is burbling away down the pit lane. But is it really that simple?

In fact pit stops have become a real art. It is not just the speed of the stop but when you do it that counts for so much. Calculating which lap to make the stop has become an exact science which, when done well, can leapfrog you up the field and into the points, onto the podium perhaps, or even conjure a victory as Ferrari have shown so often in the past.

Done badly, as Ferrari have also shown when Eddie Irvine had to wait around for his fourth wheel a few years back, they can turn a promising race into an embarrassing farce.

With overtaking as difficult as it is these days, technical directors have been forced to become part army general as they 'wage war', with everything hanging not only on speed, but also strategy. The process is not done by intuition, inspired guesswork or on a wing and a prayer on what "feels right".

"Race strategy always starts by looking at the lap times on different fuel loads," explains technical director and ace tactician Gary Anderson.

yellow_pilot"Roughly speaking ten kilos of fuel costs you between a quarter and three-tenths of a second a lap. Or put another way a car uses three kilos of fuel per lap. If you work that out you get an idea of whether it should in theory be a one, two or three stop race.

"Then you have to factor in tyre consistency. On some tracks the performance of the tyre does not fall away too drastically and in others it does. In Montreal and Monza, for example, the tyre degradation is pretty stable so you run as far as the car and fuel will let you. You know that if the tyre performance stays constant as the fuel load drops you are going to go faster and faster until you pit. So engine consumption becomes a factor. If you have a more economic engine you can wait until the guy in front of you pits, put in a couple of fast laps on a lighter load and come out in front of him. That's the theory anyway.

"If the tyre wear is bad the car may be getting lighter and faster but that benefit is lost because of the reduced performance of the rubber. Of course the characteristics of the car have to be borne in mind too. One tyre can be slower but more reliable and consistent during a race. The other may be faster in absolute terms but because that cannot be maintained, the drop off in performance and the added pit stops it requires destroy any inherent advantage.

"Then, of course, you also have to allow for the length of the pit lane. The last race for example, Hockenheim, has one of the shortest pit lanes in the season, Silverstone a couple of races before that has the longest."

A long pit lane means the cars will spend longer burbling along at 100kph and nullify the benefits of the speed from running on a low fuel load. But remember, the pit-lane timers do not measure the amount of time a car is stationery in the team garage - that is only done to hype up the moment and crystallize in drama for the television viewer. They measure the time each car cuts the 100kph speed limit beam on the way in, to the time they cut it on the way out.

The statistics show the difference between Hockenheim and Silverstone. David Coulthard had the shortest pit stop in Germany, refueling in 28.676 seconds, then it was Montoya on 28.864 and Sato on 29.075. Winner Michael Schumacher was fourth fastest, dispatched in 29.099 seconds.

Interestingly the time sheets allow the teams to quantify exactly the time lost in a pit-stop bungle. For example, in the German GP Rubens Barrichello pitted first time around in 29.701s - seventh quickest. But on his second stop the fuel flap jammed and he had to open it from his cockpit switch. The stop took 42.445s. So the confusion cost the Brazilian 12.744s. That is not small gap - that is a Grand Canyon of a mistake.

In Britain Coulthard was again the fastest, this time in 31.151 seconds, and second fastest (31.236), followed by Barrichello (31.463), shading Bernoldi (31.468) and Massa (31.469). The worst stop was down to Raikkonen (1m 02.575s), which meant 31 seconds was wasted.

Even where you are in the pit lane has a tactical relevance. "If you are up at the start of the pit lane you can see ahead of you everything that is going on," explained Anderson. "There is a psychological advantage in that for the driver. If you are at the other end, everything is happening behind you.

"It sounds obvious but in general if you are the car in front, you are trying to keep the guy behind you. If you are behind you want to get in front.

crowd_people"That's where a bit of skullduggery comes in. If you are in the car in front you then delay him (the car behind) as much as you can and he loses the advantage of his speed. But imagine it is the other way around. You are in a faster car than the guy in front but cannot pass and your car is no more economical than his. You are both going to have to pit at the same time roughly speaking and he knows that. All he has to do is stay ahead and then pit when you do.

"Your options, though, are bleak. You either rely on a super quick 'in' lap, his mechanics' mistake in the pit lane or you can try to sell a little dummy now and gain. As he comes around to the pit lane entrance you send your guys rushing out early and hope to sucker him into stopping before he was planning to. That clears the track for you to put in the quick laps you need to get out in front of him.

"You also weigh up the fact that some teams, like McLaren, are traditional one-stoppers, so you build that into your thinking too."

Of course nothing in the modern age happens without computers and in the pit stops too they play a vital part. "After qualifying we feed in the best lap of every car, look at their tyre deterioration and calculate when we expect them to make their stops," said Anderson. "That is important for race planning and getting an idea of what everyone might roughly be thinking of doing. And we do the same after five laps of the race when the performance has settled down a bit."

So that's when you get an idea of which cars are on the harder compound and which are on the soft? This question provoked a smile from Anderson. "All the teams usually know who is using what tyre before the race starts," he added.

Other factors come into play too. Drivers can run their engines leaner using one of the various switches on their dashboard.

That will keep them out on the track longer - but at the expense of performance.

The surface of course dictates the tyre-wear rates and varies little from year to year. Hungary, for example has a high wear rate and the trick is to stop when the car behind stops. But when your rival stops in Monza or Montreal you put the hammer down and try to build an advantage.

There is such scope for blunders in front of millions of television viewers that the tension and pressure are enormous. Surely no-one involved enjoys the pit stops?

"I do actually," admitted Anderson. "In fact I think a lot of the teams and their mechanics do. When you get a rainy day or the pace car coming in and out and you have just a tenth of a second to make a decision, that is fun."

It was in just such a scenario at the Austrian Grand Prix that the calculating brain of Anderson spotted an opportunity. A swift stop for Giancarlo Fisichella got the little Italian up to sixth and his speed turned that into fifth place and Jordan's first points in what had, until then, been a season of unfulfilled promise. That's the difference a pit stop can make.

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Anatomy of F1 Racing Pit Stop
At first glance a pit stop is simply a repeat of the age-old battle; man against the clock. But in the case of Formula 1 racing the challenge has been refined and refined and refined. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent getting every action exactly right.

It says so much that this weird world is controlled by a man with a "lollipop". It is not for licking, of course, but is the giant stick with a circular sign at one end that is held right in front of the driver's face. It has a single instruction on each side. One says "Stop" the other says "Go".

It shows how much attention there is to detail because even this simple piece of equipment (which is really just a signboard) is made of super-light carbon fiber. Why carbon fiber? Metal is too heavy and could hurt a driver or mechanics if things go wrong and wood burns too easily in the unlikely event of a fire.

The whole event, glibly called a "tyre stop" couldn't be further removed from the motorist with a flat tyre. Before he has even found the jack 24 men have changed all four wheels, fed in the fuel and sent the car on its way. Well, they have if it has all gone according to plan.

A pit stop starts with the training. Mechanics will practice a pit stop literally thousands of times during a season. They will run through the operation hundreds of times in pre-season testing and then go over it day after day at a Grand Prix to ensure every kink is examined and ironed out.

That helps both in making the system smoother and at the same time calming nerves. Every aspect of the stop is practiced, even down to the fact that the mechanics - who all have other roles in the team anyway - have to be sitting in the pits, fully kitted out in overalls, helmet and gloves, then rush out when the order comes out over the radio. There are even times when, as part of the team strategy, they try to bluff the opposition and rush into the pit lane as a ruse to dummy another car into pitting early.

Then there is the equipment. The car jacks used at front and back are a world away from the one you've probably got in your garage. Some teams use a pneumatic system that shoots the car into the air at the touch of a button. Others, like Jordan, used a specially made man-operated jack that lifts each end of the car into the air in just one second and relies on sheer muscle. Each year they have to be remade to cater for the different designs of nose cone and gearbox.

This being Formula 1, I am sure you are not surprised to hear that sponsors' colors mean the designers not only use fabricated steel but also have license to make them look incredibly hi-tech. "You can't have big ugly jacks in Formula 1," says Jordan team manager Tim Edwards, with a smile.

When it comes to the wheels, every one has a single bolt rather than the four or five on road cars. That makes them easier to remove and replace. The pneumatic wheel guns may look just like every one you have ever seen in a garage but they are very different. They are made to order of super light and extra strong steel with weight-saving titanium sockets so they are both strong and easy to wield. With so much hanging on the pit stop they cannot afford for the guns to go wrong, so there is an extra one lying close by on the floor.

"Compared to the ones in your local garage these are beauties," says Edwards. "They are also directional so they apply more power to take the wheel off than to put it on, because that is usually where the problems occur."

And the process of removing the wheels is a no-nonsense operation. Each corner has three men: one on the wheel gun, one to take the wheel off, and another to put it on. In the confines of a pit lane with so little space and other F1 cars cruising past at 100kph it all has to be choreographed very carefully.

So that's it? Well, not quite. Prudence, good working practices and safety are also poured into the equation. It goes without saying that each mechanic has his own set of fireproof overalls, underwear and helmet. These are not simply for the mechanics to wander around the paddock pretending to be drivers, but rather for solid safety reasons. Many of them remember the 1994 blaze in which a few Benetton mechanics were slightly burnt in a dramatic episode. Their pit was suddenly engulfed in flames when fuel spilled onto hot engine parts. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt.

Like the rest of the grid Jordan used to have a fireman, armed with an extinguisher on the spot and foam cannon to douse the whole pit in case things are slightly more serious.

Jordan had developed a special method, too, for making sure mechanics do not get run over. It had happened in both the Williams and Ferrari pit in the last three years and the Irish team didn’t want to be next. So, even though there is a man on the lollipop, the one on the rear jack (Iain Marchant) in the Jordan operation had special responsibility. He had to keep the rear of the car in the air until the fuel hose had been removed completely. That way, even if the lollipop man messes up things will not end in disaster.

As an extra safety precaution Jordan had a man holding a clear Perspex cover over the engine in case there is fuel spillage. Why Perspex and not metal? So the rear jack man can see the refueling process and knows when to drop the jack.

The refueling rig supplied to each team by the same FIA-approved manufacturer is the most expensive piece of equipment the pit crew use, costing tens of thousands of dollars. And as the main source of danger there are five people working on it.

The pipe itself is the thickness of a man's leg and has a double thick skin to prevent accidental punctures. The system has a special lock, too, that will not release the fuel until it is firmly fixed into place. Three men carry the pipe, one operates the shut off valve and the other (Edwards) is at the control desk in case things go wrong. As a final safety measure there is a copper strip that earths the car to remove any potentially dangerous static.

As the season progresses and the crew becomes even more practiced, added refinements creep onto the pit-stop routine. "For example, we have two people operating the fuel hose, with the team member furthest behind having a lot of influence on moving and locking the hose into place," adds Edwards.

"For the flyaway races a tall person had been standing in front of a shorter one which limited how much the guy behind could help his team mate. When we got back to Europe, we tried reversing that and by using different people we found it made refueling work much better.

"Now Stuart Cox, the tallest member of the team, is the second person on the fuel hose and he looks over Ged Robb's shoulder to help steer the hose on. The big guy who used to be on the front of the hose was moved to the rear jack because the team member who used to have the position was too light and subsequently was thrown off a few times.

"Re-thinking the team positions like this has made our pit stops smoother and quicker, but it's only once you've gone through a few races that you can have a better feel for how the team should be arranged."

"We've got a few people on the crew who hadn't done pit stops before this season and it doesn't matter how many times you practice it, when you actually do it for real for the first time in a race, when it matters, the adrenaline's going! We see a difference as the season goes on and by the end of the season the crew has really gelled together and the pit stop just gets slicker and quicker each time."

