Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuito de Jerez, 2015

What is ‘size zero’? What counts as a start? More of your questions answered

Your Questions AnsweredPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

What does ‘size zero’ mean? Why do different sites give different figures for how many races each driver has started?

It’s time to answer another batch of your questions. Well, most of them.

Size zero

First up, Herbert Moshesh wants to know about a buzz-phrase from the recent car launches:

What do they mean by “size zero”?

When McLaren presented their first Honda-engined car for 23 years to the world at the beginning of last season, its narrow engine cover drew admiring glances. Compact packaging at this end of the car brings significant aerodynamic advantages.

In an interview later on Ron Dennis referred to the car’s dimensions as ‘size zero’. The phrase comes from the fashion world and while there are few subjects I know less about than clothes I do know that size zero clothes and models have been at the centre of the debate over whether the fashion industry encourages unhealthily thin bodies.

As it turned out both the ‘narrow’ and ‘unhealthy’ definitions of size zero fit last year’s McLaren well: they suffered more race-ending car failures than any other team.

McLaren have kept their slender rear end for 2016 but other teams have followed the trend: Red Bull and Ferrari have particularly compact cars. Compare them all here:

When is a start not a start?

Felipe Massa, Sauber, Indianapolis, 2005
Did Felipe Massa start the 2005 United States Grand Prix?
A tricky questions on F1 statistics from Phil Crozier):

What constitutes a ‘start’ in a F1 race? If a driver is entered, or qualifies or completes the parade lap or actually starts a race from the lights?

I have kept statistics, for my own pleasure for years but there are instances where my statistics do not agree with the official statistics. A case in point is that Pedro De La Rosa celebrated 100 starts in F1 when I had him down for 98. Another case in point was when a Japanese driver broke down on the parade lap a couple of years ago the official statistics credited him with a start. What is correct?

This provokes a lot of discussion among F1 statisticians and the lack of a comprehensive ‘official’ source of statistics makes it tricky to give a straight answer. For instances the official Formula One website doesn’t give a figure for how many races Pedro de la Rosa started.

It does provide a figure for Felipe Massa and it gives some insight into the difficulty of giving a straight answer to this question. According to FOM Massa has “entered” 231 races at the time of writing.

However Massa has actually been present at 232 grand prix weekends. At two of those he was not on the grid when the start was given and did not leave the pits during the race. These were the 2005 United States Grand Prix, where he was among the group of Michelin-shod drivers who pulled in at the end of the formation lap, and the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was injured during qualifying.

I prefer to distinguish between ‘participations’ and ‘starts’ because there are many ways a driver can be involved in a race weekend without starting the grand prix. Next week, for instance, Alfonso Celis will drive for Force India in first practice but will not start the race – an example of a ‘participation’ rather than a start.

How has FOM arrived at a figure for 231 starts for Massa? I suspect they’re defining a start as any occasion when a driver was listed on the official starting grid. Massa was listed on the starting grid at Indianapolis in 2005 but not at the Hungaroring four years later.

The FOM approach has the advantage of being a simple definition. But in the case of the United States Grand Prix and, as Phil points out, drivers whose cars break down on the formation lap, I feel it’s not entirely realistic.

There are other complications. For instance at Brands Hatch in 1986 Jacques Laffite equalled the then-record for most race starts by a driver, tying with Graham Hill 176. However Laffite was involved in a crash within seconds of the start, the race was red-flagged and a new race declared which Laffite did not start.

Using our stricter definition, Laffite did not start the race. But it’s a harsh line to take given he suffered career-ending injuries in the shunt.

“I’m afraid I can’t say, Lewis”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2016
No alarm help for Hamilton in Australia
The new restrictions on radio messages were still being tweaked during the first race weekend of the year, so no wonder Bruce Ford (@Velocityboy) is looking for some clarification:

Last year the FIA implemented a rule to reduce the instructions a driver could receive from the pit lane. Is there to be an additional decrease in pit lane instructions for 2016 and if so what is being restricted?

The FIA has actually approached this in the opposite way and given teams a list of things they can communicate to their drivers. The drivers can tell their teams whatever they like, but as we saw in Melbourne they won’t get a response if they ask for information they can’t have.

