Sports 101

The Indianapolis 500 is a few weeks away, but Formula One drivers revved up their engines a couple of months ago. Formula One racing, part of the Grand Prix series of automobile racing, features the most expensive racing cars and consists of about 16 races held around the world (March to October) in Canada, France, the United States, and Italy.

Q: What is Formula One racing?

A: Formula One (also known as F1) drivers use single-seat racing cars. Slower and less sophisticated single-seat racing cars compete in other categories such as Formula Two (F2), Formula Three (F3), Formula Atlantic, Formula Renault, and Formula Ford.

Q: Who determines the car's specifications?

A: The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. The cars are built according to a formula that limits engine size and determines overall body design. Using some of the principles of airplane design, a Formula One car has front and rear wings. The flow of air over and under create a downward force that holds the car close to the ground despite high speeds. The engine is in the rear.

Q: How long are the races and how fast do cars go?

A: Races range from 150 to 200 miles long and cars reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour on a straightaways or as slow as 30 m.p.h. on sharp curves.

Q: How is a winner determined?

A: The first driver to finish the required number of laps around the course wins. The top six drivers receive points, and the driver who earns the most points in Grand Prix races in a year wins the World Drivers' Championship.

Q: What is a chicane?

A: A tight bend or S-curve in a straight part of the course that can sometimes trick drivers. The turns slow down larger, faster cars but allow smaller cars to pass through relatively easily. Chicanes are usually placed just before difficult or dangerous curves in order to slow down drivers as they approach.

Q: What car manufacturers participate in Formula One racing?

A: There are many different makes and models, but the more well-known cars include Mercedes, Ferraris, Hondas, Aston Martins, and BMWs.

* Send comments to parneyl@csps.com

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