Pit-stop crew functions:

  • Lollipop & nose lift
  • Front jack, lift & nose off
  • Left front wheel off, wing adj., nose on
  • Left front wheel gun
  • Left front wheel on, nose ratchet
  • Right front wheel off, wing adj., nose lift
  • Right front wheel gun
  • Right front wheel on, nose ratchet
  • Stand, extinguisher
  • Fuel 1
  • Fuel 2
  • Fuel 3
  • Fuel shut-off
  • Fuel desk controller
  • Right rear stand, wheel off
  • Right rear wheel gun
  • Pusher, right rear wheel on
  • Rear jack
  • Main extinguisher
  • Fire guard
  • Left rear wheel on
  • Left rear wheel gun
  • Left rear wheel off, starter
  • Steady, nose lift, wheel off, clutch dump

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Pictorial Anatomy of a Formula 1 Pit-Stop


scrach_imagesLolly-pop man: The lolly-pop man stands in the pit-lane level with the back of the pit box. As the driver arrives, the lolly-pop man indicates where the driver should turn in. He then runs round to the front of the car, showing "BRAKES" to the driver, to remind him to keep his foot on the brakes to prevent the wheels spinning as the nuts are removed. When the wheels have been replaced, the lolly-pop man turns the lolly-pop over showing "1st GEAR" to indicate to the drive to select first gear, ready to leave the pit box. As the fuel nozzle is removed, the lolly-pop man raises his lolly-pop and the driver departs. The lolly-pop man must also check for on-coming traffic in the pit-lane, but due to the fractions-of-a-second involved in a stop, will usually let the car go and the driver must avoid an accident with any other car. The lolly-pop man is also responsible for timing a 10-second stop-go penalty, during which the car cannot be worked on.

 scraches_1Jacks: There are two jack men, one at the front and one at the back. The front jack man stands in position at the front of the pit box, with the jack ready in position so when the driver stops, it is under the front wing. The rear jack man stands to the side, ready to run round the back of the car and position the jack into hooks mounted in the rear wing supports. Both jack men lean back to raise the car. This can be before or after the fuel nozzle is attached depending on team preference. The car is only raised about 10cm to minimize raising and lowering time. After the wheels have been changed, the car is gently lowered to avoid jarring the fuel nozzle. The front jack man moves to the side of the car to allow for a clear get away. The rear jack man remains in position, and is joined by another crew member ready with a starter in case the driver stalls the engine. The car would need to be raised to restart it, as the starter is connected to the gearbox and left in gear to drive the engine. The driver selects neutral and the car is lowered again ready for another attempted get away.

scraches_2Refuel: Refueling strategy can determine the outcome of the race, so this is the single most important aspect of a normal pit-stop. An aviation standard hose and connection are used by all teams, supplied to the same specification. The fuel hose is comprised of two hoses, with the fuel carried in the internal hose, and exhausted air exiting around the outside, within the external hose. This makes the hose complete with fuel, stiff and heavy, so the bulk of the weight is carried by a secondary refueller.

The nozzle has three internal levers which must be activated together to open the nozzle. This means the nozzle must be placed square to the cars filler. The first forward action of the main refueling man opens the exhaust valve to let air out of the fuel tank, the second action allows the fuel to flow. A flow meter shows the refueller how much fuel has entered the car. When the required amount has been dispensed, the nozzle is pulled back. The first movement closes the fuel valve, and the second closes the exhaust. The refuellers then move back, clear of the car. Some teams employ a third member to push against the car from the other side to balance the thrust of the refueller.

scraches_3Tyres: Each corner of the car uses three crew members to change the tyres. The gunman kneels in position ready for the car to stop with the centre of the wheel in front of him. A pneumatic gun is then placed on the single centre nut. This action releases the safety clip to prevent the nut from coming undone during the race, and the wheel leaving the car. This is done while the car is being raised. Another crew member will be holding the wheel and remove it when the nut is undone. A second crew member stands the other side of the gunman ready with the fresh wheel and tyre assembly.

As the gunman leans back away from the wheel being removed, the crew member with the new wheel steps forward, placing the wheel on the axle. The wheel may need rotating a few degrees to locate studs that enable the wheel to turn the front axle and brakes, or engine to turn the rear wheels. The gunman mean while moves a lever to reverse the rotation of the gun. The gun with the nut seated in it is placed on the axle and tightened. The gunman removes the gun from the nut and pulls out the safety pin to re-engage the mechanism. He then lifts the gun above his head to indicate that he has finished. This process takes a total 6 to 8 seconds.

scraches_4Extras: Formula 1 teams are not limited on the number of crew allowed to work on the car during a pit-stop. With the introduction of top exiting exhausts, there is a serious safety concern with the fuel nozzle in such close proximity. A board is placed on the car between the fuel filler and the exhaust, and is contoured to the cars bodywork. This provides minimal protection against a fire should fuel leak onto the car during a pit-stop.

Extra crew members are placed at the sidepod entrance to reach in and remove debris from the radiators to prevent overheating and engine failure. These crew are pulled from their positions just as the car is about to leave the pit box. Other members may be employed to clean the drivers visor during a stop. A cloth with cleaner fluid on one side and is wiped across the visor. The cloth then is turned over to dry the visor. Another crew member stands at the back of the car ready with the electric starter should the driver stall.

Summary: A total of 21-23 crew is usually present at a pit-stop. They all work in unison to service the car in 8-14 seconds, depending on fuel load. Fuel strategy can determine the outcome of a race, and pit-stops can ruin a driver's race if they go wrong. The crew is also responsible for changing the front wing and nose assembly should this be needed. They also check suspension components after an accident and determine if the car is safe to continue. Pit-stops are a flurry of activity, and once the individual aspects are understood, the pit-stop as a whole can be appreciated.

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The Driver’s Path to F1 Racing
Before the launch of the website, F1 Scarlet had received many requests for information and advice on how someone becomes a professional racing driver, with a view to eventually competing in Formula 1 racing. While there is no simple answer to such questions, the following should provide some idea as to how most F1 drivers find their way into the sport.

F1 racing is at the top of the motorsport hierarchy. Below this series, there is a wide range of lower formulae, where many young and talented drivers are all chasing the same goal, and that is to be 'a Formula 1 driver'. Life as a young driver has become increasingly difficult as time goes by, due to the many facts that he must take into consideration before he can start his career.

It is very important before a driver starts a season, that he has a structured career plan, and this should be a chosen route that he believes will take him to the heights of Formula 1. Gone are the days of a "structured ladder" approach to reach Grand Prix racing, so it is of tremendous importance that you consult as many people, namely individuals involved in the motor racing business, in order to obtain a wide spectrum of opinions on how other people view the hierarchy. This may not change your overall view, but it gives you an indication of how other people see your career developing.

So what is the 'desired' route to Formula 1 racing? Many of the modern day F1 drivers started their careers in karting. Karting is a very good foundation, because from a young age it gives you the experience of both race craft at the highest level, and an insight into what it takes to deal with the highs, lows and general pressures of racing in an international arena.

From a Public Relations (PR) point of view, if you're successful, it will also get your name on the map. Karting may be the route taken by stars such as Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli, but it is by no means a necessity, just an added source of a wealth of experience.

In relation to a move into car racing, it is important to be aware of PR. A driver should take into consideration the amount of media scrutiny that he or she will be exposed to in your chosen category. The press will not choose to realize your full potential unless you are winning in the recognized formulae. At the moment for example, British Formula Ford is one formula that is acknowledged world-wide as a place to be winning races.

A lot of the Formula 1 teams have a large interest in the championship due to the history of talented Formula 1 drivers it has produced, namely Ayrton Senna, Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill, David Coulthard and Jenson Button to name a few. A successful year in Formula Ford provided these drivers a strong stepping stone from which to move up into Formula Three the following year.

Over the past few years, there has been an influx of drivers graduating straight from Formula Three to Formula 1 - Giancarlo Fisichella, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Takuma Sato being among the most recent. It is definitely becoming a preferred route, rather than enduring one or two years in Formula 3000.

It goes without saying that you must concentrate your efforts on winning, so being in the right formula, with the right team and at the right time is imperative. Unfortunately, the top teams are always in high demand and inundated with quick drivers, all with full budgets to go racing. Even though you may be that little bit quicker, money is very important in the motor racing industry, because although the teams would like to win, they are also running a business.

So, how does a driver secure the funds to go racing? Sponsorship is the word on the tip of many people's tongues, and they are right, but there are also other ways. An interesting approach could be investment in a young star. This scheme allows a prospective backer to effectively buy a percentage in a driver. This will ensure a cut of his overall earnings, but is of course subject to him earning an annual income.

The numbers of businessmen/women who hold a passionate interest in the world of motor racing are few and far between.

However, there are business people who have never had the chance to be involved in motor sport, but would like to be. For these people, the term 'investment' provides the opportunity to become more closely involved in a young driver's career.

The reality, though, is that gaining the necessary funds to go racing is very difficult, but it is by no means impossible. Be in the right place, at the right time and with the right people behind you, and it is feasible to make your way to the top.

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How to tell Formula 1 team mates apart?
With each Formula 1 racing team running two virtually identical cars, a commonly asked question is how does one tell the difference between their two drivers when they're out on track.

Each driver has a number which is featured somewhere on his car. However, in amongst the car's livery and numerous sponsor logos, this can often be difficult to spot. One definite exception was Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, on which the number one, denoting his world champion status, was always clearly displayed.

But there are additional indicators that are used to differentiate between cars. These vary from team to team. For example, at Sauber Nick Heidfeld's car had red rear-view mirrors, while those of team mate Felipe Massa's car (while he was in Sauber) were yellow.

However, the method most commonly used by teams to tell their cars apart is different colors for the T-shaped camera housing that is mounted on top of the roll-over hoop just behind the drivers head. The benefit of this is that is easy to spot from most angles, even when a driver is in traffic.

At Ferrari, Michael Schumacher's was red and Rubens Barrichello's black. At Jordan, Giancarlo Fisichella's car carried the red mounting, while at BAR it was Jacques Villeneuve's.

At McLaren it was David Coulthard's car that carried the red camera housing. And at venues where tobacco advertising was banned, the team also replaced their main sponsor logos with the words 'David' and 'Kimi', making driver identification joyfully straightforward.

Learning to spot such differences is one way to tell a team's drivers apart. However, theses differences are subject to change. An easier and more reliable method is to get to know each driver's helmet design.

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Driver Fitness in F1 Racing
As Formula 1 motor racing steps up a gear every season, so driver fitness becomes a more and more important part of the overall package. Many outsiders cannot see the need for F1 racing drivers to regard their stamina in the same light as top athletes - after all they only drive a car don't they? - but training programmes have been an integral part of professional racers' regimes for years - and never more so than if you competed in the top echelon of open wheel racing, Formula 1 events.

You often hear drivers quoting milk or water as their preferred drinks, and placing pasta at the top of their favorite food lists. There are reasons for their liking of these items - they are all part of a fitness regime. To build a fit body, one needs good nutrition as well as a physical programme. The days of James Hunt's chain smoking and partying are over.

Although training is limited during race weekends, in-between events drivers do not go home and watch TV - instead they train with their physios up to 4 times a week. Their physical routines consist of a mixture of cardiovascular and resistance exercises, utilizing a wide range of methods to bring racers to their peak fitness levels.

Gym training is of great importance (which quite a few drivers dislike!) to work on muscle strength, whereas cardio work, such as jogging or cycling, is brought in to build heart strength. There are some pilots who also kayak and canoe to increase their cardiovascular fitness (hence Concept 2 rowing machines are currently proving very popular!).

Drivers are required to have strength as well as endurance ability. They have to keep their stamina and concentration for the entire race (which could last up to two hours) as well as having fast reactions to the events unfolding in front of them, and still be mentally fresh enough to debrief team members and deal with the media at the end. They are neither long distance runners nor 100m sprinters. Physios often describe them as "boxers". Both boxers and drivers have incredible amounts of stamina and strength but are also mentally quick.

Cars are faster now than in the past, and as a result drivers are exposed to more lateral as well as front/back G forces. With the advance in aerodynamics, the F1 car nowadays is so adhered to the ground that cornering speed is higher, exerting huge forces on the drivers - and especially to their necks. The cockpits are also smaller, due to demands from the designers, so they are forced to perform in restricted positions. Depending on the shape of and space available in the cockpit, drivers are required to train particular muscles to perform at their best.

The increasing importance of pit stops for refueling and tyre changes have also changed the shape of the race, which now normally consists of three-part sprints instead of one endurance run. There are a few things that make life easier nowadays, though. With the assistance of electronic aids, the drivers are not required to change gear in the traditional manner or force the steering wheel; gearshifting is done on the steering wheel in the form of flaps and power steering now comes as standard.

Also stopping for fuel means that a driver does not need to calculate his pace so as to look after the tyres. It was often drivers like Alain Prost (known as the Professor in F1 circles for his strategic ability), who could pace himself in accordance to the fuel load he was carrying, that won races but now this pressure has been lifted from our heroes' shoulders.

So how fit are they? Drivers such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen and David Coulthard carry a body:fat ratio of 7% , which is pretty close to that of a long distance runner just before an event. They will also carry more muscle on the upper body, chest and arms, and their neck muscles are trained in such a way to withstand the side forces which are generated during cornering.

They may not need a pronounced six-pack, but their abdominals are completely fat free! More importance is placed on core stability these days, as strong abdominal muscles help posture and can give a well-balanced distribution of strength. They are very lithe in the lower body to fit perfectly into a tiny seat in the cockpit, and you would not find huge bulk of thighs because they are simply not required. With the amount of exercise they do, it is very easy to bulk up muscles but the last thing a car designer wants is a heavy driver, so this is where all the therapists come in - in order to control the amount of training they do.