In addition to the list of approved messages confirmed in the run-up to last week’s race, the FIA also made an 11th-hour change to permit teams to discuss their strategies over the radios.

Vive le Regie

Jolyon Palmer, Renault, Albert Park, 2016
Are you supporting Renault this year?
A quick request from Fritz Oosthuizen:

In my profile I would like to add Renault as a favourite team. Please add it to the selection.

This was added shortly after this email came in from Fritz just before the start of the season. You can now support all the drivers and teams on the 2016 F1 grid including Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein, Rio Haryanto, Haas and Renault.

Here’s how you can show your support for them and everyone else on the grid on F1 Fanatic:

  • Log in with your F1 Fanatic account (sign up here if you don’t have one)
  • Select Edit My Profile from the top-right menu
  • Select F1 Teams and Drivers
  • Make your selections then click Save Changes

Over to you

Finally, Jon Stevens sent in this question which, despite extensive rummaging through the F1 Fanatic library, I can’t shed any light on. If you can help, please do in the comments:

Who is the sponsor that had a decal of a red rooster on Jackie Stewart’s Matras

Got a question for F1 Fanatic? Send it in via the contact form and we’ll try to answer it

Your questions answered

More of your questions answered

19 comments on “What is ‘size zero’? What counts as a start? More of your questions answered”

  1. Then there’s Hans Heyer, who failed to qualify in his only F1 appearance (1977 German Grand Prix) but started anyway and lasted 9 laps before breaking down, then subsequently being disqualified.

    A start or not a start? That is the question.

  2. FlyingLobster27
    27th March 2016, 12:38

    @keithcollantine, Jon Stevens,
    Do you mean this logo?
    http://www.autonewsinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Logo-Coq-MATRA.jpg
    It is a second, patriotic mascot for Matra Sports.

    1. FlyingLobster27
      27th March 2016, 12:40

      (patriotic because the rooster is the official mascot animal of France)

      1. Ah I didn’t think to look at the logo of the car! I was looking for a sponsor…

        1. I was also thinking this logo was a Matra Sports logo from the mid-60’s as I remember it quite well… However asking the question on my blog (AgoF1Blog) someone suggested it had to do with the “Carrosserie Lecoq” (Mr André Lecoq was a coachbuilder) so maybe they were designing the cars?
          http://static.blog.leparisien.fr/media/10/240-thumb.jpg
          … Still investigating…

          1. OK… So, no link with Carrosserie Lecoq who, from what I understand, was granted permission to use freely the logo (they are still using it…)
            The question remains open: Why this 2nd logo then?
            (to be cont’d)…

          2. FlyingLobster27
            28th March 2016, 17:55

            So it’s a case of “which of the chicken or the coachbuilder…?” ;)
            Let us know what comes up! @ago-bdp

  3. The red rooster is the logo of Matra . see http://cartype.com/pages/1466/matra

  4. From what I could understand after some googling the Red Rooster (Coq Rouge) was the emblem of the team at the time

    1. oh, I’m over an hour late with that))

  5. Eliminating realtime telemetry from the racecar’s 500+ sensors to the pit would eliminate realtime control of the driver from the pit, which is the problem FIA is alleging (but not succeeding) to correct.

    FIA is dithering around the actual problem, which is “Why have all that expensive telemetry and sensor grid if teams can’t use it?” And so teams most definitely will use it: it’s a certainty that engineers and strategists will find a loophole and/or covert channel to control the car and the driver from the pit.

    Let them give instructions at pit-in, and grab sensor data from cockpit-mounted USBs.

    1. Does the driver have the time and the engineering knowledge to analyse** a sensor warning, on that small screen while driving at speed on a bumpy track, that indicates his PU could destroy itself in the next couple of minutes if he doesn’t stop now.

      **definition – analyse – verb
      1. examine (something) methodically and in detail, typically in order to explain and interpret it.

