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GP race distances


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#1 nmansellfan

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:06

Apologies if this has already been answered, I couldn't find the answer via the topics that came up through the search function.

IIRC the distance of a modern GP has to be 305Km to the nearest lap except for Monaco, but it wasn't always like that - prior to the late 60's, races were nearer the 400Km distance mark. When and why was the distance rule changed, and why to 305Km? I can't think it was due to TV constraints, as 40+ years ago the TV and advertising aspect was much less prominent in the business of GP racing. Was it to widen the gap between long distance racing and GP racing, or was it for safety reasons maybe?

The Monaco GP seems to be a special case - not only has the race distance nearly always been shorter than the normal rule, the race was reduced from 100 to 80 laps in 1968; I imagine for safety reasons as there was some thought that poor Bandini was fatigued at the time of his crash late in the '67 race. The shortening therefore took place at least a couple of years before other circuits - the Italian GP was shortened from 68 laps / 391Km in 1970 to 53 laps / 304.75Km in 1971. One wonders what the '71 result would have been if the race had gone the extra 15 laps!

Edited by nmansellfan, 04 October 2011 - 12:07.


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#2 john winfield

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:25

1971 was the year that the British GP at Silverstone was shortened - I think Jenks had a good moan about it. The race was over 80 laps in 1965 and 1967, 84 in 1969, reduced to 68 in 1971, a distance of around 320km or 200 miles. This was also the race distance for a few other GPs in 1971.
I'm not sure what the principal reasons were; they might have been fuel tank capacity / safety related, or even an acceptance amongst race organisers / authorities that many casual spectators became bored by overly long Grand Prix. Ironically, 1969 at Silverstone was a thriller, 1971 was not!
Following their 1970 experiences at Brands and Watkins Glen respectively, maybe Brabham and BRM petitioned the CSI...

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:37

Just to lay down a base measurement, after the 10- and 5-hour rules from 1931 and 1932 were rescinded, Grandes Épreuves (with the exception of Monaco, which was always 300km/195ml) were fixed at a minimum of 500km (312ml) from 1934 onwards.

#4 f1steveuk

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:48

In todays age, and with the onset of the "Tilkedome" circuits I can tell you the distance IS because of television. It is one of the reasons the Hockenhiemring was shortened. I used to work on the FOM produced, digital output, and the distance set was to allow the use of the glass optic loop (which was fairly fixed in length), used to link cameras and timing/positioning loops around the circuit.

Before this time I would suspect that safety (e.g the time taken to get an ambulance to an accident scene) may have played a role?

Edited by f1steveuk, 04 October 2011 - 14:08.


#5 Amphicar

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:52

My recollection is that following the "return to power" in 1966, most of the new 3 litre F1 cars were hopelessly unreliable - generally because teams were generally using adapted or bored & stroked engines or in the case of BRM and Lotus the over-complicated H16. As a consequence there were lots of mechanical retirements. Perhaps the reduction in race distance was to reduce the likelihood of no-one completing the full race.

#6 Stephen W

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 14:04

With the inclusion of the Indianapolis 500 it became the longest race running as it did for 500 miles. The 1951 French GP at Reims was over 77 laps = 374.143 miles and in the modern era may have been the next longest - a quick check only being made.

:wave:

#7 RA Historian

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 14:30

This is off the top of my head and may be completely wrong, but I have a vague recollection of the minimum distance being reduced from 500 kms to 300 kms around the time F-1 went from alcohol to Avgas; 1958 or thereabouts?
Tom

#8 David McKinney

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 15:52

That's my recollection too, Tom

And wasn't there an outcry over using the term 'Grand Prix' for a piddling little race of 300km!

I think there was a time reduction too, but can't remember what it was

#9 RStock

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 16:27

That's my recollection too, Tom

And wasn't there an outcry over using the term 'Grand Prix' for a piddling little race of 300km!

I think there was a time reduction too, but can't remember what it was


That's my understanding as well, and they were reduced in time from around 3 hours to around two hours. I don't know the reason behind the change however.