When a young driver first comes to a F1 test, it is often the neck muscles which give way first. There is a machine to build neck muscles, but drivers also find a simple band of elastic which ties around their head very handy. Obviously, though, the best exercise for the neck is driving, and even the most experienced will make room for extra training just before unusual anticlockwise circuits, such as Brazil and San Marino.

Depending on the space available in their cockpit, emphasis can be placed on forearms or upper arms. Today's regulations allow ample space so the driver's entire arm is trained - from shoulder to hand. It wasn't always this way though - in the now defunct Leyton House team the cockpit was so small that Mauricio Gugelmin and Ivan Capelli had to train their lower arms only because that was the only part of the arm that they could move to steer!

Flexibility in the legs is vital too. Most cars now have two pedals, one for accelerating and the other for braking, so each foot is responsible for one action. However, because they are almost lying down in the cockpit with their legs higher than their rear, poor circulation is not welcome as it could lead to numbness in the feet.

Finally today's fitness includes mental exercises too. The steering wheel of a modern racing car is one of the most complicated items on the machine. It has over a dozen buttons and the regulations do not allow teams to preset the settings - instead it is the driver's job to remember to alter the setting accordingly. If a driver is comfortable conversing with the team and making adjustments while driving, the setting change is less stressful. For example, Michael Schumacher rarely made mistakes but when he did it was sometimes because he was fiddling with the buttons or communicating with the team, although this also was still extremely rare!

The next question has to be - has the introduction of two-way telemetry ? It is not easy to say as teams can change the settings on the car anytime, but they have to let their respective driver know what they are going to change! So communication with the driver still plays a significant role. The effectiveness of this telemetry still depends on how good the level of communication is between team and driver.

Drivers must therefore be alert as well as physically fit to enable them to drive on the limit and use all the equipment available in today's sophisticated cockpit - even the humble drinking bottle can cause chaos, so if possible and only if the driver is fit enough (well hydrated), they try not to drink during a race. We only saw Michael Schumacher with a drinking tube inserted in Malaysia or Germany where extreme temperatures are expected.

There is no doubt that all the drivers are physically fit. The difference in results therefore comes from mental fitness, which is no doubt driven by their own personal hunger and determination for success. Being fast is never good enough to be first in Formula 1, and together with fitness they have to be able to find the structure, or cocoon, around them so that they can perform to their utmost ability every fortnight.

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Nutrition and the Formula 1 Driver

gim_personIt sounds awfully boring to hear that a driver's favourite drink is mineral water and his favourite food is pasta, yet these are the two items which the majority of drivers put at the top of their list.

As discussed in previous articles, the F1 driver has to be in tip top condition for most of the year and together with their training they have to maintain a healthy diet.

A continuous consumption of incorrect food can slow down the metabolism, affecting not only the body's reaction but also the mind. Simply put, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, which give energy, protein to replenish muscles and a variety of vitamins and minerals to aid the digestive system is what racers must aim for.

The expression "you eat like a king at breakfast, eat like a prince at lunch and eat like a pauper at dinner" literally describes the diet of drivers. Breakfast normally consists of a bowl of cereal, an egg or two (preferably boiled), a pot of yogurt and fruit salad.

David Coulthard sticks to his Scottish roots and opts for porridge rather than cereal, but whatever form it takes a good intake of fibre is essential. Drivers also need plenty of fluid first thing in the morning to kick-start the system and this is usually milk or water.

gim_person1Lunch has to be a good energy supplier, therefore it mainly consists of carbohydrates such as pasta. Drivers tend to avoid rich sauces such as carbonara or four cheeses, but enjoy pomodoro sauce or olive oil.

Former F1 racer Jean Alesi loves garlic oil with hot pepper sauce, while Coulthard likes a little olive oil with some raspberries. The bowl of pasta is accompanied by some vegetables, cooked or fresh.

"There is so much you can eat when vegetables are not cooked. Tomatoes, lettuce, ruccola for example, but if you cook them you can eat more and digest them with more ease. Grill (don't fry!) aubergine, zucchini or broccoli," advises Dr Ricardo Ceccarelli of Toyota.

For the evening meal, a good portion of protein has to be consumed as the body has done a whole day's work, and in order to recover the body needs protein. Grilled fish or lean meat together with some vegetables is often served. Even Michael Schumacher was seen with a big steak on Sunday after the race, and although a smaller (than lunch) portion of food is recommended, the evening menu is not as restricted as breakfast and lunch.

"Our digestive system has not developed much since our ancestors were up in the trees. Then they were eating nuts throughout the day, and only when they came down to hunt did they start to eat meat," explains Dr Ceccarelli.

"Basically our system is still not catered for digesting meat well. It does take longer to digest and it is healthier to eat many small meals than three big ones."

Dr Ceccarelli was not only looking after Mika Salo and Allan McNish as part of his remit at Toyota, but was watching over one hundred drivers of all categories. He monitors their training as well as their diet.

"It is very difficult to keep to an ideal diet during a race weekend," he continued. "Ideally a driver should have his pasta at 10:30am before the race, but no one wants that! Then he has to go the briefing and sponsor greetings, so by the time he is free to have his lunch, it is already 12:30pm!

"Food has to have been fully digested before 2.00pm so he can only have 70g rather than the ideal 120g of pasta then."

Drinking alcohol is clearly not allowed at race weekends but a moderate amount of alcohol at other times is quite acceptable. A glass of sherry, for example, can trigger the stomach to start working so when the food arrives there are already plenty of gastric juice ready to digest.

However, for the race, it is crucial to have a driver "well hydrated". After two hours of racing, a driver loses up to 1.5-1.8kg of liquid. "It does not harm you to drink whatever amount of water. Our bodies are very clever, the excess can be gotten rid of quite easily," Dr Ceccarelli added.

"Also plenty of water reduces the risk of kidney or pancreatic stones. However, be aware of fruit juices. They are good for vitamin C but they contain fructose, fruit sugar, so in excess they are not good."

Drivers follow a regimented routine but this is only to aid their physical training and to keep lean. In fact, drivers' programmes are not as severe as those of cyclists or gymnasts.

"Of course drivers have to be conscious of their weight and condition but they are sitting in a car which boasts 800 horsepower!" Dr Ceccarelli exclaimed when questioned. "Whereas long distance runners, cyclists and gymnasts follow a stricter regime."

So what is the "superfood" that drivers have to take on board? "Milk and egg, these are two essential items for a drivers' diet." declared Dr Ceccarelli.

"Milk has everything we need. It has protein, calcium and other vitamins - even carbohydrates. Everyone is so conscious of fat, but instead of having mayonnaise, butter and cookies just have full fat milk.

"If you have a sweet tooth, use honey. It is so rich in vitamins. People have a misconception about this, but the egg white is so nutritious. Yolk has got nutrition, of course, so two eggs a day is a good start.

"Also, it is still new to Europe but Soya is very, very good. It has been [part of] the staple diet in Asia, and with its high protein content and no fat it is a good alternative to meat."

And the foods to avoid? "Cheese, salami, and bread!" he responds. Just the kind of things you would find in your fridge, so be aware!

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Mind Games in Formula 1 Racing
In conjunction with hard physical training, drivers must also endure the rigours of mental training. Physical strength derives from mental strength and although drivers never fight, literally, face to face as do the boxers that we compared them to in the last article on fitness, there is a definitely a high degree of psychological warfare.

smiling_person"I could never put up with the pressure which they exerted on me when I was there," Ricardo Zonta said after his two-year stint at BAR. "The team was geared around Jacques [Villeneuve], and he knew it, and unless you had been well prepared beforehand you just cannot work there."

Another driver who struggled initially against his team mate was Rubens Barrichello, when he partnered Eddie Irvine at Jordan from 1993 - 1995. The Brazilian has since admitted that the Ulsterman got the better of him psychologically, something his team also knew.

"When he was at Jordan and Eddie came, Rubens was done in. He just could not accept it. He could not accept Eddie was so fast and so carefree about it," recalled one Jordan member.

When it was announced that he would drive alongside the then two-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who is renowned for his mental strength, Jordan team members admitted their concerns that he would founder again.

red_pilotsHowever, the Brazilian proved them all wrong, taking his first two victories at the wheel of the F2001 and F2002.

It is possible that he followed a similar strategy to Irvine, coincidentally his predecessor as Schumacher's team mate, in that he ignored the pressure of racing alongside the talented German and instead concentrated solely on his own performance - using Schumacher as a benchmark rather than a rival to be beaten at all costs.

However, that is something he will not reveal. The psychology between team mates is one of the most important aspects to acquiring mental strength, as it can have more far-reaching effects than the direct rivalry between the two drivers. As Johnny Herbert found out to his cost at Benetton.

The Englishman managed his career-best result at the team, two wins and fourth in the Drivers' FIA Formula 1 World Championship, but was clearly rattled by the fact that his team mate Michael Schumacher was treated as the lead driver, and in fact went on to win the championship for a second consecutive year. His inability to adjust to these circumstances gradually lost him the sympathies of those around him, and he did not drive for Benetton the following year.

Apart from this, the most obvious reason for being able to keep a mental distance from any psychological tactics employed by your team mate is that this energy is far better spent on driving to the best of your ability.

walking_personThere is no such thing as a mental conditioning pill, but you can train your mind. This teamed with the right support structure equips the driver to excel in all areas. When the body wants to give up, it is the head which has to persuade the body to continue. Training, both mental and psychological, enables a racer to take his endurance to the limit and so perform to his best - even Michael Schumacher will admit to this.

"You have to be focused. You have to be able to concentrate for a certain amount of time," he has said. "People might think we drivers do nothing between race weekends but I spend a lot of time in gym. You have to be physically fit to cope, and mental fitness comes with it."

Drivers have to learn to detach themselves from their activities outside the cockpit and simply concentrate on what they are supposed to do, which is to drive as fast as possible. This is helped by their team of close friends and helpers - from their partners to the person who holds their umbrella and helmet on the grid to their managers, this support structure helps a racer concentrate only on producing the best he can.

But get it wrong and this support structure can be more of a hindrance than a help. Take managers for instance - Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve have both benefited (mainly financially) from their canny business gurus - Willi Weber and Julian Jakobi.

However, it has been known for drivers to find that their management teams have had an adverse effect - one example being Damon Hill who saw a difficult relationship develop between his manager and team. He drove elsewhere the following year.

Jenson Button is another case - his managerial structure had to be rethought after a couple of seasons in the sport with mixed results, resulting in him signing up for new guidance last year.

"It is nice to have someone who is on your side, and it is vital that those people take away all the extra bits of work outside cockpit so that I only have to concentrate on my job, which is to drive fast" says Toyota's ex-driver Allan McNish

"It is a mental war [in Formula 1 racing]!" he continued. "You cannot afford to be beaten by that. When we actually look in the eyes of a driver, it is always like searching for clues, trying to psych out the other guy.

"We do not face each other in a ring like sumo wrestlers. However a driver can influence the team to make it more advantageous, and it is then entirely up to him. There is less fun, in a way, but any competition at high level is like that.

"Here in Formula 1, you are an individual and you have to set up a car to suit you, I mean just for you. If there is extra information from your team mate that could be of benefit, then you might get that too, as long as the condition allows it!

"Whereas in Group C [sportscars] we all work together for the same car. Whoever finds any step forward would be beneficial to us all, so there is definitely more teamwork there.

"In Formula 1, it is a team work too, but there is an invisible barrier between the two cars. There is a degree of rivalry. As long as it is a healthy one, I think it is ok. If it gets political, it is then up to the mental fitness of the driver, isn't it?"

So mental fitness plays several roles - not only does it give the driver the self-confidence and determination to drive at their best, it also supports their physical fitness when racing in gruelling conditions. Finally it allows them to successfully negotiate the politics and tactical games all top sportsmen and women must successfully navigate if they want to be the best.

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Logistics involved in  F1 Racing

Viewers have it easy. Preparing for a Grand Prix involves walking across their living room, flicking the television switch and easing back into their favourite armchair.

Grand Prix teams on the other hand will have spent at the very least the last five days preparing for this moment. Incredibly, even if it is their home race, just half an hour's drive from the factory, they will have a team of staff working all day from the Tuesday before the event setting up shop. And if it is on the other side of the world, such as the season opener in Australia, they will have spent even more time - it takes 16 days to prepare for the race in Melbourne.

Gone are the days when the truck rolled up to the garage, two cars and box of spanners were wheeled off, and away they went. These days transporters operating only for testing and the European races rack up around 40,000 kilometres each criss-crossing the continent. Usually there are three from the team and, for teams like Jordan, a fourth was sent from the engine supplier, in this case Honda.

Each team obviously has its own transport crew who are part of the operation of taking equipment to a race. Regardless of their job, albeit driver or assistant, once they get to the race they are part of the team over the race weekend.

