The most famous motor racing series...in the world.
A load of men drivers, drive very fast single-seat open wheel cars ("If it's got fenders, it's not a race car") around a circuit, having to complete a set number of laps. Points awarded on finishing positions crown the champion driver and champion constructor. Most of the commercial dealings are controlled by a billionaire short bloke with a mop top haircut called Bernie Ecclestone. The political machinations of the teams and their disputes and scandals are an almost integral part of the sport and its image.
The current champion is Sebastian Vettel, the youngest person to ever win four consecutive Formula One World Championships, as well as being the youngest four-time world champion. While the 2010 season was a very close run, with Vettel winning the title in the final race without having led the championship until that point, 2011 was...not so close.
The 2012 season was quite the opposite of the previous one as it had a completely insane first third of the season with the first seven races won by seven different drivers (and the seven fastest laps set by seven different drivers), a middle third with lots of unexpected events like rain, crashes and mechanical failures messing up the chances of several drivers and the points table, and a resurgent Sebastian Vettel in the latter third of the season that saw him took four straight victories. Fernando Alonso led the standings for much of the year driving what was certaintly NOT the best machinery, and took the fight for the title down to the last race thanks to consistency, reliability and some exceptional starts. Alonso came up one place short of the title in the final race when he finished second and Vettel sixth after Vettel was spun out on the first lap and dropped to last place.
The 2013 season saw Vettel clinch the drivers' title with three races remaining.
Has a rather rich history and some famous names like:
Juan Manuel Fangio, Argentinian 5-time champion in 1951 and 1954 through 1957.
Alberto Ascari, first titliest for Ferrari. Still the last Italian to win the title, and that's a long time ago (1952 and 1953).
Stirling Moss, versatile English driver, never won the championship, being runner-up four times in a row (1955-58).
Jack Brabham, Australian, only driver to win the title in a car of his own construction (in 1966); he also won in 1959 and 1960.
Jim Clark, Scottish driver renowned for smooth style, won two titles in 1963 and 1965 (year in which he also won an Indy 500) but died in a Formula 2 race in 1968.
Graham Hill, charismatic Londoner who won two titles (1962 and 1968), including one for Lotus after Jim Clark's death, as well as the 1966 Indy 500.
Damon Hill, his son, who won one title in 1996.
Jackie Stewart, three time titlist (1969, 1971, 1973) who campaigned for better safety standards. He later became a race commentator who was instantly recognizable for his Scottish accent. Also had his own team in the late 1990s.
Mario Andretti, Italian-American won the title in 1978. Also won the Daytona 500 in 1967 and Indy 500 in 1969.
Emerson Fittipaldi, Brazilian won two titles, for Lotus in 1972 and McLaren in 1973. Also won Indy 500 in 1989.
Alain Prost, Frenchman, second to Schumacher in the wins total, and third in title count, with four wins (1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993).
Ayrton Senna, famously intense and ruthless Brazilian, feuded with Alain Prost in the 1980s. A polarizing figure, adored in Brazil, he may have been the fastest and most daring driver in F1 history. Won three titles, in 1988, 1990 and 1991, all of which were clinched at the Japanese Grand Prix. Killed in a crash in 1994, spurring a raft of new safety rules.
Bruce McLaren, one of the youngest to win a Gran Prix, with his team and Gordon Murray building the ultimate road going sports car named right after the initials of the sport.
Nigel Mansell, English driver most associated with the Williams team, with which he was champion in 1992. Crossed over to CART for its 1993 season and won the championship(and almost the Indy 500) which lead Mansell to become the only driver to hold both championships at the same time.
Mika Häkkinen, two time (1998, 1999) Finnish world champion. Considered to be Michael Schumacher's only real rival (even though the 1999 win came only through lack of competition, considering this rivalry, since Schumacher sustained an injury which prevented him from driving for most of the season).
