United States GP at Indianapolis: Questions and Answers

FORMULA ONE BRINGS UNIQUE SET OF STANDARDS, CARS TO INDY INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - In 1995 when Jacques Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500, he qualified at an average speed of 228.397 mph. In 1997 when he won the Formula One world ...


INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - In 1995 when Jacques Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500, he qualified at an average speed of 228.397 mph. In 1997 when he won the Formula One world championship, he recorded the top straight-line speed of the year at 218.6 mph during the German Grand Prix.

But the fastest qualifying speed of that season was only 155.559 mph by Jean Alesi at Monza.

This is one example of the many differences between what fans will witness at the Indy 500 in 2000 and at the inaugural United States Grand Prix F1 race later in the year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speed is important but not primary.

Of course, the major reason for the speed difference is course design. The track used for the Indianapolis 500 is a high-speed, 2.5-mile oval with four turns. The proposed track for F1 at the speedway will be a serpentine road course that incorporates part of the existing oval.

Peter Gethin, driving a BRM, averaged 151.634 mph at Monza in 1971 for the fastest winning speed ever in F1. This is faster than the last three 500s, but that race was not for 500 miles. And Indy's record race speed is 185.981 mph by Arie Luyendyk in 1990.

Since Gethin's run chicanes have been installed at Monza, where USAC cars raced in 1957 and 1958. Jimmy Bryan won there the first year with an average speed of 160.067 mph, while 1958 winner Jim Rathmann jumped this more than 6 mph to 166.722.

Monte Carlo is not only F1's most glamorous circuit but also its slowest. Last May, Mika Hakkinen won averaging 87.7 mph, but the winning speed in 1997 was a mere 64.8 mph.

The new course at Indy will use part of the main stretch and Turn One, then wind back through the infield. This should allow for both some quick speeds down the straight and intense braking and turning on the other part of the course.

The most noticeable difference is that the drivers will run the course clockwise, heading north on the front straightaway. Pep Boys Indy Racing League and NASCAR Winston Cup cars run counter-clockwise on the 2.5-mile oval.

Here are some other answers to questions about F1:

.How are the engines used in the Indy 500 and F1 alike?: Both are normally aspirated. But the Pep Boys Indy Racing League engines have four liters of displacement, while F1 engines are only three liters. Pep Boys IRL engines are limited to eight cylinders, while F1 engines can go up to 12.

.What is a grand prix?: The name was first used in 1906 for "big cars" at Le Mans and stood for "great prize." F1, formed in 1950, decided to limit the use of "Grand Prix" solely to races that counted toward the World Championship. There is one exception, the historic Formula 3000 Grand Prix de Pau.

.How are points awarded in F1?: A winner receives 10, followed by six for second and 4-3-2-1 for the next four finishers. The first three appear on the winner's podium.

.What is a grand prix race weekend schedule?: It covers three days just like an IRL weekend, except that Monaco practice is allowed to begin Thursday. Friday practice is from 11 a.m.-noon, and from 1-2 p.m. Saturday practices are scheduled from 9-9:45 a.m. and 10:15-11 a.m., followed by qualifying from 1-2 p.m. Sunday begins with a warm-up practice four hours, 30 minutes before race time, which normally is 2 p.m. local time.

.How is qualifying conducted?: During Saturday's one-hour period, each team is allowed a maximum of 12 laps to establish a fast time. Only a maximum of 24 cars may start.

.Can any driver appear in an F1 race?: No. A driver must have a "Super License" earned through competition in lesser formulas and have a valid contract with an F1 team.

.Can teams change drivers during the season?: Yes. But the primary driver can be changed only once unless he has been injured or becomes ill. Three drivers can take turns in the second car without restrictions. A driver change must be announced before 6 p.m. on the day before the first practice period.

.Does the No. 1 stay with the car or driver?: With the driver. The world champion carries No. 1 even if he drives for a different team the next season. No. 2 goes to his teammate. Otherwise, the numbers are assigned to the Constructors (car owners), and that number remains no matter who drives their car.

.What is the warm-up?: It's a free practice session on race morning, which allows teams to set up their cars for race conditions. Its length of 30 minutes may be extended an additional 15 minutes if previous practices were dry and rain has moved in.

.What is the starting procedure? The starting field, a maximum of 24 drivers, is lined up in staggered pairs by qualifying speed. The space between each row is 26 feet. Cars leave pit lane 30 minutes before the start and can drive around several laps at reduced speed. But then they must come to a standstill with their engines stopped. When the green comes on, the drivers begin the formation lap, returning to the grid and stopping with their engines running. The drivers then watch a light bar as five red lights are lit, one at a time. Then within two-tenths or three-tenths of a second, those red lights are turned off to signal the start. A sensor from each car determines whether it moved before the light bar was switched off, with a time penalty assessed for a violation. If the cars are unable to complete two laps due to an accident or serious problem, there is a complete restart 20 minutes later.

.How long is a race?: It cannot exceed approximately 190 miles or two hours.

.How many cars can a constructor enter in a race?: A maximum of two.

.What type of fuel is used?: Unleaded gasoline similar to that available for your car. Pep Boys IRL cars are powered by methanol. NASCAR Winston Cup cars use leaded gasoline.

.How many tires can be used each race weekend?: A change for 1999 trims the total from 40 to 32 dry-weather tires per driver. An additional groove also is being added into each front tire next year, with the front and rear tires each having four grooves. All F1 teams will use Bridgestone tires in 1999. Pep Boys IRL and NASCAR Winston Cup teams use slick racing tires. IRL teams can choose between Goodyear and Firestone tires, with Winston Cup teams all using Goodyear.

.How are rules violations detected?: Very sophisticated devices are able to check fuel properties and altered electrical systems instantly at trackside. Also, cars and drivers are weighed before and after an event.

.Who conducts the race?: The responsibility falls to three stewards, one of whom is selected by the national sporting authority (ACCUS in the U.S.) of the home country. The other two cannot be from the host country. A penalty issued by a steward may be appealed to the International Court of Appeal.

.What happens during rain?: The race goes on. A race can be started in the regular method or behind a pace car if showers are heavier. However, if the rain is particularly heavy, a "10 Board" with a red background may be displayed, delaying the start for 10 minutes. This can be done several times. F1 cars can use special rain tires during showers. Pep Boys IRL and NASCAR Winston Cup races at the Speedway are stopped during rain.

.What is the pit speed limit?: It ranges from 50 to 75 mph, depending on the circuit. Just like in Pep Boys IRL and NASCAR Winston Cup, there are fines for exceeding the pit speed limit.

.Are the race control flags the same as in the IRL and NASCAR?: Basically, yes. But there are three variations of the black flag. A black flag with an orange disc warns of a mechanical problem and tells the driver to pit. A flag with white and black triangles warns of unsportsmanlike behavior, while a single black flag orders a car immediately to the pits. Each flag is accompanied by a car number.

.How much money is spent per season by a Formula One team?: Top teams will spend more than $100 million per year, more than in any other form of racing. F1 is the most technologically sophisticated racing series in the world, and technology costs money - lots of it.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Arie Luyendyk , Peter Gethin