While a race mechanic will have a four-day round trip (Thursday-Sunday) a 'truckie', as they are known, has to drive out and return with his transporter, so he will spend between eight and ten days going to a race and coming back.

wacalsWith all the travelling it would not make sense to have to have small petrol tanks, so the refuelling bill is rather high. A tank takes 600 litres and costs £450, but at least it can travel from the factory to Europe without a break.

The home race is, of course, the easiest but ironically all the teams, including Jordan which was based literally 800 yards across the road from the circuit (a a 10 minute journey), had to go through the same complex packing procedure for their home race at the British Grand Prix as they had for races in the further flung reaches of Europe like Hungary, Spain and Italy.

Then there are other complications the fans never see; each truck has to have carnets for every single item in the 20 tonnes on board - that is basically a detailed manifesto of the contents. The trucks themselves have to be a work of art, quite literally. They may require tobacco signage on the side for the race weekend, but because it is banned as they drive through France or Germany it has to be removed and replaced along the length of a 50 foot pantechnican.

To abide with the working regulations (and general safety) each transporter has two drivers so one can sleep while the other navigates his way across Europe. That's just for the eleven races in Europe.

Then there are the "flyaways", as the Formula 1 racing fraternity calls them (Australia, Malaysia, Brazil, Canada, USA and Japan). A front line team will typically use around 22,000kg of freight - that is 59 packing cases or seven aircraft pallets packed sky high.

yellow_macanicThe bill for transporting that around the world will run to millions of pounds for each team. For those at the head of the field, much of that is covered by the freight benefits for finishing in the top ten in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. But to get their equipment moved takes FIVE specially adapted 747s run by Formula 1 Management.

The flight is hardly as simple as flying from A to B. Hundreds of tonnes of freight has to be loaded and unloaded. Everything has to have customs clearance and then it has to be transported from the airport to the paddock. The operation is understandably complex when you consider that every car is made up with more than 3,000 parts.

There was the case of one team who packed everything, but the specially moulded drivers seat went astray and nearly didn't make it to the track in time. That example shows how one missing piece can jeopardise a multi-million pound operation. Every single part has not only to be there but to work perfectly, too, if a car is to get through two days of practice and qualifying and then the race on Sunday where the points are earned.

For that reason there has to be more than one spare for every single part. Allowance has to be made, too, for the fact that every driver, even Michael Schumacher, could have an 'off' and damage the bodywork.

More spares are carried for difficult tracks like Monaco and Hungary where the crash barriers are so close they are just asking to be whacked. So spare front and rear wings are among the freight along with undertrays, nose cones and repair kits.

yellow_macanic1Mechanics standing in line at the airport to check in sometimes carry things that looks suspiciously like a heavily wrapped wing end plate, or nose cone section that was not finished in time to go with the regular freight. McLaren even have a man on standby to fly parts, finished at the last minute, to race abroad.

The tide of parts is so vast that teams will design literally hundreds of wing sections in a season, and all have to be accounted for. To make sure they are not too old and close to failure they also have to be 'lifed'. So someone knows exactly how old every single part is, down to the smallest nut and bolt.

Then the freight has to include tools, generators, compressors, oxygen bottles, voltage regulators, miles of cabling, marketing equipment, dozens of computers all packed in specially made, foam-cushioned boxes, the public relations materials, press releases, promotional books, team clothing and so on.

And don't forget the hospitality area at the team motor home: they transport food, cutlery, dishes, even fridges and ovens. The leading teams even have a special refrigerated truck that sits outside the paddock and is, basically, a travelling supermarket, packed with every conceivable type of food.

Just the anatomy of the trucks alone shows how the sport has changed. In the 1950s Ferrari used one of the biggest, weighing 2.5 tonnes. Twenty years later McLaren were using a six-tonner. In 1993 Williams' transporter weighed in at a mighty 25 tonnes. Today the size of the trucks has been determined by the roads. Instead of getting bigger they just have more of them. Top teams like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have three pantechnicans and then several support trucks as well.

hangerIn days-gone-by equipment would be packed into a truck until it was full and then the next rolled up to the door. For the last 20 years transporters have become tailor-made affairs, designed down to the last inch to take the cars (packed in double-decker style one above the other), with the surfaces where they rest also used as worktops. Above on each side are cabinets packed with tools. Such is the need for space that the trucks have special "belly lockers" between the wheels.

Packing has become a science for a very good reason. If a special part is needed in the middle of qualifying it is no good someone having to root around in a trailer for an hour. Every part has to be within easy reach in case the worst happens, and teams have one person, the logistics manager, whose sole job is to make sure it is not only there but someone knows where.

The amount of preparation that goes into a season of travelling is staggering. The Jordan race team amounted to 52 people (including a 10-man catering team) and at least a dozen more from Honda. McLaren and Ferrari take more: maybe 70 people, all clocking up around 180,000 kilometres every year - equivalent to nearly five times around the planet. And the race team, made up of in excess of 60 people spend an average of 200 hours flying. That is in excess of an entire week staring at the seat in front of them at 30,000 feet.

But the operation of packing and travelling is only the beginning. Once the giant transporters arrive they have to slot into specially designated places according to where they finished in the world championship the previous year. While the unloading operation begins another man heads straight for the garage with a tin of paint.

In a habit that was started by McLaren several years ago, teams have become increasingly zealous of their image, so the garages, which will be the central focus of their racing efforts the next week, have to look their best. Even the floor gets a lick of paint. Then the walls are treated, before the latest fashion, banners and panels are unfolded and slotted into place to create false walls (already adorned with the names of the sponsors) and a private area in the depths of the garage.

session This is divided into several smaller rooms, some for the awe-inspiring banks of telemetry screens and computer equipment, others for storage space, perhaps for catering or a meeting room or two. When the mechanics arrive on Wednesday and Thursday the garage has been transformed into a spick and span working space that looks more like an operating theatre than a garage.

The attention to detail is incredible: teams have done away with miles of cable snaking across the floor. These days the reconstruction of the garage includes the installation of an overhead gantrysystem to take pneumatic hoses and electric cabling. In some pits the television timing screen the driver watches in the cockpit slides overhead and out of view when he is ready to roar into action.

So vital is it for engineers to see the timing screens and on-track pictures that each team has around 50 monitors (not including computers) dotted around the pitwall, garage, meeting rooms, motorhome and hospitality area. Each one has to be wired up and checked - hence the vast array of aerials that spring from the roof of the transporter in the preparation days.
Much work is done, too, to get the vital radio communications systems working. Each line has to have a licence from the local government so it does not interfere with local police or emergency services lines.

Beyond the pits, the slick operation of setting up the digital television city works like clockwork. All the silver trucks (fifteen or so of them) are lined up in the car park in exact symmetry. The television cameras do not go there, the fans probably will never see them, and yet the transporters are always lined up in ascending order of the registration plates.

Ex-racer Jackie Stewart used to insist his team's transporters were jacked off the ground and the wheels with the names of their tyre suppliers were all in exactly the same place around the top of the rim.

But if the preparations have started on Tuesday in the garage, there are scores of people who arrive even earlier - the catering teams. In fact if they have been at a test nearby (and the country next door is usually regarded as nearby!) it is a waste of time to go home for a day, so they go straight to the track and can get there the Sunday before the race - even for a European race.

In the last three years giant multi-storey motorhomes have become all the rage. BAR started the trend with a giant two-storey edifice (and it can be called that) that blossomed from a single pantechnican into a two-storey headquarters-cum-restaurant with balcony that dated everything else in the paddock overnight. At the time it was state of the art.

Now Renault has its own version, but the place at the top of the pile has unquestionably been taken by McLaren. They are cagey about the cost but team boss Ron Dennis admitted it amounts to roughly as much as replacing the three motorhomes they were using last year.

It is a matt silver masterpiece of engineering. Transported on at least three trucks, it has laser levelling and takes something like fifteen hours over two days to construct. As well as a central entertaining area and several upstairs private offices, it has two side dining rooms, several meeting areas, a collection of well stocked kitchens and wall-to-wall flat-screen TV. There are even two outdoor balcony areas. With good reason they call it a 'communications centre' rather than just a motorhome.

When you consider that sponsors who invest millions of pounds could be wined and dined in this building, while in another part David Coulthard may be in a technical meeting, team boss Ron Dennis could on the phone in his first floor office and below someone could be preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner, it is easy to justify the expense in such a global sport.

So, when you flick on the television for the next Grand Prix, spare a thought for the hundreds of hours that have gone into making Formula 1 what it is.

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A Look at Tyres
A modern Formula One car is a technical masterpiece. But considering the development effort invested in aerodynamics, composite construction and engines it is easy to forget that tyres are still a race car’s biggest single performance variable.

Traditionally, an average car with good tyres could do well, even very well, but with bad tyres even the very best car did not stand a chance. The move to a single tyre supplier in 2007 altered that equation somewhat, but, even now, optimizing the car-tyre balance is something of a black art.

(Formula 1 racing now features a single tyre supplier, with all teams using identical Bridgestone rubber. The advantages of this (over multiple tyre suppliers) include closer racing and reduced testing and development costs.)
Despite some genuine technical crossover, race tyres and road tyres are - at best - distant cousins. An ordinary car tyre is made with heavy steel-belted radial plies and designed for durability - typically a life of 16,000 kilometres or more (10,000 miles). A Formula One tyre is designed to last for, at most, 200 kilometres and - like everything else on a the car - is constructed to be as light and strong as possible. That means an underlying nylon and polyester structure in a complicated weave pattern designed to withstand far larger forces than road car tyres. In Formula One racing that means anything up to a tonne of downforce, 4g lateral loadings and 5g longitudinal loadings.

The racing tyre is constructed from very soft rubber compounds which offer the best possible grip against the texture of the racetrack, but wear very quickly in the process. If you look at a typical track you will see that, just off the racing line, a large amount of rubber debris gathers (known to the drivers as 'marbles'). All racing tyres work best at relatively high temperatures, Formula One dry 'grooved' tyres are typically designed to function at between 90 degrees Celsius and 110 degrees Celsius. To ensure that the tyre pressure stays as constant as possible during these changes in temperature a special mixture of low density gases is used to inflate them rather than air.

The development of the racing tyre came of age with the appearance of 'slick' tyres in the 1960s. Teams and tyre makers realized that, by omitting a tread pattern on dry weather tyres, the surface area of rubber in contact with the road could be maximized. Formula One cars ran with slicks until the 1998 rule changes came into effect, and new tyre standards were introduced in an attempt to improve the spectacle of Formula One racing by reducing cornering speeds.

This led to the familiar sight of the current 'grooved' tyres, the regulations specifying that all tyres must have four continuous longitudinal grooves at least 2.5 mm deep and spaced 50mm apart. These changes created several new challenges for the tyre manufacturers - ensuring the grooves' integrity, which in turn limits the softness of rubber compounds that can be used.

The 'softness' or 'hardness' of rubber compounds is varied for each race according to the known characteristics of the track. Two different compounds are available to each team at every Grand Prix weekend, and every driver must make use of both specifications during the race. The actual softness of the tyre rubber is varied by changes in the proportions of ingredients added to the rubber, of which the three main ones are carbon, sulphur and oil. Generally speaking, the more oil in a tyre, the softer it will be.

Wet-weather and extreme wet-weather tyres have full tread patterns, necessary to expel standing water when racing in the wet. One of the worst possible situations for a race driver remains 'aquaplaning' - the condition when a film of water builds up between the tyre and the road, meaning that the car is effectively floating. This leads to vastly reduced levels of grip. The tread patterns of modern racing tyres are mathematically designed to scrub the maximum amount of water possible from the track surface to ensure the best possible contact between the rubber and the track.

Formula One tyres are normally filled with a special, nitrogen-rich air mixture, designed to minimise variations in tyre pressure with temperature. The mixture also retains the pressure longer than normal air would.

So, what is it that makes tyres so important in Formula 1 motor racing? After all a tyre is a tyre - they can't be that different, can they? Well, yes they can is the truthful answer.

As Jaguar Racing's Eddie Irvine is fond of explaining: tyres are the only parameters capable of transmitting the power of the engine to the ground that they run on. Therefore perfecting tyre balance and grip is one of the most important aspects to a car's performance. An engine cannot find an extra three seconds per lap from one race to the next - tyres can.

Since Michelin returned to the F1 racing track after a sabbatical for a few years (they have permanently left the sport now), this issue has become even more complicated, as Bridgestone had operated alone in the sport since 1999. The extra pace of development forced by the competition between the two companies and varying designs provided by each manufacturer quickly introduced new parameters into GP preparation, and the media soon became fond of discussing the "tyre war" and its effects on the competition that already existed between teams.