Michael Schumacher, German, holds most of the sport's records including most wins (91 against 51 from Prost, the previous record holder) and most titles (seven, in 1994, 1995 and 2000 through 2004, breaking Fangio's five-title record), making him the world's wealthiest athlete. Retired in 2006. Had planned a comeback to cover for the injured Felipe Massa, but was forced to call it off due to his own injuries.
Will comeback anyway, but for Mercedes instead of Ferrari, after recovering from the neck injury that kept him out the year before.
Came back, drives around in the middle of the field. For someone off the track for 4 years practically driving the first time again (not counting training of course) it is a solid performance, though people have been expecting top-3 positions due to his legend...
Finally retired in 2012.
Fernando Alonso, Spaniard, second youngest two time world champion. Ended Schumacher's dominance in 2005 and 2006.
Kimi Räikkönen, Finnish, 2007 world champion. A great character, known off track due to his... smooth approach to press conferences, to hisengineers and to alcohol. Also known as "The Iceman" thanks to his nationality and (lack of) expressiveness.
Lewis Hamilton: The 2008 English champion, and a McLaren driver. Second youngest man to win the title and did so in only his second year of racing (after finishing one point below winner Kimi Räikkönen the season before, his debut season). Even then, he won by a single point from Ferrari's Felipe Massa, on the last corner of the last lap of the last race.
Jenson Button: The 2009 English champion, who finally came into prominence after his team (Honda) bounced back as the Brawn GP Team when team manager Ross Brawn bought it from the carmaker after they pulled out of the sport (nearly preventing Button from racing) and retrofitted it with a Mercedes-Benz engine, and caught everyone by surprise by blazing the competition.
Rubens Barrichello: Brazilian driver who holds the record for most races contested (326 races with 322 starts) with a career that spanned nineteen seasons, longer than any other driver. Notoriously known as Schumacher's former teammate, who was forced to concede a race win to him. Also drove in the 2012 Indianapolis 500, but decided against returning to the brickyard in 2013 after a disappointing result there. At least he beat The Stig.
Sebastian Vettel, German, the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 World Champion. Holds many of the sport's 'youngest' records such as youngest driver to drive at a grand prix, lead a race, earn a fastest lap, win pole position, win a race, win one, two, three and four world championships, and the 'shortest time between the start of a F1 career and his first penalty'. SIX SECONDS.
Keke Rosberg, the first Finn to win an F1 title, doing it in 1982 despite only winning a single race.
Nico Rosberg is Keke's son. He claims German nationality due to his mother being German and the fact he was born there. He has raced in F1 since 2006, and is a strong contender for the 2014 title going into the summer break.
The most famous team is Ferrari, who have won the most races and championships. Ferrari fell into a slump in the 1980s but were rejuvenated by the signing of Michael Schumacher in 1996 and dominated the 'noughties. The nearest challenger is the British McLaren team, founded by the late New Zealander Bruce McLaren. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominated in the 1980s driving for McLaren. The British Williams team were strong in the 'nineties, thanks partly to a strong design department, but have slipped to the midfield in recent years. Sports car maker Lotus is the next most successful team, but the team started slipping down the order after technical genius and founder Colin Chapman's death, withdrew from F1 in 1994 and didn't return untill 2010 when a Malaysian backed company used the name. The 'Big Four' of racing are generally considered to be Benetton/Renault, Williams, Mclaren and Ferrari since they have dominated the drivers and constructors championships since the 80's, the majority of titles going to Mclaren and Ferrari; they are the most successful teams in the sport. However the status quo was upset in 2009 with the success of Brawn (now Mercedes) and, later in 2010 and 2011, Red Bull.note Note, however, that despite the changing names of teams it's still pretty much the same twenty-year rivalry between two chief designers: Ross Brawn was a top tech man in Benetton and Ferrari before buying out the failingHondateam and later selling it to Mercedes, while Adrian Newey headed the Williams and Mclaren design departments before moving to Red Bull.
The name "Formula One" comes from the formula that all qualifying cars must follow. It specifies things like the maximum engine displacement, the shape of the car's undercarriage, the size of the fuel cell, etc., and is subject to change from year to year. There is also a racing circuit called "Formula Two" which involves much smaller, lower-powered, and generally less expensive cars; if Formula One were the NFL, Formula Two would be Arena Football.
