The F1 season kicks of this weekend 'down under' in Melbourne. To celebrate the start of what is possibly one of the most interesting seasons in years, I thought a guide to the season and teams would be a good idea.
I'm aiming this primarily at people new to the sport, however old hands may find it useful as a catch up to what's new and changed for the 2007 season.
F1, what is it?
Put in its purest form, F1 is the pinnacle of open-seat car racing. The machines are the fastest, most advanced, and most expensive on the planet. The sport is a truly international one, with the season traveling to such far flung places as Australia, Europe, the Americas and the Far East.
The sports is one of the biggest television spectator sports in the world - with some 50 to 100 million viewers in 200 countries for each and every of the 18 races. Because of this, it can be said to be the richest sport on the planet. The top teams regularly spend in excess of 500 Million dollars a year on the sport, most of this funded through sponsorship agreements.
Formula 1, as it currently stands, started life in 1950, although had been competed in since the 1920s when it was called European Grand Prix Motor Racing.
The US audience will be best to liken the F1 cars and drivers to those of the Champcar/Indy Car formula. To be honest the cars share quite a lot in common, at least on the surface.
The modern F1 car is a marvel of technology. This part of our guide will go through the various technologies the modern cars employ. Hopefully after this quick run down you will have more of an understanding why many people believe the cars are actually the real stars of the sport.
Engine – The 2.4ltr V8 engines are capable of nearly 800Bhp at 21,000 RPM. This is even more impressive when you consider that it is on high quality road fuel not alcohol – the engines consume fuel at 3mpg. The engines have to last for over 600 miles on the track (2 race weekends).
Cooling – A modern car has one large radiator at the front of the car, this is in contrast to the modern F1 that has at least three for the engine alone, with other radiators for ancillary equipment. This is to combat the heat generated by the engine. At over 100,000 BTU per minute (1 BTU per minute = 17.5842642 watts) the exhaust systems have to deal with temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, and the radiators use over 650 liters of air per second.
Gearbox – Obviously getting all that power down onto the tarmac is a difficult task, a task that is down to the gearbox and tyres. The modern F1 gearbox is around the size of a male adult fist, and in that tiny space it contains seven forward and one reverse gears. This is then connected to an even smaller clutch, usually of multi-plate, carbon design that is capable of handling over 900bhp. New for this year is 'seamless shift' technology. A few of the teams introduced this in last year's cars (notably Honda), and is the default for all the teams this year. A seamless shift gearbox has been deemed not to contravene the CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) ban introduced in the 80s, but it almost eliminates the few miliseconds of drive loss, this is said to equate to around 5 seconds per race.
Tyres – Tyres in F1 are like no other on the planet. They are not slicks as found on most open seat formulas, instead they are grooved tyres. Each tyre must contain 4 grooves around the circumference of the carcass, this was introduced to generate more movement in the tyre, and hopefully slow the cars down, it has however done no such thing. Tyres are designed to last for around half the race distance, and generate enormous grip. This year Bridgestone will supply all teams. Two compounds will be taken to each race, and the teams must use both in the race, they will be marked so watchers can see which tyres the drivers are using at any time.