At each Grand Prix every team is given access to two specifications of dry-weather tyre. Unless conditions are wet, drivers must use both specifications during the race. A white groove on the tread of the softer compound allows spectators to distinguish which tyre a driver is on.

Over the race weekend, each driver has access to 14 sets of tyres - seven sets of dry-weather, four sets of wet-weather and three sets of extreme-weather. The dry-weather tyres have four grooves and the spacing and depth of these grooves must conform to strict specifications.

Teams are free to use wet- or extreme-weather tyres as they see fit during qualifying and the race. However, during the preceding practice sessions, they may only be used if the track has been declared wet by the race director.
All tyres are given a bar code at the start of the weekend so that the FIA can closely monitor their use and ensure that no team is breaking regulations.

Each manufacturer brings two different compounds to a race venue. Engineers from the respective teams then have the responsibility of deciding which particular compound is more suited to that track.

searching_tyre Most teams will use three sets for Friday free practice, and sometimes even dip into a fourth set, depending on how difficult tyre choice is proving at that track. By the end of free practice, they will have a rough idea as to which compound to choose for qualifying (and therefore the race, as the tyre type used in qualifying must then be utilised for the rest of the weekend).

 As long as the total number of used tyres does not exceed the allotted 14 sets, teams can use all possible permutations available to them over the weekend.

For the rain tyres the rules are simpler. Four sets of wet weather and three sets of extreme weather are supplied for a weekend, and since each manufacturer is allowed to bring three different kinds of tyre, the combination they then put on the car is up to the team to decide.

There are two distinctively different tyres available to teams for coping with inclement weather - wet tyres and intermediate tyres. The former is for very wet conditions and the latter is for semi-wet conditions (the beginning of a rain storm or on a drying out track). Each has type has soft and hard compounds available and, moreover, there are several different radial patterns too.

These tyres, dry or wet, go through rigorous testing programmes to create the correct tyres for each circuit. The data from previous seasons often provides a good foundation as tyre company approach the new round of Grand Prix, but this cannot be trusted 100% as track surfaces are affected by the weather and circuits are resurfaced or have modifications which affect their fundamental characteristics, as we saw at Hockenheim in July.

bridjestone Therefore, it is important that the tyre manufacturer had the most up to date information for each track to hand when it decides which compounds to take away with them. Ideally the Grand Prix host track will hold a test session before the race, but not all circuits have testing licenses so the teams and their tyre partners have to work at tracks with similar features and use computer simulations to ensure they have as much knowledge as possible.

When it comes to testing tyres, there are several factors to be considered. A test can be divided into work focused on four different areas of the tyre, catering for four different parameters - compound, construction, shape and size.

When teams talk about "compounds" they mean the hardness or softness of the rubber itself. For example, tyres used in Monaco are the softest compounds and would not last a lap of Silverstone, which is known to require one of the hardest compounds because of the number of fast corners included in the layout. A soft compound is "sticky" and therefore grips better, but is not as durable as its hard counterpart.

When the term "construction" is mentioned it refers to how the layers of the rubber are put together. Drivers' viewpoints differ very much on this aspect of tyre development, indeed it is very much like the set-up of the car and so depends on the driving style of each racer.

The stability of the car is greatly affected by constructional modifications to each tyres, and especially so at tracks like Imola, where drivers use the kerbs to get through the chicanes quickly, and upset the smooth style F1 cars prefer to run in.

The shape of a tyre decides the area where it makes contact with the ground. Narrower contact creates less drag on straights, but this means a sacrifice in cornering speeds. Some teams tend to put most emphasis on lateral traction, whereas others insist on front/back traction, and the shape of the tyre does have a substantial influence on this.

This also presents a challenge for the manufacturer, as they supply several teams which all have a different view as to the set-up which works best on their car and so the tyres needs to work well for all drivers.

Finally, the size refers to the width of a tyre, which affects the cars' speed on the straights and through the corners. The current specification has reached its maximum width, so tyres can only be made narrower and the benefit of that depends on the balance (aerodynamic/mechanical) between the front and rear of the car.

Tyres are now considered so important to the performance of a Grand Prix car that top teams are spending more time and effort than ever on this crucial aspect. Ferrari, for example, have a dedicated tyre testing team

fitting_tyre In fact the rear end of the Ferrari F2002 was designed not to be as hard on the rear tyres as their car was last year. McLaren also realised in the early stages of their brand-new collaboration with Michelin that they were not making full use of their new tyres. Therefore, third driver Alex Wurz has been told to focus on modifications to the suspension in order to make the most of the French company's product.

They may still lag behind the mighty power of Williams, who had an extra year of partnership with Michelin, but at slower circuits like Monaco or Budapest their progress under race conditions has been clear to see.

Of all the circuits on the current FIA Formula 1 World Championship calendar, Silverstone and Barcelona are the hardest on tyres (because of the number of high-speed corners). There is a high degree of degradation and wear at the tracks to both manufacturers' products, and so the most durable compounds are used. At the other end of the spectrum there is Monaco, where super-soft tyres are taken (this time because of the slow nature of the track).

Other circuits are categorized somewhere between the two extremes. However, Monza and the old Hockenheimring, due to the sheer speeds reached down their straights, were often treated with care and Suzuka, with its combination of mid-high speed corners, creates a headache for tyre engineers every year to come up with the appropriate specification.

The extra competition introduced by the tyre war is relished by all fans and team members alike, but one aspect to it that has long been acknowledged by all concerned is - as long as the tyre war is on, F1 cars will continue to get faster. This presents the possibility that the FIA will impose further sanctions to reduce speeds and keep safety at its current high levels.

Although both manufacturers are keen to avoid this, they would most certainly take up the challenge and bounce back even faster than they had expected, as Bridgestone proved when grooved tyres were first made mandatory inthe dry after years of super-grippy slick compounds!

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Do you want to work in Formula 1 Racing?
Any Formula 1 racing fan would love to work within the hallowed confines of the sport that they follow passionately, and because of this we receive many emails a day asking the best route into this industry.

Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire answer that we can give you. Qualifications, experience, dedication, persistence and a little bit of luck ultimately combine to bring most people into the F1 fold, but there is no one method of winning a job in Grand Prix unlike in other careers.

Therefore, we thought who better to give you advice than those already working in F1! Below is a small selection of personnel from the many employment fields available, describing how they found themselves where they are today.

Norbert Kreyer, General Manager of Toyota's engine department, has had a long and varied career in motorsport. He studied mechanical engineering at university and on departure was employed by Zakspeed to run their workshop.

The German was then recruited into engine design, and in 1983 was charged with designing the team's debut F1 engine: "It was December 1983, and I was thinking how we could do this. The idea was to start at the 1984 Nurburgring race, but we did not make it until Estoril in 1985 with Jonathan Palmer!" Kreyer recalls.
mdHe spent six years in F1 in charge of Zakspeed's engine department but after a difficult year with Yamaha in 1989 decided on a change, and so the following season began a two-year position at Toyota as General Manager for the Rally engine.

Between 1992 and 1997 the engineering graduate then worked for Volkswagen and Ford. He eventually rejoined Toyota after a call from Ove Andersson and was with the company when they decided to enter Formula 1.
"I still remember when we put our first engine on the dyno," he remembers. "It was September 12th 2000, at 21.00. I was just so, so nervous standing next to Ove, behind two operators. And here I am now!"

Another senior technical post is held by Sauber's Technical Director Willy Rampf, and his experience shows that who you know can count as highly as what you know. "It goes back a long time but it was my old friend who got me into F1," he stated. "I used to work for BMW under Leo Rees, who was originally the designer for Sauber. He joined Sauber in the mid 1980s, while I was still at BMW developing road cars and motorbikes.

"Then in 1993, when Sauber was in Kyalami, I was also at that time working in South Africa, still for BMW, and Peter Sauber invited me to see the race! It was my first F1 race and I was very impressed by the technical side of the things. I did feel then that I would like to work in F1 one day.

mik_testing"Six months later Peter phoned me to say he had a job for me. It was track engineering for the test team. I started with the test team in 1994 and then Heinz-Harald Frentzen joined, one situation led to another and I ended up engineering Frentzen for the races as well.

"I did this for three years, but we hit a bad patch when we had Larini and Fontana, so I decided to go back to Munich [BMW] and did the Paris-Dakar motorbike project.

"That was fantastic because motorbikes have always been my love and in January 1999 we won after 14 years of trying! Then at the end of 1999 I went to see Peter, but I wanted more than race engineering. I was promoted to technical director and now I am responsible for 150 people and am really enjoying it!"

Jacques Villeneuve's senior race engineer Jock Clear also found that this combination of skill, experience and contacts led him into, and around, the F1 paddock. He studied mechanical engineering at university (one of the best starts to a motorsport career in a team's technical department) before taking up his first post as a design engineer at Lola in 1988 - an opening he saw advertised in an engineering magazine.

The following year he designed gearboxes and suspension before moving to Benetton at the end of the season. His tenure at Benetton allowed him to meet influential designers such as Rory Byrne (now at Ferrari) and John Barnard, before he left to join Leyton House in a similar capacity under another respected designer - Gustav Brunner.

teaching In 1992 he worked as a designer at Lotus, and was sad when the project quickly came to an end. However, he did not let this set-back stall his career. "I remember the factory closed on Wednesday and I rang Patrick Head up on Saturday and I got a job! So from 1984, for four years, I was with Williams. It was fabulous working for Frank and Patrick," he reminisces.

He then left with his charge, Villeneuve, to join the fledgling BAR team, where he currently works. He describes his job as senior race engineer as being technically responsible for Villeneuve, and can often be seen in deep consultation with the French Canadian as they work to perfect his car for the races. Indeed, he has developed such a bond with the driver that they also occasionally holiday together.

Away from the teams, of course, is another, very different, range of jobs in the media. British TV reporter Louise Goodman proves that a passion for F1 is not necessarily what propels people into the industry.

"My job now is basically general reporting. I report from the pits, the paddock and I also prepare feature stories too," she explains. "I just fell into F1 in 1987. I was responsible for the Camel account for Lotus, working for Tony Jardine (boss of respected motorsport public relations company Jardine PR and also a studio pundit on British television).

foto_camera"I had worked for him in powerboat racing in 1986 for a few months but I had always intended to travel around the world, which I did for a year and a half. Then I met up with Tony in Adelaide, Australia, in 1987.

"I had been hitchhiking so I literally turned up with a backpack in the F1 paddock! Then Tony and I had just 25 days to prepare the launch, press pack etc, for the account!

"I think I did 34 races in 1987 and 1988. At that time Camel was on Larrouse, Lotus and Tyrrell. Then in 1989, when we got contracted to BP, I became full time for BP [who were] with Leyton House.

"I had known about F1 before but not much, but I generally liked cars, and I have competed in some races myself [Louise has participated in some national-level rallies]. Well, I am still here, and it kind of sucks you in!"

asking_questionFor well-known freelance journalist Eric Silbermann it was his passion for racing that took him down the road to Formula 1. "I wanted to be a racer and I did some racing at national level but I was never good enough. So I started off as a tyre fitter in rallying in 1971. That was my first taste of true motorsport," he says.

"I only did that for a year and from 1972 I landed myself a co-ordinator job with Castrol and that lasted 3 years. I then went onto to do some PR work for Central Tyres on a freelance basis until 1980. In 1981 Austin Rover offered me a job as a motorsport manager, which meant I was running the world rally team.

"Then my first break in Formula 1 was with Larrousse in 1987 and I was there as their team manager. Then from 1988 until their retirement in 1992 I was Honda's press officer.

"I quite enjoy being freelance as there is so much more freedom. However the most enjoyable moment in a race weekend is 13:55 on Sunday. The build up to a race is really exciting, but the rest... just forget it! I did not really set out to get involved in F1, but I studied French at university and my French connection got me into this."

Should words not be your idea of fun, how about pictures? John Marsh, with agency Bothwell Photographic, explains his course into F1: "I started taking pictures with a borrowed camera when I was about 10, taking landscape pictures mainly as I was living in Norfolk at the time and there was loads of stuff to take. I became interested in motorsport - bike racing - when we moved to Leicestershire close to Mallory Park and the first event I went too was the transatlantic trophy round with Barry Sheene riding!

"I didn't connect the two i.e. taking pictures at a motorsport event until I went to the 1980 GP at Brands Hatch. I had a 200mm lens and a cheap Practica camera and was quite pleased with the pictures from the public areas. Over the next few years I started going to more car races, mainly the bigger events at Brands Hatch, and then in 1986 I went to the Formula Ford festival.

"I had a few crashes [on film] from this event and knew there was a winter series starting, so I sent some pictures to Brands Hatch for their programme. They phoned up and asked if I was going to attend the winter series, if I was, could I send them some pictures. So I did a deal for my first media pass - they let me in, I gave them some shots!
"I kept this up in 1987, then I wanted to concentrate on the BTCC, so instead of going just to Brands, I started to follow the series all over the UK, and started working professionally, with proper clients, cameras and lenses - that cost a fortune to buy!

