Motor Racing

Motor racing, particularly Formula One, is immensely popular around the world. Countries compete for the privilege of hosting one of up to 19 Formula One races each season because of the enormous revenues generated by visitors, television rights, sponsorship and advertising and because the huge travelling circus provides local employment.

The season runs from March to October with races almost every fortnight, held on Sunday. The majority of races are held in Europe, but North and South America, Australia and, increasingly, Asia also take part. Manufacturers are keen to hold races in emerging or growing markets so races in some established venues have been dropped. Malaysia, Bahrain and China have joined recently. Despite advances safety design both inside the cars and trackside, motor racing remains a dangerous sport. Several top drivers – Jim Clark, Gilles Villeneuve, Ronnie Peterson, Ayrton Senna – have died taking part over the years. Crashes, shunts and spins are an integral part of any story with break-downs and technical problems also noteworthy.

Competitors are often highly critical of each other’s driving and their rivalries are a rich source of copy. Jealousies also occur between drivers in the same team over who should be given priority. But the men behind the wheel are backed by an army of designers, technicians and mechanics making Formula One the most technical of sports. These experts are also increasingly high-profile and well paid and may be poached from other teams, providing more stories.

Formula One is notorious for its secrecy and disinformation. Teams want to keep technical advances and engine or tyre adjustments hidden from competitors and will often put media on a false trail.

Cars must follow strict technical guidelines for safety and to even out the competition and infringements might mean disqualification or the loss of points. Teams push rules to the limit and argue long and hard over such matters, sometimes bringing in lawyers. Each team has two drivers competing separately for the drivers’ championship and together for the constructors’ championship.



Cars must qualify for each Formula One race. Pole position – the front of the starting grid – is determined in qualifying the day before the race, usually Saturday. Qualifying and technical rules are liable to change from season to season.


The main preview along with statistical data and background on the race, the championship and the track normally runs early on Wednesday (Tuesday for Monaco). Until the race we run several spot stories a day, many of them generated by team announcements and news conferences. We also cover practice and qualifying which may throw up accident or breakdown stories as well as assessments by the teams afterwards.

During a race we file only for exceptional incidents. Afterwards we run an urgent winner, fast timings and several updates as well as interviews and sidebars. Sports Desk is always in the market for Formula One related stories between races. These may include car testing, contract negotiations, technical news and human interest pieces about the more newsworthy drivers. Countries that do not host races but have drivers and others involved (such as Finland, South Africa, Ireland, Colombia) can also provide interesting stories.

Other motor races

In sports car racing we cover the Le Mans 24 hour race with updates every four hours or so, leads and sidebars. We cover the big name races in the U.S. – Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 with previews, running stories and interviews. Other motor races may be newsworthy if there is a big accident, death, destruction or unusual incident/bright but we do not cover them as a matter of course.

Style points

  • Formula One – (capitals)
  • Paddock – area behind the garages where teams have their motor homes and hospitality and where VIPs lurk and comment can be gleaned.
  • Scrutineering – the checking of cars to ensure they comply with technical rules after qualifying and races.
  • Tyres – (not tires, except in U.S. copy for U.S. consumption) intermediates, full wets or dries, used according to the weather. Slicks are no longer allowed.
  • Lights – it is wrong to say the race started with the green light. In Formula One a race starts when the lights go out.
  • Laps – the lap run just before the race starts is the formation lap.
  • Grand Prix – in capitals when used as part of a name e.g. The European Grand Prix, but lower case when used generically e.g. Fernando Alonso’s third victory in a grand prix this season … The plural of grand prix is grands prix.
  • Engines – we should avoid using the make of engine in team titles as these may change year to year. McLaren, for example is the team name not Mercedes McLaren, though we can describe the machines as “Mercedes-powered McLaren cars” if this is relevant.
  • Ballast – the extra weight, usually lead, used to bring cars up to the minimum requirements. It can be moved around the car for maximum effect.
  • Plank or skid block – literally a plank running down the middle of the underside of a car. If it gets too worn during a race, the car will be disqualified.
  • Marshals – one l only. The men who wave the flags and police the circuit.
  • Traction control – one of the so-called driver aids, used to help with cornering and give greater grip in the wet.
  • Telemetry – the technical data gleaned from a car.
  • Apex – the perfect line through a corner.


  • Chequered (not checkered) – marks the end of a race.
  • Yellow – warning to slow, no overtaking.
  • Red – race or qualifying stopped
  • Blue – warns of approaching car.

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