#10 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 16:32

That's my recollection too, Tom

And wasn't there an outcry over using the term 'Grand Prix' for a piddling little race of 300km!

Dead right David. I remember what an exciting and absorbing race the 1956 British Grand Prix was. Run over 101 laps with a winners time of just a few seconds under three hours. When the race returned to Silverstone in 1958 the distance was reduced to 75 laps which took the winner, Peter Collins, 2 hours and 9 minutes to complete. We felt somewhat short changed!.

#11 Rob29

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 16:36

That's my recollection too, Tom

And wasn't there an outcry over using the term 'Grand Prix' for a piddling little race of 300km!

I think there was a time reduction too, but can't remember what it was

Rules up to 1957 required minimum 500k OR 3 hours.1958-60 min. 300k AND 2hrs. 1961-65 300-500k min 2hrs.min time dropped from '66.

#12 Allan Lupton

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 19:43

I have a vague recollection of the minimum distance being reduced from 500 kms to 300 kms around the time F-1 went from alcohol to Avgas; 1958 or thereabouts?

I can't remember why that happened, but (as answered above) it did. Logically the use of Avgas which reduced fuel consumption could have permitted longer races with similar fuel tankage. As we all know, the first GP race of 1958 was won by someone who realised that the shorter race distance and lighter fuel load might allow a car that was pretty light in itself to complete the race non-stop - so its bolt-on wheels wouldn't be a disadvantage.

#13 D-Type

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 20:23

Rules up to 1957 required minimum 500k OR 3 hours. 1958-60 min. 300k AND 2hrs. 1961-65 300-500k min 2hrs.min time dropped from '66.

That more or less agrees with Peter Higham who has:

"1950-57 - Over 300km or 3 hours
1958-65 - Minimum between 300 and 500 km or 2 hours
1966-70 - Minimum between 300 and 400km
1971 to date - Maximum of 325km"

I don't understand quite how you can have a minimum between 2 figures - unless the minimum changed and he's simply summarising.

Nowadays isn't the limit by time rather than distance - a maximum of 2 hours?

#14 Amphicar

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 20:55

That more or less agrees with Peter Higham who has:

"1950-57 - Over 300km or 3 hours
1958-65 - Minimum between 300 and 500 km or 2 hours
1966-70 - Minimum between 300 and 400km
1971 to date - Maximum of 325km"

I don't understand quite how you can have a minimum between 2 figures - unless the minimum changed and he's simply summarising.

Nowadays isn't the limit by time rather than distance - a maximum of 2 hours?

Would the lower figure of the two minima relate solely to Monaco?

#15 scheivlak

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 21:01

That more or less agrees with Peter Higham who has:

"1950-57 - Over 300km or 3 hours
1958-65 - Minimum between 300 and 500 km or 2 hours
1966-70 - Minimum between 300 and 400km
1971 to date - Maximum of 325km"

I don't understand quite how you can have a minimum between 2 figures - unless the minimum changed and he's simply summarising.

Nowadays isn't the limit by time rather than distance - a maximum of 2 hours?

The maximum is both in distance and in time: 305 km+rest of a lap (with the exception of Monaco) and 2 hours.

That said, the official winning time of this year's Canadian GP was 4 hours 4 minutes and 39.537 seconds......

#16 ryan86

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 23:03

In terms of the restart rules used around the turn of the milenium, my understanding is that if a race was red flagged at any point outwith the first two laps and they decided to restart it, the first part of the "race" essentially only acted in forming up the grid for the race itself. For instance, taking this years Monaco GP as an example, had it been run under 2001 rules, the Grand Prix itself would have lasted 4 laps!

Would have been a very short race!

Edited by ryan86, 04 October 2011 - 23:04.


#17 seldo

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 02:16

I understand that the race distances are determined by the least number of complete laps required to complete 305km, but less than 2 hours duration, with the exception of Monaco which is about 260km I think.
I would imagine that these limits were introduced purely to comply with TV time-slots. Thanks Bernie...