"In 1992 I started working for a magazine that was being published at the time, concentrating on UK motorsport. I did all the BTCC photos for them. They also published an F1 magazine, Chequered Flag, which they used agency pictures for. In 1993 they decided they wanted their own photographer at races and asked if I wanted to do it for them.

"My first full season of GP racing was 1994, starting in Brazil where I developed chicken pox on the first day and could only walk at a snail's pace as I had blisters on every part of me that rubbed - arms, legs, feet, tongue! And you thought F1 was glamorous!

"I had to miss the next race in Japan and returned for the first European round, San Marino. The worst thing about working for the magazine was that they didn't have a budget to employ me, as such. They could only pay a fee which only covered the cost of the travel/hotels, but I took it anyway.

"I stayed with them for a couple of years, but they were finding it harder and harder and at the end of 1995 I was offered a staff job at an agency where I stayed until 2000. I then returned to the bear pit of freelancing and now work with Bothwell."

Dedication and patience can also pay off if you want to work in this field, it is quite difficult to get into and making your reputation with a company that has motorsport ambition can be a bonus, although may require a long wait before you make it into the core of the sport. As Eiichi Ohmura, PA to Honda's HRD president and PR & Marketing Manager, found out:
"I was crazy about cars, any cars, and when I was in the United States with my parents (based in New York) it was my dream to go to the Indy 500, but my father could never take me for one reason or another.

"Then he suggested that we could go to the Formula 1™ race in Watkins Glen. I was a big fan of Jim Clark and Graham Hill so I jumped at the opportunity and I went to my first F1 race in 1967. I saw a car with the Japanese flag, which was driven by John Surtees, and that really stuck in my mind.

"I never wanted to become a racer or an engineer but I realised I wanted to be involved in F1 somehow. I studied Portuguese at university, thinking Brazil is a country with a big potential, and then afterwards went straight to Honda. I thought if anyone was going to go racing, it was Honda!

"At that time they were far from being involved in four-wheel racing, but I was placed in the sales department in 1979 (the first time I was given a ticket to go to F1 was in 1988 for Suzuka, I was at the Hairpin!) Then I was transferred to Australia, but still in the sales department!

"However I was finally given a break in 1992. You know, every year in Honda we submit "an essay" describing our individual ambition within the company. The Formula 1 project was the one I had been writing about for the past 20 years!

"I was told to return to Japan in 1991 and finally I was going places in the motorsport department. Then in September 1992, Honda announced its retirement from F1 (in Monza). I remember preparing the press release for that. How ironic it was! Then I did some work on the Le Mans project, but in 1997 the F1 dream came back again and 2000 Melbourne was my first F1 race. It was a long wait for me!"

Formula 1, of course, offers many other careers - in PR, Marketing, Finance, Hospitality, as a mechanic, as a truckie, general office work back at the teams' factories and many other posts in the design and manufacture departments - but it would be impossible to speak to everybody for the purpose of this article.

Some courses can help kickstart a racing career, obviously, although there are few dedicated entirely to a career in motorsport. One that has come to our attention is Cranfield University in England, which runs an MSc in Motorsport Engineering and Management.

As with all further education it does not guarantee a job and can only be useful if it fits the individual's requirements. So make sure you research the full breadth of courses available before committing to one, and as more courses come to our attention we will add their details to the article.

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How Driver style and Setup varies: Part One
For the watching fan a cornering Grand Prix car is a blur of colour, a cacophony of sound and something wonderful to behold. Blipping down through the gears, leaving his braking impossibly late, the driver then turns in, the car's brake discs glowing, and squeezes around the bend before catapulting on to the next straight.

In theory you'd think that every car would be on the same line; after all there is only one fastest way through a corner, isn't there? Well, yes - and no. Some drivers take one line, others take another. The reasons are numerous. In the seconds it takes a driver to round a corner you can witness the very essence of Formula 1 racing. Those seconds provide a window into the strengths and weaknesses of each individual driver and his team.

Next time you get the chance, watch for a while. One car goes wider than another, maybe brakes later; some dab the brakes, others don't; some exit wider than others. Why?

Grand Prix drivers are like professional footballers or golfers; they are practiced in their art and can pick their line within a couple of inches. David Coulthard, for example, goes deeper into a corner than Kimi Raikkonen but exits slightly wider. Why? If they don't all take the same line it must be for a reason.

Of course, when it comes to car behaviour and drivers' preferences there is a complex relationship between front wings, the end plates, turning vanes, suspension pick-ups, traction control, wishbones, sidepods, undertray and rear wings. The tyres play a crucial element too and their characteristics are an integral part of the mix. But let us start simply, with the most important relationship of all, that of the driver and his car.

bossTriple champion Ayrton Senna started his analysis of a circuit by comparing the positions of the corners to the longest straights. That may sound obvious, but it is crucial. His thinking was this: although every milli-second is crucial, there is little time lost on a corner compared to the many seconds that can be lost on a long straight. So how a chicane (such as Turns three and four at the Nurburgring) is taken depends on whether there is a long straight before it or after it. If it is before, then he liked to carry the speed into the corner, brake late and deal with the problems of car control on the exit. But if the long straight followed the chicane he preferred to brake earlier, set up a tidy exit and get on the power early to make the most of the straight. If you are on the power later you are not only losing time in the corner, but you then lose it all the way down the straight as well.

Like all drivers Senna divided the actual corner itself into three sections: entry, mid corner and exit. Conventional thinking is that there are two options: fast in and slow out or slow in and fast out. That means that if you are tidy (ie slower) going into a corner you can afford to pick your exit line, set yourself up and then tread on the gas and deal with problems on the way out. Then there is the reverse; if you carry a lot of speed into the corner (ie going faster) you take the benefits on the way in and, in theory, it should cost you on the way out; the reason being that because you go in deeper, you have to turn in tighter, therefore you are later on the gas and lose time from there to the exit.

mi_seven When it comes to talking to their engineers drivers refer to either 'oversteer' or 'understeer'. Oversteer is quite literally the feeling you have over used the steering (hence oversteered) and the evidence is the back end of the car stepping out. This is a result of the car either having too much grip at the front or not enough at the back. Understeer is the opposite; where you feel you have not used the steering enough, (or under steered). So you turn in and the nose of the car keeps going straight. This is the result of too little grip at the front or too much at the back.

In an ideal world drivers want a car that is fast in and fast out. And the corner indicates the fruits of their labours. Of course one of the elements a good engineer has to cater for is the requirements of a driver. Pure physics may indicate one thing but if the driver can't feel it then some compromises have to be made.

Of course you have to rule out the human element first. "We did a test with Johnny Herbert in '94 that would basically decide if he was to drive for us the next year," says Pat Symonds of Renault. "Michael (Schumacher) did some stunning times and Johnny was right there with him until the last two corners which are pretty fast. He said he wanted to make changes because the car didn't feel safe but I told him that Michael was taking the corners okay so it was possible and he should go away and think about it. Anyway he tried again without changing the settings and was considerably faster - and very close to Michael's time. He did it basically because of the belief I had instilled in him."

close_faceThe tyres, of course, are crucial. There are always limits, and in Renault's case they were dictated by their Michelin tyres. Their developments have resulted in a better tyre, but one that has lately affected the car's stability on the entry to the corner. But because none of the other Michelin runners was similarly affected it was Renault's problem and not Michelins.
"I can't get the correct balance of the car," said Button at Spa. "The car is a bit twitchy on entry and understeers at the apex which makes it difficult to get a balance.

"The new tyres work a different way and I can't get the car exactly how I want it. Sometimes we think we've got it but when we get to qualifying we're a bit out and with only four runs it is difficult to work your way back."

While those of the ilk of Jean Alesi go storming into a corner and then scrabble out, Button is often compared to Alain Prost and needs his car to be smooth and settled on the way in. "I like a car to be stable at the entry," he says. "I don't mind understeer at the entry but I need it to be stable on the brakes because that is a big part of one lap, braking is where you can make up the time."

With a tighter turn in than Trulli's, any instability is going to cost him. "My initial turn-in is a bit sharper but that's the only difference," Button adds. His travails brought to mind the misery of last season, but he smiled as he realised one of the benefits: "After last year's car I am used to not having any front end grip."

Surely a sharper turn in makes the car harder to control though? "Yes, but it wasn't a problem at the start of the season but is starting to be now - which is a bit strange," explains Button. "I'm having to be smoother than I was on my initial turn-in."

But with a better car comes more confidence to ride the knife-edge: "Generally I like to have a bit of oversteer now, which I never did before. That means I am able to go late on the brakes too because I don't mind a bit of oversteer on entry. I guess I can do it because I've got more confidence in the car. I know what it's going to do - it's more gradual. Last year it was all over the place."

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How Driver Style and Setup varies: Part Two
Renault's Pat Symonds, Michael Schumacher's engineer when he became champion in '94, says it is the German's smoothness that is the basis of his speed.

"He brakes and turns in very smoothly," he says. "He is off the brakes lightly and slowly. He turns the steering little by little, but can correct things very rapidly if they go wrong. Then he gets on the power early and slowly feeds it in, controlling it with the steering. His control is so sensitive I think he can feel what all four of the wheels are doing individually."

Comparisons were made between the five-time champion and McLaren's new boy Kimi Raikkonen. Their style seems to defy traditional belief that there is either 'fast in/slow out' or 'slow in/fast out' and never the twain shall meet. In fact they have a style that can only be described as 'fast in/fast out'.

Raikkonen turns in a fraction early, reaches the inside of the track carrying the speed in, then manages the minutest of flicks to oversteer the car into the perfect trajectory for the exit. That way he is early on the power. Except it is not a slide and, somehow, miraculously he maintains the momentum. Team mate Coulthard takes a wider, more traditional line. He either brakes earlier or goes in deeper to scrub off the speed. Both cost time.

"You have to be very confident in yourself to be able to do that - it requires incredible car control," said former Indy lights champion Steve Robertson, who is also Raikkonen's manager. "Generally it is true to say that having an understeering car is the way most drivers prefer it. It's safer. But if you can do it, having slight oversteer is faster. But most drivers' couldn't live with it. I couldn't."

talking_something McLaren technical director Adrian Newey agreed: "I don't think anyone likes oversteer but the really good drivers cope with it better. It is that way with all the top drivers: Senna, Schumacher, Raikkonen."

The reasons are obvious: the punishment for a fractional miscalculation with oversteer is a rear end spin and a lot of time lost getting back on the track, while a touch too much understeer only results in the nose continuing to go straight on rather than turn the bend. The solution is simple: lift off the power. But with oversteer, lifting off the accelerator is not the solution. Quite the reverse. If you lift off you can lose the grip at the back and make the situation worse. The solution is to be found with the steering wheel.

"I don't think Kimi does that intentionally," said Button. "It is just that he sets up his car a little bit oversteery." The Renault driver believes all the analysis from those standing on the sidelines is phooey, but the in-cockpit television shots are a different matter.

"With in-car cameras you can see Michael looks really similar to Jarno, they are both smooth on entry but they are not in same car so it's difficult to compare. There are always going to be slight differences in the line drivers take unless they are in the same car. If there are different then, someone is going the wrong way."

There are exceptions. Takuma Sato shows incredible control, but has crashed frequently and were it not for his control it would almost certainly have been far more. "He's not learning," said one driver. "He's just on the ragged edge trying to control the car. He's all over the place and can't possibly be learning anything. He's too ragged."

"Overdriving is a common problem," says Symonds. "Paradoxically some drivers would go faster if they slowed a little." But the basic laws of physics apply. "The closer you are to that verge of instability the quicker you can make the car go," he adds. Oversteer takes you right to the edge of the precipice, understeer gives you a margin for error.

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How Driver style and Setup varies: Part Three
Continuing our series on different drivers' styles and how they affect car set-up, we make comparisons between some famous names and team mates:
Eddie Irvine believes his approach to driving style is similar to that of ex-Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher's - and radically different to current colleague Pedro de la Rosa's technique. And that, he believes, is part of the reason for the difficulties in sorting out the Jaguar R3's problems.

"I carry a lot more speed into the corner than Pedro and drive a lot more like Michael," he says. "We both barrel into the corner and then sort it out mid-corner. This car (the Jaguar), when you get it there, you can't sort it out. I'm getting murdered on the exit. Pedro has always been marginally better on the exits but overall I'd be quicker. In this car, he's just killing me on the way out of the corner."

conversationIs that because de la Rosa is more adaptable perhaps? "He really concentrates on exits and I don't," explains Irvine. "I focus on getting car to apex as quick as I can. He really focuses on the exit just like Rubens (Barrichello).

