Seven lesser-known facts about Formula 1, on its 70th anniversary
Here are some facts many of you many not know, and will definitely provide you the bragging rights at your favoured hangout spots
Formula 1. More than a race series, it is an arena where the latest technologies are showcased, a means for a chosen few people, places and machines to achieve timeless recognition, a litmus test to separate the grain from the chaff when it comes to enthusiasts, and for us automobile journalists, a great opportunity to learn new things and in the process fall further in love with cars and the very action of driving.
But for those starting out, there’s a lot to learn, especially considering F1 just turned 70 years old. That’s right folks, the amount of stats and names you’ll need to learn just went up exponentially. So, the kind hearts we at evo India are, we’ve come up with a small list of facts that just might win you that bet among your peers.
So lets get started...
Question 1 – What was the fastest speed ever achieved in a Formula 1 car, who was driving, and when?
The highest top speed ever achieved in an F1 car on an F1 circuit (that last part is the most important) was 372.6kmph which was set by Juan Pablo Montoya while driving his McLaren-Mercedes racecar at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza (the Monza racetrack) on September 4, 2005. Unsurprisingly, Montoya won the 53-lap race from pole position, followed by Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Side note - According to the Williams Formula One team, in 2016, Valtteri Bottas was able to one-up Montoya, hitting a top speed of 378kmph on the streets of Baku during the practice sessions for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
However, the outright fastest recorded speed in an F1 car was during an FIA-sanctioned top speed run in the Mojave desert in California on August 3, 2005. The car that set this record was the BAR Honda F1 racecar driven by Alan Van der Merwe, FIA’s Medical Car driver, who hit a top speed of 413.205kmph.
Question 2 – Which circuit, other than the Nurburgring Nordschleife, has a similarly ‘deadly’ reputation?
Motorsports is, by its very nature, a dangerous activity. Hence, cases of career-ending (and sometimes fatal) accidents are common. That said, besides the Nurburgring (where Niki Lauda had his famous crash, seen on screen in the 2013 movie ‘Rush’) there are two more tracks where the chances of danger are a bit higher than usual. These are -
1. Autodromo Nazionale Monza –The Monza Circuit, opened in 1922, is one of the oldest permanent race tracks in the world. Since its inaugural season in 1950, it has taken the lives of many F1 greats. The more notable names are two-time F1 champion Alberto Ascari (who died in 1955 after his car skidded and somersaulted into Curva del Vialone chicane, which was later renamed to Variante Ascari in his honour), Jochen Rindt in 1970 (whose death was attributed to poorly built crash barriers) and Ronnie Peterson in 1978, among many others. In total, 52 drivers and 35 spectators have lost their lives here, the highest number of all current F1 tracks.
2. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – Since it opened in 1921, the 14.982km circuit has been through six major changes, which have finally reduced its overall length to 7.004km in 1979. Blindingly quick and supremely technical, one of the most famous parts of the circuit is the notorious Eau Rouge corner which combines a hairpin bend, steep uphill section, sweeping left-right-left turns and a blind summit, a truly ‘deadly’ combination. In all, the circuit has claimed the lives of 23 drivers.
Question 3 –Who were the oldest drivers to compete and win accolades in the sport?
There is a lot to consider here, but for the sake of propriety, let’s start with the highest honour (and least age in this company) with the oldest driver to win a title, which was Juan Manuel Fangio (the elder), who collected the final of his five world titles in 1957 at the age of 47.
We now move to the oldest race winner, which goes to Luigi Fagioli, who won the 1951 French Grand Prix for Alfa Romeo, aged 53 years and 22 days.
Finally, the oldest ever driver to compete (and finish) an F1 race was Louis Chiron, who was an incredible 55 years, nine months and 19 days old when he finished sixth in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix.
Question 4 – Which car or cars were the most powerful?
The Benetton B186, built and raced by the Benetton team for the 1986 Formula One World Championship, along with the Brabham BT55, Arrows A9 and other BMW-engined cars in 1986 are considered the most powerful Grand Prix cars ever built.
The B186 in particular, being the most competitive of the BMW-engined cars that season, could produce 1350bhp in qualifying trim, and about 900bhp in race trim. This was chiefly because the relatively small 1499cc inline-4 engine was turbocharged, running a 5.5 bar boost pressure (during qualifying). However, the use of turbocharged F1 engines was gradually reduced (with ever-tightening restrictions on boost pressure) and finally banned by the 1989 season.
However, manufacturers have made the switch back to turbochargers, with the current rules allowing for 1.6-litre 90-degree turbocharged hybrid V6 engines making between 875 and 1000bhp.
Question 5 – What was the highest number of cars to start a race?
A record 34 cars started the race at the 1953 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, of which 14 were local wildcards. This was because in the early years of F1 racing, there was no limit on the amount of cars a team could enter and next to no rules on crash-testing or technical regulations to abide with.
Nowadays, the F1 grid is capped at 26, as with a budget cap of $175 million (set to be reduced for the 2021 season), the number of cars a team can field (with regards to meeting all requisite technological and safety criteria) is limited to two.
Question 6 – Which driver had the most DNFs in his career?
Italian racing driver Andrea de Cesaris holds the record for the most career DNFs (Did Not Finish) at 148. Included within this are the most consecutive DNFs in a season (12 in 1987) as well as the most DNFs in a season outright (14, also in 1987).
Moreover, Cesaris also holds the record for the most race starts without a win, at 208.
Question 7 – What is one record that, despite being in contention, will never be broken?
Michael Schumacher’s record for most podiums in a season. Why, you ask? Well, because the figure is a perfect 100 per cent!
In the 2002 F1 season, Schumacher’s Ferrari F2002 (and, earlier in the season, the F2001) proved so reliable, he finished on the podium in all 17 races that season, with 11 victories and only one third-place finish. Now, we have no doubt the record may be improved upon by a driver finishing a longer season entirely on the podium, but by its very nature, a 100 per cent strike rate can only be equalled, and never beaten.
Bonus question – What exactly is the ‘Formula’ in Formula 1?
The term ‘Formula’ in Formula 1 essentially refers to a set of regulations that govern any of several forms of single-seater open wheeled motorsports.
Typical regulations include restrictions on the type of chassis, engines (as well as engine displacement) and gearbox used, as well as other competition-specific regulations, such as refuelling and pit stop rules. This is because unlike most racing categories, Formula 1 isn’t just about the competition between the drivers, but is also about the rivalry between the cars, with this technology battle between teams considered the hallmark of the sport.