#18 Roger Clark

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 08:38

I can't remember why that happened, but (as answered above) it did. Logically the use of Avgas which reduced fuel consumption could have permitted longer races with similar fuel tankage. As we all know, the first GP race of 1958 was won by someone who realised that the shorter race distance and lighter fuel load might allow a car that was pretty light in itself to complete the race non-stop - so its bolt-on wheels wouldn't be a disadvantage.

I think that stops for new tyres were already rare in 1957, and had been since the demis of the 1.5/4.5 litre formula 1. Monza was an exception, particularly when the banked circuit was used. The regulation changes of 1958 had a profound effect on the sport, but the elimination of tyre changes was not one of them.

#19 scheivlak

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 11:14

I would imagine that these limits were introduced purely to comply with TV time-slots. Thanks Bernie...

Race distances were already shortened drastically by 1971. Several of them, not just Monaco, were shorter than 300 km that year.
That's before Bernie did anything more in motor sports than managing a driver or a team.

As mentioned by others, the lack of reliabilty in those years might have played a part in this.

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#20 john winfield

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 11:56

Race distances were already shortened drastically by 1971. Several of them, not just Monaco, were shorter than 300 km that year.
That's before Bernie did anything more in motor sports than managing a driver or a team.

As mentioned by others, the lack of reliabilty in those years might have played a part in this.


Scheivlak, you're quite right. The races at, for example, Monza, Silverstone, Montjuich, Zandvoort, Mosport and the Oesterreichring were all shorter in 1971 than in preceding years. Somewhere we may find a contemporary magazine article, reporting perhaps on a meeting of the CSI, at which race length decisions were made. Curiously, the Kyalami event hardly changed, the race length being fairly short already.

#21 Roger Clark

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 16:14

Just to lay down a base measurement, after the 10- and 5-hour rules from 1931 and 1932 were rescinded, Grandes Épreuves (with the exception of Monaco, which was always 300km/195ml) were fixed at a minimum of 500km (312ml) from 1934 onwards.

Was that rescinded in 1938/39?

#22 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 16:45

Was that rescinded in 1938/39?

I've not looked for an official announcement of it, but I assume it must have been changed (at the latest) at the September 1936 CSI calendar meeting, as both the Italian and Swiss races were shorter from 1937 onwards and they were joined by the French in 1939. The Belgian and German GPs and the TT retained the 500km figure. However, given the confusion and delays over the introduction of the new formula, it could have been agreed as early as September 1935: from memory, the 500km announcement was made in 1932, when the 750kg formula was approved.

#23 nmansellfan

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 15:31

Thanks for the all the answers guys. The change to the maximum distance around '71 could be for one of a few reasons, then...

Steve's reply in post #4 is interesting as well for another point - backing up what he says, the current regs suggest something like 'All new circuits submitted for an FIA grade 2 or above license must generally be a maximum of 7Km".

#24 f1steveuk

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 16:34

Thanks for the all the answers guys. The change to the maximum distance around '71 could be for one of a few reasons, then...

Steve's reply in post #4 is interesting as well for another point - backing up what he says, the current regs suggest something like 'All new circuits submitted for an FIA grade 2 or above license must generally be a maximum of 7Km".


I suspect that forms part of the "Sporting Reg's" as this affects everything to do with the sport and it's media coverage. Funnily enough I recall the length of available optics was 8Kms!!!

#25 RCH

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 14:50

I believe the change in 1958 was an attempt to eliminate the need for pit stops and/or overlarge fuel tanks. The change around 1970 was maybe because increased downforce and wider/slick tyres were leading to much greater g-forces imposed on the drivers making them tire more rapidly. I read somewhere that in recent years TV sports producers work on a perceived 90 minute attention span, so the length of a football match including half time is about the length of time the average viewer will watch without losing interest.

Going slightly OT why do sports car have to run with such pitifully small fuel tanks meaning pit stops every 40 minutes or so? It made sense to an extent under Group C rules but is it now seen as a safety measure or to keep public interest up?