      1. Operational thresholds can be programmed to throw a redflag to the pitwall so that no critical levels go unnoticed.

      2. I agree, it just seems so easy to get around that rule, even without adding in technology. Words don’t have to mean what we think they mean. If something was arranged in advance between the speaker and intended hearer, then “I’m afraid I can’t tell you, Lewis” could mean almost anything they wanted it to mean. The famous “Multi 21” message is another example of that.
        I wondered if it was possible for the pit crew to somehow send messages to the car that weren’t audible to us via the radio system the engineer is using to speak to Lewis. I came across two products, one called DARC, which stands for Data Relay Channel, and DirectBand from Microsoft, and both of these send data via something known as the subcarrier in the FM signal. There are other similar products around as well. These two are operational in the regular broadcast environment, and work in the background of the regular analogue stereo FM system, so wouldn’t be used at the race track (because it is would be a digital radio system), but illustrate that it is possible with the right technology to send data to a car and for it to be inaudible to anyone listening. DARC transmits data at approximately 1kbit/sec, while DirectBand transmits at about 12kbit/sec. If they were to be used (and I have no evidence this type of technology is currently being used) then while Lewis (and us) heard “I’m afraid I can’t tell you …” up on his console could appear all sorts of rule breaking messages, e.g. “Press the alarm reset button, then turn the red knob on the right hand side of the steering wheel 30 degrees to the left and leave it like that until just before the race starts. Don’t forget to change gear just below 11,650 rpm.”

  6. Tommy Scragend
    27th March 2016, 14:40

    “There are other complications. For instance at Brands Hatch in 1986 Jacques Laffite equalled the then-record for most race starts by a driver, tying with Graham Hill 176. However Laffite was involved in a crash within seconds of the start, the race was red-flagged and a new race declared which Laffite did not start.

    Using our stricter definition, Laffite did not start the race. But it’s a harsh line to take given he suffered career-ending injuries in the shunt.”

    There was also the 1999 British Grand Prix, which was red-flagged on the first lap. Michael Schumacher crashed on the first lap, broke his leg and so obviously did not take the restart. Some sources show him as “DNS” for this race, because the first start is deemed not to have taken place.

    Notwithstanding that, I tend to treat it in my own mind that if you are on the grid when the lights go out (in the start that ultimately counts), you have started the race. If you aren’t, you haven’t. So under that principle neither Laffite nor Schumacher started the race, yet both crashed in it (not the same race, obviously).

    I would treat all the Michelin runners as DNS for the 2005 US GP, because they weren’t lined up on the grid when the lights went out.

    It’s an area that’s full of anomalies, isn’t it?

    Leaving aside whether or not a driver has “started” a race, AFAIK you have “entered” a Grand Prix if you take part in the weekend with the intention of qualifying for the race. So back in the days when there were more than 26 cars involved, if you finished 28th in qualifying you had entered the GP but not started it. Likewise if you took part in free practice but crashed and were injured or even killed and therefore did not take part in qualifying, you had still “entered” the GP.

    Celis may be going to “participate” in Bahrain, but he is not going to “enter”.

  7. As Keith mentioned, defining a start is rather difficult. For example, according to some statistics, Michael Schumacher did not start the 1999 British GP – how can he be absent from a race where he broke his leg?

    1. Probably because the race was restarted and MSchumacher did not take part at the restart anymore, of course. Also, at the moment of the impact, the race was already stopped because Zanardi stalled his car on the grid. So, I presume the 2nd start counted for statistics… and MSchumacher wasn’t present on the grid anymore in order to take in consideration his start.

  8. For me, I count driver having started if he was a part in the original start. With the current red flag rules it doesn’t really matter because race is only suspended. The only first lap red flag we’ve had under current rules is 2014 British GP after Räikkönen crash damaged the guardrail.

    But by the rule used in 2000-04 (effectively only once, 2001 Belgium) being in effect earlier, Ayrton Senna wouldn’t have started 1994 San Marino GP, and similarly we would’ve seen almost half of the field DNS in 1987 Mexican GP.

    But then, in other classes there are difficulties as well. In 2011 Las Vegas IndyCar race and Malaysian MotoGP races were cancelled entirely after fatal accidents early in the race. So no one effectively started either race. I remember in 2012 as commentators referred how Ed Carpenter won the final race of the season for the second year in a row – that’s because the cancellation of Las Vegas race made the Kentucky round being final race of 2011.

  9. As Niki Lauda has said in the past: ‘So, if I didn’t start the race.. what happened to my ear?!’

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