Probably the greatest technical change occurred in the late 1950s when front-engined cars were replaced by superior mid-engined cars that were lighter and handled better. This revolution led to British teams taking over from the traditionally dominant Italian Maseratis and Ferraris during the 1960s. In the 1970s cars grew larger aerofoils; inverted wings designed to create downward lift (downforce) to press the cars down on to the road and improve grip. This led to Lotus pioneering 'Ground Effect' cars that were designed to create a low pressure area under the car using "Venturi tunnels", further increasing grip.note These had the unfortunate side effect of completely losing their grip if the car ran over something as small as a Dixie cup, resulting in cars literally flying off the track during high-speed turns. They have since been outlawed in F1 racing, but are still allowed (in a very subdued form) in Indy Car racing. In the 1980s turbochargers increased power outputs to 1000hp but were banned in 1989. During that decade increased safety regulations, and stronger carbon composite cars, led to a massive drop in the number of fatal crashes. The death of Ayrton Senna in a racing crash in 1994 spurred further safety regulations and attempts to limit car performance. Many advanced 'driver aids', like ABS and traction control have been outlawed, allowed again, and outlawed again, since then - technical rule changes are often a cue for fans to say They Changed It, Now It Sucks. (Compare NASCAR, which banned fuel injection in 1958 - and maintained the ban until 2012, decades after carburetors became obsolete on road cars.) In any event, the cars today have more technical affinity with the Space Shuttlenote And a heck of a lot more computer power; the Space Shuttle's computer has 256K of total memory than what's parked in your driveway.
Unlike other major worldwide sports, the playing field for F1 changes at every event. Many of the race tracks are equally legendary names as the drivers and cars. The most notorious is probably the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany - a 14 mile course with over one hundred corners, it was last used in 1976 but is still there and is even open to the public to drive round if you pay. Other famous tracks still in use are Monza (Italy), Silverstone (UK), Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Suzuka (Japan) and the street race in Monte-Carlo (Monaco). A frequent gripe of fans is when an exciting track is dropped or altered in the name of safety. Currently the expansion of F1 into new countries such as China, Bahrain and Malaysia has led to several bespoke tracks that are frequently condemned for being soulless and boring, earning the derisive nickname of Tilkedromes — Google the name "Hermann Tilke" to see the explanation and fan reactions.
F1 used to be notorious for frequent driver deaths, but it's a lot safer than it was - no-one has died at the wheel since Senna in 1994. On the other hand, a marshal was killed at the Melbourne Grand Prix a few years ago. In 2014 Jules Bianchi was critically injured after he collided with a recovery vehicle leading to calls to make the car's cockpits fully enclosed - a radical change as Formula One cars have been open topped throughout the sports history.
Races are currently shown on both Sky and The BBC, with Sky broadcasting all the races live, while the BBC televises half the races live and shows highlights of the rest. The move to pay-per-view broadcasts has not been received well, especially as the BBC had received lots of praise compared to ITV, who had struggled due to advertising problems and at least two key overtaking manouevres being missed due to inconveniently timed ad breaks. The Beeb also brought back "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac as the Theme Tune to its coverage - the song is long associated with F1 and car racing.
There is a website dedicated to covering the very worst F1 moments, drivers, and teams. It can be found here.
For the approximate USA equivalent, see Indy Car.
Future GPX Cyber Formula is about a futuristic version of Formula One. Notable for having one character named after Michael Schumacher (though granted, when the character was first introduced, Schumacher was still in Formula Three at the time.)
Top Gear has had various F1 drivers as their 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car'. Unlike most of the stars, they have their own leader board due to their skill superiority. Rubens Barrichello was the first driver to beat The Stig's time, by a mere a tenth of a second. Lewis Hamilton currently holds the fastest time, superseding both by over a second
Both Jackie Stewart and Mika Häkkinen have been featured in segments where they teach presenter James May (aka 'Captain Slow') how to drive like a racer.