"All year he's been quicker in the R3 than me. I think my style's better in a car that works. I don't think the way to do it is change style but to change the car. I've driven with Michael, that's the way he does it. He's the best driver. When I went there I always believed the best way to drive is the way I drive and when I went to Ferrari I even took it further down that road because I saw what Michael was doing."

At Benetton in the mid 1990s Schumacher's race machine was on a knife-edge. It was fast and competitive but had tricky oversteer. It was only Schumacher's talents that kept it in line - and he actually won two world championships with it.

When he left in 1996 Gerhard Berger stepped into the breech, confident he could do everything the young German could. It didn't take long for his illusions to be shattered. "On the first day I comfortably got close to Michael's time and then thought 'Tomorrow, I'll just do those few extra tenths'. But when I tried it I crashed three or four times and that made me think 'wow Michael'. The car was nervous but he managed to hold it there not just for one lap right on the edge, but for 50, 60 or 70 laps."

running_carsIt was that precision that earned Schumacher victories his team mates could only dream of - and championships at the expense of Irvine and Barrichello. But this season the gap has closed markedly. Technical director Ross Brawn and his design team have to take the credit for that - or blame. Schumacher's phenomenal control was what made the difference with a bad car. But with a good one the gap closed.

"Michael doesn't like an oversteering car, but he can cope with it more than other drivers," says Brawn. "Rubens doesn't like a car that is in any way nervous. He can drive it but it is not what he prefers. Michael just copes with it. Michael doesn't want an oversteering car, he can just deal with it better than Rubens."

The Ferrari has generally been better on the tracks with faster corners and suffered on the slower ones like Monaco, hence (partly) Schumacher's defeat there at Coulthard's hands. Michelin made a special effort for Monaco, got the front row and the Scot started lighter and faster than Juan Pablo Montoya, got the jump at the start and the game was up. Of course Ferrari and Bridgestone worked on that and the result was that nearly three months later they walked it at Hungary, which is a fairly similar track.

The FW24 Williams had become famous for eating its rear tyres - and while the McLaren is nimbler on its Michelins, Montoya and Ralf Schumacher were often left with a massive struggle against oversteer late in each stint. Montoya's slide with Coulthard at the European Grand Prix, which ended both their races, was one of the results. He braked late defending his line and with shot tyres, the back end hit the McLaren. Montoya apologised but Coulthard was less than impressed. He believed it was a triumph of brawn over brains because the behaviour of the Michelins on the Williams is well known.

But Murphy's Law applies in motor racing too. At Imola Montoya went to the grid with understeer, figuring the oversteer would increase as the race went on and hence the car's performance increase as the balance improved. For some reason at this one track the oversteer never made an appearance and Montoya never figured in the hunt for victory.

Like Schumacher, Montoya liked a car which is pointier that Ralf Schumacher's. "Our set ups are quite close," says the Colombian. "He doesn't mind the understeer as much as I do. You get to a point where you go around the corner [crossed hands] and the thing still goes straight on. It's really bad. I like a good front end so when you want to go there the car does it.

"When you've got that it's very easy to go quick and you can position the car wherever you want. When you have got understeer you turn in and don't know if you are going to go where you want or be one or two metres wide. As soon as you've got that you lift off the throttle and then you are losing time."

Jacques Villeneuve liked to throw a car around as much as Montoya and the Canadian had a very short and sensitive pedal travel compared to Olivier Panis, who had long travel in the other BAR. So how was Montoya's throttle set up? "Sod knows," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "That's too technical a question for me."

Which all goes to show, sometimes even the greatest drivers are simply doing what comes naturally. As the old maxim goes: you can learn to be a good driver, but you are born a champion.

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F1 Racing and the art of overtaking: Part One
Listen to all the voices in the paddock on the subject of overtaking and there is only one thing everyone agrees on - that no-one can agree exactly what Formula 1 racing needs in regard to this thorny subject.

red_bluecars Of course the purists, looking through rose-tinted spectacles some say, will describe races from a bygone era where the lead changed hands three times every lap, as firm-jawed, smoky-faced heroes engaged in epic duels.

By contrast those who were brought up on modern Formula 1 describe the thrill of the chase, saying that the anticipation is as important as the move itself. They will make the comparison between American football and European soccer. One has dozens of points and the other will often have only the odd goal. But both can be thrilling entertainment.

It was only a few years ago that Juan Pablo Montoya announced his arrival with a manoeuvre on world champion Michael Schumacher in Brazil when he went sliding in from an impossible distance approaching the Senna S and muscled through into the lead. He did not win the race, or indeed any other for several months, but he emerged from the car to a standing ovation and his F1 reputation was made there and then.

Then he proved it was no fluke by repeating the feat on the world's top driver twice in the course of the season. His Brazilian move was a high risk manoeuvre - literally using Schumacher's car to 'lean on' as he raced in from a distance that caught even the champion by surprise.

"I thought he was too far behind to try anything," admitted Schumacher afterwards. So stunned was he by what had happened that he turned to his team in the months to come and they used the live television pictures to watch his behind.

The way modern F1 cars are built is also a factor in the equation that makes overtaking far less frequent than it used to be: the cars' suspension struts cannot take more than a slight knock - if it is in a direction they were not designed to cope with. They are built to do their job, take the required vertical loads and be as aerodynamically efficient as possible. Withstanding collisions is not in the design brief.

At the start of a season, David Coulthard actually admitted his McLaren had been "beefed up" specifically to take any possible contacts that might occur. Unfortunately he has rarely got that close.

With more than the slightest tap having potentially disastrous consequences, drivers often choose to settle for a certain six points rather than a possible ten. The stakes in what is a multi-million pound sport are just too high.

But it's impossible to argue against the fact that the year 2002 had not seen as much action as we did, say 30 years ago. With Ferrari clearing off into the distance at almost every race in 2002, it seems pointless to bemoan the fact that you can't overtake in the sport any more. The likes of Williams and McLaren certainly won't get past Ferrari if they can't get near them. No-one can blame Ferrari for that. You can't criticise someone for being too good. Nevertheless, popularopinion still says that the modern breed of F1 car makes overtaking close to impossible to overtake. So what's the real story and how can the situation be improved?

In 2002, Montoya no longer had a huge BMW power advantage propelling him down the straights. Hence he, like the rest, has struggled to put in many overtaking moves.

overtaking"With a big performance advantage, it's not so difficult to overtake," said Montoya. "But if you're in the same conditions it's nearly impossible. You can be a second a lap quicker and you can really only do it if a guy ahead makes a mistake."

The difference in pace that you need to have in order to get past is so big that even a 2002 Ferrari that starts from the back of the field begins to struggle when it makes it into the top ten. Renault's Jenson Button managed to keep Rubens Barrichello behind him at 2002 British Grand Prix simply because the difference in pace wasn't big enough.

"Usually if people like Ferrari are coming through the field, they're in a different league, so they can overtake," says Button. "But as soon as they come up behind someone like us, a relatively quick car, even they find it difficult. At Silverstone Barrichello got past everyone else, but then he was behind me and he couldn't get past - even though he was one and a half seconds quicker."

The problem is not the drivers. They are no less courageous than their predecessors - more technically brilliant if anything - it is the cars. Aerodynamics is the god of the current race machine. The car's sport delicate aerodynamic balances between front and back with numerous

overtaking_1 little twists and turns of wings, endplates and bargeboards feeding the air from front to back - each one treading the delicate balance between downforce and loss of speed. Just like the normal road car, direction comes from the front wheels and they are kept on the ground by the pressure created by the front wings. They are effectively like an upside down plane wing. On an aircraft you need speed for lift. On an F1 car you use it for downward pressure, ie grip or "downforce" as the engineers and drivers term it.

But every car has a desperate need for grip from the rear tyres too, hence the huge wings on the back. And this is where the problem arises; at speed the rear wing creates a low pressure area behind it. So a rival surges up behind into the low pressure area but then loses vital grip on the front of their car. No air flow equals no downforce or grip. Suddenly the front wheels go 'light' on the driver (imagine driving on ice) and when the wheel is turned to dodge past his rival, nothing happens.

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F1 Racing and the art of overtaking: Part Two
In the concluding part of our feature on overtaking in Formula 1 racing we look at why drivers have to be so much faster than their rivals in order to pass them, and what could potentially be done to alter the situation.

So for anyone hoping to get past Michael Schumacher, you need a car one and a half seconds quicker than the Ferrari? Surely not? The solution is hard to tie down. Formula 1 cars do still, it seems, give a 'tow' to cars behind them on the straight. But the problem is that the aerodynamics on each car are now so advanced that they throw up massive turbulence too. That makes it impossible to follow a car in front round any fast corners - as drivers have to wait too long for the front of the car to stabilise before they can get on the power again. So if a straight comes after a fast corner, forget it.

"You can get to within about eight-tenths of a second of the car in front," says Jenson Button. "But then you just lose grip everywhere round the circuit. That's especially true for high speed corners - it really hurts through somewhere like Monza's Parabolica.

over_taking"The good thing is that you gain on the straight, but the stupid thing is that you can't get close enough to do anything. That means that the only way to get past anyone is in the pits and at the start. It's a nightmare, but that's the only way - for us."

If all you need to overtake are slow corners leading to long straights, then one major culprit has to be the current selection of modern Formula 1 tracks. The old Hockenheim was a perfect example of a track built for overtaking. Only two years ago, Barrichello claimed his first F1 win from 18th on the grid - drafting past almost every car in the field. No trouble with the likes of Button there. The only problem is, they've now rebuilt Hockenheim to be like pretty much any other track on the calendar.

Barrichello, for one, is fed up with that decision: "We should change the circuits to suit overtaking," he says. "Hockenheim was a good one, but the problem was that the road through the forest was dangerous because when it was raining, the spray hung in the air. And then there was a political problem that you can't cut the trees down.

red_samurai"Yet we still go to Hungary and Monaco, where we are never going to see any overtaking. On those two tracks, we could be in F1 cars and the others in F3000 cars, and we still couldn't get past."

Montoya reckons that it's not all doom and gloom on the track front, however, adding: "Some of the newer tracks are good for overtaking. Malaysia's a really good track. There are two long straights that come after slow corners where you can follow people, and hopefully 'draft' them. And then there are corners where it's quite easy to make a mistake under braking."

Moves are now underway to guarantee that any country hoping to gain one of the prized spots on the F1 calendar has to provide a circuit where you can overtake. But short of turning every track into a long oval, with hairpins at either end of a two-mile straight, the cars are still the problem. If we want to see the very fastest cars, it seems we have to put up with a bit of hardship.

Minardi's Mark Webber is one who saw the benefit of change, but also appreciated that the fans liked what they saw. "The best racing is Formula Ford and go-kart, because if you're quicker, you're past, it's as simple as that. You can just sit on someone's gearbox and just keep pushing their rear light and you'd be fine. But once you get to something like F3000 it's nearly as difficult as it is in F1.

"The wings give us all this downforce, which makes it awesome for us to drive, and awesome for the spectators to watch. So it's a vicious circle. It's not easy. We need to keep the spectacle of cars lapping in unbelievable times, braking very late, but it's hard for us to overtake."

You encounter a similar vicious circle if you start asking drivers for the ultimate solution - everyone has a different answer. Barrichello, for example, attributes a major increase in the problem to the change to grooved tyres in 1998.

"At the front of the field, it's always going to be difficult to overtake," he says. "But when they introduced the grooves, it became a bit more difficult. Back in 1993 we had a lot more downforce, and it seemed easier. With slicks we could probably have a bit more mechanical grip to overtake with."

Webber, by contrast, reckons that the current grooved tyres have improved so much in the course of the last five years that they are now better than any of the slick tyres were up to 1997. And Montoya reckoned the grooves actually help overtaking anyway.

"Having the grooves is a good tool for making mistakes," adds the Colombian. "The best way to improve overtaking would be to put a lot of downforce in the car from underneath the wings. That way you could follow people round fast corners, like in Formula Ford. You take the wings off, put in a smaller engine, and get most of the downforce from underneath the car."

over_tracking He is more or less taking about ground effect. Formula 1 has been down that road before and the advantages of grip are arguably outweighed by the dangers of a sudden breakage. Cars also lose their tendency to move around and slide at the rear - a spectacle that every fan likes to see. It is like watching cars going around on rails.

Grooves were introduced as a result of scientific analysis of the various corners in the sport following Ayrton Senna's death at Imola in 1994. Decrease corner speed even a few miles an hour, they discovered, and the safety quotient goes up dramatically. Hence the reason we are where we are.

