Atlas F1 

The F1 FAQ

by Mark Alan Jones, Australia

Have a question about Formula One statistics or history? Well you're not the only one, and it's about time someone came up with the answers to Formula One's most Frequently Asked Questions. Send us your questions, to - we may not know everything, but we will sure make the effort to find out

"Formula One, as well as other formulas, spend a lot of time trying to control the speed of the cars (e.g. grooved tyres) for so called safety reasons. Why put any restrictions on these cars at all. Isn't it human nature to want to live. Wouldn't the teams and drivers control themselves? Grooved tyres are simply a way of making fast driving more dangerous. The car doesn't naturally go slower (as WOULD occur with wing adjustments). It's just a way of saying to the drivers: "You slow down or you'll slide off the road and possibly kill yourself!" Regulations for cost-control are one thing, but do drivers really need regulations for safety purposes? (Cars seem to go faster every year anyway.) Sincerely, Jeff B. Los Angeles, USA"

Thank you for the question Jeff. You've touched on a couple of issues there which have been getting a lot of attention lately.

Drivers will always push the limits of tyres so yes, a reduction of mechanical grip (tyres & suspension) will make the cars slower and more difficult to handle. The alternative course of action - reducing the amount of wing area, which you alluded to - would likewise not make the cars slower in a straight line, but would actually make them faster, with less wind resistance. The cars would still have reduced cornering ability, just like a reduction in mechanical grip, but would be more stable in dirty air while following another car closely. Cars would still slide of the road as much as you say, the object of the exercise being to reduce cornering grip and both will achieve the exercise, but playing with wings has less side effects. The ability to push the envelope of a cars performance and not come adrift is what marks the difference between the best and the not quite as good.

Also it isn't necessarily human nature to want to live and over the years some drivers have had a rather tenuous link to the need to live. All it needs is a moment's anger or frustration and any racing driver can give in to road rage, and the consequences may not occur to the driver's mind until too late. Or indeed that anger can become murderous intent and suddenly one car pushes another off the circuit. Or less malicious, just a brief lapse in concentration and the car is suddenly heading for the scenery. Both drivers and teams have shown in the past that they will do whatever is necessary to be faster. Motor racing car construction has always been about whatever you could get away with rather than an adherence to the rules, otherwise FIA scrutineers would have nothing to do and never catch anyone doing anything.

Speed needs to be limited so Formula One cars don't outgrow the current Grand Prix circuits, forcing millions of the currency of preference to be spent on new tracks. The fastest ever Formula One race occurred in 1970, the racing hasn't always been faster from year to year. Speeds dropped in 1961 with the advent of the 1.5 litre Formulae, dropped again in the early 80's with the banning of ground effects, and again in 1989 with the banning of turbo. In the 50's and 60's lip service was paid to driver safety and thus drivers died with frightening regularity. I for one don't want to advocate a return to those days for whatever reason.

"Hi. I'll wondering if you can help me. I'm looking to get in contact with a friend of mine who worked for the Winfield Williams team. Do you know of web site or a contact address for the Williams team personnel? Thanks for your help, Amber H"

The Williams mail address is:

Williams F1
GB-Oxfordshire OX12 0DQ

"Why are there no women Formula One drivers? In almost all other areas of sport (including the traditionally 'male' sport of football), women are competing at the highest levels, having succeeded in creating their own leagues and teams and making superb progress. Why is there no Women's F1 Championship? Have women actually tried and failed, or have women NEVER attempted to race in F1 (or F3000 or F3 or any other series)? Are there regulations actually prohibiting women? Is it question of endurance, strength, speed, hormones?! This isn't a feminist attack - I would simply really like to know. Barbara P."

Lola Lombardi, Brazil 1976Why are there no women in Formula One? There are many background reasons for this. Girls and women are usually less mechanically aware, and young girls are much less likely to take an interest in driving at the age of ten or so, when the champions of Motorsport start racing in karts. When women do get involved in Motorsport potential sponsors treat them less seriously than their male counterparts, and there is precious little money to go around at the lower levels. In some nations, religion and culture are also a factor.

You suggested a women's Formula One league. Formula One is phenomenally expensive, nor did it suddenly appear. It's evolved over a period of decades and the creation of another F1 series consisting of women drivers would not work because of the expense and the facilities - there are only so many teams and manufacturers about and Formula One is already below its self-imposed quota of twelve teams. Finding the finance for this 'women's league' would be nigh on impossible - sponsors would hardly flock to the idea either, at least not in the numbers and with sufficient currency to make it happen.

There have been, however, a few women in Formula One. In 1992 Giovanna Amati raced for Brabham early in the season, but the car was not good, and Amati failed to qualify every time she attempted. Later in the year Damon Hill would struggle to qualify (and not always succeed) in the same car. In the early 80's Desire Wilson won the Aurora Formula One series in the UK, which led into her attempting to qualify for the British Grand Prix in an old Williams. But she was given a different car than she had won the Aurora series in and didn't get used to the newer Williams before qualifying was over. In the 50's Maria Theresa de Filippis took part in several Grands Prix. Lella Lombardi spent a couple of seasons in Formula One and scored half a point in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

Desire Wilson, Britain 1976Michelle Mouton raced and won at the very highest levels of the World Rally Championship in the mid 80's during the exciting and wild days of Group B. Ellen Lohr was a front runner in the now fabled Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft touring car series of the mid 90's. My own journalistic experience here in Australia has brought to my attention women like Australian Drag Racing Champion Rachelle Splatt, three times Australian Rally Co-driver's Champion Coral Taylor, and emerging Formula Ford talent Leanne Ferrier, and talented GT-Production racers Paula Elstrek and Melinda Price and V8 Supercar's Kerryn Brewer.