Series 13 had Stig reveal himself...as Michael Schumacher. It wasn't, as he was later revealed to be Ben Collins.
Also in Season 13, during the 'rear wheel drive' challenge, the presenters were in a race in France. One of the other competitors was former driver Olivier Panis. He called their cars shitboxes.
As mentioned below, the original Stig was the talented but unlucky Perry McCarthy. He outed himself in his biography, and was subsequently fired due to a clause in his contract saying that if his identity was revealed, he must be fired.
The second Stig, who was with the show from series 3 through series 15, was revealed to be Ben Collins. They are now on their third Stig.
Season 14 had the presenters attempt to make art out of cars. David Coulthard helped Jeremy out with his art, using a 2005 Red Bull car. Specifically, using paintballs fired from the exhaust pipe of the Red Bull car. Onto a canvas Clarkson was holding in front of him. It didn't go well.
Season 15 Episode 5 had an absolutely beautiful tribute to Ayrton Senna, to commemorate what would have been his fiftieth birthday earlier that year (2010).
Season 17 Episode 3 produced a new fastest driver in the F1 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car' Leader Board, Sebastian Vettel. Was defeated by Lewis Hamiton and his old Red Bull teammate Mark Webber a few series later.
Season 18 Episode 7 featured Kimi Räikkönen, returning from his two-year F1 sabbatical (in which he competed in the World Rally Championship), as the 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car'.
This Is Your Life also featured a few drivers as the subject of it's show. Notably Murray Walker, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell. Several other racing drivers acted as guests.
A Bit of Fry and Laurie featured a sketch where Hugh Laurie played an F1 driver who constantly moans about his "many problems" even though he won the race. The interviewer (Stephen Fry), after berating him "You do a job that half of mankind would kill be able to do, and you can have sex with the other half as often as you like!", "Are you ARSING WELL HAPPY you dismal moaning French twat?" finally punches him out. A real punch as well, hence Stephen's slightly guilty expression.
The Mary Whitehouse Experience had a sketch trying to prove that elderly drivers are the most dangerous. Part of which was Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost being held up at the British GP by 'Granddad'. The constuctors championship being won by McLaren, with Ferrari second, and "Austin 1100" third.
Jasper Carrott talked about fellow brummie Nigel Mansell on his show: "Potentially, he is the most exciting man on the Earth..." (beat) "...until he speaks". "He's got all those exciting endorsements on his tunic; Havoline, Texaco, Labatts...it's so incongruous isn't it?. It should be Horlicks, or Solihull Public Library" He even mentioned Nigel's Indycar switch: "Paul Newman, and Nigel Mansell! Butch Cassidy and The Sanatogen Kid!"
Senna, a documentary on Ayrton Senna has been produced. It premiered in Japan during the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix weekend, and was a competitor in the 27th Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary Film.
There have been a large number of officially licensed games, some of them endorsed by F1 drivers (most of these being Japan-only games, and even most of these endorsed by Satoru Nakajima).
FIA themselves are currently licensing the Formula One brand to Codemasters (who are a household name in auto racing games since the Colin MacRae series), so they'll make an yearly game based on the current season (though said game always comes towards the end of the season, which is explained as the time the teams and drivers' characteristics are better sorted out).
The highly successful Super Monaco GP series on Genesis, which weren't FIA officially licensed games and thus made use of Expies for both cars and drivers; the second game however had Ayrton Senna's supervision and thus was the only real-name driver displayed there.
As In Name Only as it is, Sega had previously made an "original" Monaco GP in the late 1970s.
Also from Sega, 3D racing pioneer Virtua Racing had the option to drive F1 cars.
Forza Motorsport 5 includes, for the first time in the series, open-wheeled cars, three of them being F1s: Kimi Räikkönen's Lotus from the last season, and from the 1976 season, James Hunt's McLaren and Niki Lauda's Ferrari (which also doubles as a Shout-Out to Rush).