And that is where the proponents of the current brand of racing come from: they say that America's recipe (seen most graphically in NASCAR and CART oval races) of dozens of overtaking moves a lap is far from dramatic. The drama of the move comes from the build-up, the anticipation: rather like a goal in soccer. If it was easy the value would decrease, they insist.
But how about the other extreme - Formula 1 cars without wings? Well, that brings up the final cog in the equation, and the basic reason why we'll probably have to make do with what we have, at least for the foreseeable future; finance and spectacle.

Button sums it up neatly: "The cars would look pretty stupid, and you wouldn't have any sponsors, so F1 wouldn't exist, would it?" As you can see, everyone has their own point of view.

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Who’s who in an F1 Race team?
So what is a Formula 1 race team? Is it a group of twenty-odd mechanics, engineers and drivers working together at Grands Prix seventeen times a year? Or are we only seeing the tip of the iceberg when they appear on TV every two weeks?

Perhaps so. For example, a top team such as Ferrari has 500 people working for them in order to make sure there are two immaculately prepared race cars on the grid every fortnight. At the other end of the spectrum there was a team like Minardi, who employed just over 100 people.

However at each race weekend, a race team uses only a small percentage of this, approximately forty people, to look after three racing cars. Of the forty, ten are involved on the administrative side of the team, and so the rest are the people who are directly involved in taking care of the cars.

First of all, there are two race cars plus one other car known as a spare or T-car. Then there are seven mechanics working on each car. The No. 1 Mechanic is responsible for the front end of a car. He takes care of the front axle, front dampers, front brakes etc.

The No. 2 Mechanic is in charge of the gearbox and its hydraulic systems. The No. 3 Mechanic looks after all the mechanical parts of the rear end. The Composites Mechanic oversees all the bodywork on the car. Then there is a mechanic entirely in charge of the engine, and another solely looking after the tyres. Finally a mechanic known as the "wire man" looks after all the electronic sensors.

All these mechanics are under the supervision of one more mechanic. This person literally supervises just one car, so there are two of them in a team, and they eventually report up to one Chief Mechanic.

Then there are the engineers. What is the difference? Basically, engineers work out what needs to be done to each car (from their respective telemetry) to improve its performance out on track, their computations are then fed back to the mechanics in the form of the exact modifications that need to be made.

tippingThere are at least four engineers per car. There is the Race Engineer who is the only point of contact with a driver and therefore he is the one who listens to the driver's feedback. A well-known example of this is Jacques Villeneuve's race engineer Jock Clear, who can often be seen in deep consultation with his driver.

The Engine Engineer is, as the name suggests, in charge of the engine unit. There is a Data Engineer, who can most often be found hiding behind the screens at the back of the garage constantly monitoring data screens.

A Systems Engineer looks after all the systems on the chassis such as the gearbox, traction control, power steering, differential etc. Then there is at least one Software Engineer (two if the team is big) for both cars.

Bigger teams such as Ferrari and McLaren normally equip themselves with several data and systems specialists. Obviously if there is an aerodynamic test, aero engineers also get shipped out to oversee the programme.

adjustmentThere is only one Chief Engineer, who is in charge of both cars. It is not necessary for a Technical Director to be on site as the chief engineer has the power to acknowledge any change. However some feel obliged to be in contact with the every day progress of the team and others spend more time concentrating on delegating the development programme.

For example, Adrian Newey of McLaren was often seen at circuits while Mike Gascoyne of Renault was present less often - it all comes down to the best management style for the outfit.

A change made to the car is executed through a series of simple steps. For example, if a new part is added a driver will be asked to run a few laps to get the feel of this component. He will then talk to his Race Engineer about it. Any change that is then required is passed on to the Chief Mechanic, who directs the appropriate mechanic to modify the machine as requested.

Once the change has been made, it will be reported back to the Race Engineer, who jots down any decisions taken on his report. The mechanics on the separate cars are in a form of competition, although not in direct conflict, as they all want their driver to emerge on top! The only time they all work together is during a pit stop. This is seen as positive, though, as it spurs both drivers' teams onto the ultimate success.

The Team Manager and Chief Mechanic are in charge of deciding who is to go where on the car when servicing it during a pit stop, depending on the suitability of each individual. A big stocky guy will be chosen for the rear jack mechanic or fuel rig operator, whereas a quite agile athletic guy will be the front jack man. The front jack man has to have quick reflex actions - for obvious reasons!

So, how do you go about achieving your dream of working in Formula 1? The engineers have graduated with an engineering-related university degree of some sort, which they follow up with motor sport experience as they try to break into Formula 1.
Mechanics often have worked their way up from lower formulae. They serve an apprenticeship in these lower categories and, even when they reach Formula 1, their work normally starts at the factories before graduating to the test team and finally the race team.

Once in the team, as with all jobs, the flair and aptitude demonstrated by each individual as well as their commitment propels them up the ladder of responsibility.

So, next time you are watching a slick pit stop give Kimi Raikonnen the jump over one of his rivals on television, or looking at drivers celebrating their latest success with champagne on the podium you will have some idea of just how many people have contributed behind the scenes.

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Inside the mind of the Strategy whiz kid: Part One
It was easy to imagine as Michael Schumacher swooped around the final bend to victory that he had simply climbed into the cockpit, strapped himself in and put his foot on the gas until the chequered flag came nto view.

converting_somethingIn fact 18 times a year Sunday's action is the culmination of strategy and planning that has evolved days, weeks and even months before. Grand Prix races these days are as much a game of chess as they are a test of outright muscle.

Where once the driver was the only arbiter of vital decisions that made the difference between 'hero' and 'zero', he now has to rely upon a master tactician on the pit wall backed up by a legion of engineers and their computers. One by-product of the problems with overtaking is that the brains behind each team has been forced to explore every crevice of performance for an extra edge.

Strategy in all its forms has never been more important than it is today. Even the mighty Michael Schumacher, with his seven world titles and record number of wins, admits he wouldn't be where he would up without the tactical genius of Technical Director Ross Brawn.

Where it was once quick thinking and good old-fashioned cunning that won the day, today a victory usually requires more than just the human mind, lots of guts and a right boot planted permanently on the floor.

"Strategy is basically a question of maths," says Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds. While Mike Gascoyne, as Technical Director, who designed the car that Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli used, Symonds is the one who orchestrated events once the team arrived at the circuit. When the lights go out he was Renault's arch tactician.

"Part of the process is based on pure logic," he adds. "When a car leaves the pits it is heavy with fuel and its tyres are new. As it gets lighter the lap times come down. Then as the tyres begin to go off the times start to get slower. It is theoretically at this precise moment you should choose to pit."

man_kindThat is the often seen and well-documented part of a process that has started before the cars have even been put in the packing crates for Melbourne, Malaysia or Monza at a desk at the team's factory at Enstone in England.

"We input race data ranging from the specification of the cars to the characteristics of the circuit," says Symonds. "The programme then calculates the basic ideal strategy."

Knowing that things are rarely that simple they always have to have a Plan B. "We also look at how two or three other options would work in theory," Symonds explains. "This is a key step since the weekend's programme is established as a function of these results. For example the amount of fuel carried on the cars during Friday's free practice is determined by this initial simulation, although our experience of previous Grands Prix is also taken into account."

stating_carIn fact the planning has actually started way before that - even as early as the previous season. The regulations dictate just how big the fuel tanks can be and so those design decisions, which have a direct influence on strategy, have to be taken as early as May or June the year before that car hits the track.

"Strategy flexibility is decided by the size of the tank, which has a direct influence on the car's wheelbase. This dimension, in turn, has an effect on the handling of the chassis," comments Symonds.

Spectators may want to see cars battling against the clock on a Friday rather than the current pattern of so called 'untimed practice' (which is timed really) or 'free practice' but its function for laying the groundwork for a Grand Prix weekend is as vital as Saturday qualifying.

midium_car"Our drivers have a number of tasks to carry out during free practice, the first being to establish a competitive race set-up," adds Symonds. "This takes a degree of skill given that they are not driving flat out, and will not do so until Saturday qualifying.

"The next job is to evaluate the two types of tyre available for the weekend and to select one of them by comparing the data over both a single lap and long runs. If we don't hit any technical or weather problems then the final decision on tyre choice is made Friday evening. This is a key strategy because it governs Sunday's strategy since the two types of tyre have different endurance and performance characteristics."

On Saturday morning everything steps up a gear. There are only two 45-minute sessions remaining before the crucial one hour of qualifying. While what has gone before is largely about race set-up, the focus turns to single lap speed. Qualifying may not bring any points with it but starting sixth as opposed to 16th can make all the difference to the final result on Sunday.

"If we've had a good Friday, Saturday morning's work will be concentrating exclusively on qualifying set-up," says Symonds. "The demands are completely different because the car is set up for maximum performance over a single lap which makes it more difficult to drive. Grid position and the cars in front and behind of us all have an influence on strategy."

One example is Renault's sparring partners for much of the season - McLaren. Although they have a vast source of experience to draw upon, their reputation as "one-stoppers" brings with it a certain mind set. Plus it is acknowledged in both camps that Renault have one of the best launch control systems on the grid, in itself worth a place or two in the first few hundred yards when working at its ultimate.

Before the team looks ahead to race day, though, it has to make the most of that hour from 13.00 to 14.00 on a Saturday. "Even during this session strategy is important," says Symonds. "You have determine what is the best moment to send the cars out taking account of track conditions and who else is on the circuit."

As you might expect in Formula 1 racing, the might of the computer is brought to bear again. If you have ever seen the timing sheets, they are a dizzying array of figures recording every lap by every driver. As if this isn't enough, each lap is divided into three split sections.

While the three splits are useful to analyze a car's strengths and weaknesses, it also serves, by chance, a secondary function of providing the information of exactly where each car is on each lap. "I use a programme developed by the team that enables me to visualize the precise position of each car on a map of the circuit," Symonds explains.

In other words it plots the gaps that enables the Renault drivers to find crucial clear track amidst the to-ing and fro-ing of 22 cars and set their best possible time with few cars getting in their way.

Once this has been accomplished they must work late into the night preparing the last final eventualities for race day.

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Inside the mind of the Strategy whiz kid : Part Two
The final part of F1scarlet’s s insight into strategy looks at how teams work on race day itself. This begins with one final morning practice session, called Warm-Up, when the cars will usually run in full blooded race set-up throughout the half an hour of track time they are allowed.

It is not only a time to shake out the gremlins ahead of the approaching battle, but it is a valuable opportunity to size up the opposition. As each team is analyzing its race speed, rivals can gauge if the qualifying performance will be reflected in the race on a much heavier fuel load.

"The aim is to run as little as possible for reliability reasons," says Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. "But sometimes we have to bed-in tyres or things like that. Very few changes are made to the set-up if we can help it."

Radical changes on a Sunday morning are a sure sign of a team at sea and confused on set-up - or one that has lost session after session with reliability problems or accidents.

"The times of our rivals give me a clue as to their strategies, and we can adjust ours accordingly," adds Symonds. An old hand at the strategy game, he knows every little detail now counts, and the team has every nerve and fibre straining to pick up the slightest clue that might turn a pointless race into a podium finish.

ranjanAnd so to the main course, the reason for all the effort and calculation, the Race. "Obviously our drivers know their strategies before they start but they are not set in stone and can change according to the circumstances. At any moment we might adapt them according to how thing are unfolding," Symonds remarks.

Again the computer plays a large role in the action, but just how big a part is not appreciated by the giant worldwide audience. Each Renault R202 recorded 500 channels of data: 200 for the engine and 300 for the chassis. From these, thousands of different parameters are calculated.

With recent changes in the rules two-way telemetry is now allowed, such as the subtle engine changes that rescued David Coulthard in the Monaco Grand Prix and allowed his unit to survive to the finish.

There are three types: real time data that monitors vital functions, a high speed download at the end of each lap from a transmitter in the wing mirrors and the car's hard disc, which stores nine megabytes of data (that's the equivalent of War and Peace) every lap, to be downloaded at the next pit stop.

Of course, much is of no immediate use, but as Coulthard found out in Monaco, there are times when it can prove absolutely vital.

see_elementSymonds, though, has a more basic tool to keep his sights on the overall picture. "We've got a programme that enables us to simulate our position if we bring our pit stops forward or back," he explains - just as the team has a programme which enables them to visualize where each car is on the track during qualifying.

But every human being will be pleased to hear the role of mankind has not been calculated out of strategy just yet.

"Computers use key data such as fuel load, fuel consumption tyre wear, the handicap of running with an extra 10 kilos of fuel and the pit lane length etc to calculate the ideal option. But nothing can replace experience when it comes to improvising if a driver finds himself in traffic. The computer doesn't understand the psychology of our rivals. I do!" Symonds adds.

So next time you are watching what seems to be a simple pit stop at an obvious time in the race, remember just how much effort has gone into getting that driver there, in the right place and at the right time.

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