Michael Schumacher is an extremely fit person. That level of fitness and his male physique gives him an edge over other drivers, both male and female, but other Formula One drivers are considerably less fit. What is most important in Formula One is concentration, and men are not better than women in this regard, but the level of fitness a person has helps maintain that level of concentration longer under adverse physical conditions, like the cockpit of a Formula One car for two hours. There is no reason why women can't reach that level of fitness and indeed many do, in other sports.

It should be noted in favour of the FIA that in their entire existence, even at times less Politically Correct than now, the regulations have always allowed women to race as equals to men, simply because as far as the FIA was concerned they couldn't care less who sat in the cars as long as they were able to drive them. Feminists should, if anything, appreciate such a unique approach coming from the governing body of a leading sport. Why, however, this equal status was not exploited more often by women is down to the above mentioned reasons, as well as so many more.

Giovanna Amati, South Africa 1992Amati, the last woman to race in Formula One, described her experience there for F1 Racing Magazine, saying: "It's a male environment and they want to keep it that way - the drivers, the journalists, everyone. Only one person came up to me and offered me his hand at my first GP in South Africa - and that was Ayrton Senna. He came over and said, 'Welcome Giovanna, I'm glad you're here. My congratulations.' The others ignored me, and when I failed they shrugged and said it was because I was a woman." True Champions, it seems, are sometimes proven as Greats not just on track...

But, having said all that, I honestly believe that one day Juan Manuel Fangio is going to be reincarnated with internal genitalia, and when that happens - watch out Formula One!

"Do you perhaps know of a web site where I can get all the rules for formula One (1999). Thanks Mike F."

There is a copy of the full regulations for 1999 Formula One available at the FIA's website at - A more condensed, though user-friendly explanation of the regulations can be found at the Atlas F1 Newsroom -

"I would like to know what was David Coulthard's best finish in the British Grand Prix (except for this year) during the past years. Thank you"

David Coulthard's previous best finish at Silverstone was back in 1995 when his Williams-Renault finished third. It was a race Coulthard perhaps should have won. Damon Hill (Williams) and Michael Schumacher (Benetton) took each other off while fighting for the lead, leaving Johnny Herbert (Benetton) just ahead of Coulthard. Coulthard however had developed an electrical problem which affected his gearbox down changes, then he was hit with a stop-go penalty for pit lane speeding. Under the circumstances, salvaging third was a noteworthy effort.

For more statistics and past results of David Coulthard, I suggest you visit FORIX

"Hi, I was an Alain Prost fan and I remember very well the two famous seasons (88-89) when Ayrton Senna and he were teammates. However, two things have always been unclear to me. Prost spent the year complaining Honda was tweaking the engines at his disadvantage and I always wondered where was the truth in all that. The second thing is what was the true reason for Prost retirement. Thanks"

In answer to your first question, there is only a few Honda engineers who really know whether it's true or not, and they ain't talking to me, at least not in a language I understand. Prost was always, shall we say, 'politically adept' and he used this skill on occasion to try and get an upper hand over his teammates.

As for his retirement? His first unwilling retirement in 1991 came when Ferrari sacked him as a driver and enforced the final year on his contract, preventing him from racing for anyone else. It seemed that unlike Honda, Ferrari were a bit more sensitive to criticism. He rejoined Formula One with Williams in 1993 and promptly won the World Championship, his fourth. At the end of 1993 Prost had four championships and a swag of records, and statistics that made all but the greatest envious.

In the end Prost decided it was a good time to go. There has been unfounded speculation that Prost may have done a deal with Senna to retire after 1993, allowing Senna to return to the Formula One team that first gave him a chance. Prost had developed a friendship with Damon Hill and this may have been part of such a deal, allowing Hill to stay at Williams, and preventing another Prost / Senna clash. It is widely known that Prost and Senna had made peace with each other prior to his death, whether such a deal was part of it, now only Prost knows.

Editorial Remark:

  • Special thanks this issue to Marcel Borsboom and Ross Stonefeld for help beyond the call when things went spectacularly wrong.

  • Some of the questions we receive lately, have already been replied to in previous F1 FAQ columns. Therefore, before sending in a question, we suggest you have a look at the back issues, by searching the FAQ database. Not that we mind getting so much mail, just that we feel bad for those who feel they are left unanswered...

  • We receive quite a few questions from you all, and it is absolutely impossible for us to research and respond to each of you, be it here or privately. Please, don't feel discouraged if your question was not replied to; it might come up in the next column. And don't forget - you can always look for answers at the Atlas F1 Bulletin Board.

Mark Alan Jones© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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