Formula One, or F-1, is the highest class of auto-racing and is ranked as such by the FIA (International Federation of Automobiles), the governing body of the motor sports world.
F-1 is a truly global phenomenon, as its season consists of a series of races held in varying cities and is often watched by several million people worldwide. The cars are capable of speeds of over 200 mph, and often pull 5 g in corners. The results of each Grand Prix are used to determine two World Championships, one for drivers and one for construction teams.
F-1 is also a very unique sport, as its operating costs render it the most expensive form of organized competition in the world. Due to the incessant financial demands, the sport is heavily dependent on sponsorships and merchandising. Because of its global appeal, 9 of 17 Grands Prix are held outside of Europe, F-1 races generate millions of dollars both locally and for construction teams. This revenue has allowed teams to maintain high budgets while expanding their appeal through excellent marketing campaigns.
The series originated in 1950 using front-engined, narrow treaded tires with relatively small engines. The introduction of mid-engined cars made of aluminum sheet material in the mid 1960s paved the way for profound changes in technology and marketing in the sport. It was during this period that advertising placed on the cars themselves began a high revenue trend that continues today. Modern cars are mid-engined and open cockpit, open-wheeled with a single seat. The entire chassis is made of carbon fibre composites making it extremely light but strong. The entire car, including engine, driver, and fluids weighs only 605 kg.
An F-1 event spans an entire weekend, with practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and the race itself on Sunday. The entire event usually draws crowds of over 200, 000 people, with up to 90, 000 watching the Sunday race. Races are about 190 miles long and are limited to two hours, with drivers able to make one or more pitstops during the race. F-1 awards points to the top eight drivers and their respective teams of a grand prix on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis (the top team receiving 10 points, 8th place team 1), with the driver and team with the most points at the end of the season each winning their respective World Championships. There are usually at least 16 teams at the beginning of a race.
The performance of an F-1 car during a race has several variables, including cornering speed, aerodynamic downforce, tires, and driver skills. Engines are mandated 2.4 Litre V8s, producing 20, 000 rpm and 780 horsepower. Engines run on unleaded fuel closely resembling publicly available petrol.
The most impressive aspect of an F-1 event, aside from the cars themselves, is its viewership. The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix attracted an audience of 83 million viewers, with over 150 million tuning in at some point in the event. During the 2005 season, F-1 was witnessed by 580 million viewers and was broadcast in over 200 countries. The series is continuing to show signs of growth, and is steadily gaining a foothold in the North American, Asian, and even African markets.