Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1, and currently officially referred to as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The "formula" in the name refers to a set of rules to which all participants and cars must comply. The F1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, held on purpose-built circuits, and to a lesser extent, former public roads and closed city streets. The results of each race are combined to determine two annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the constructors, with racing drivers, constructor teams, track officials, organizers and circuits required to be holders of valid Super Licences, the highest class racing licence issued by the FIA.
Formula One cars race at high speeds, up to 360 km/h (220 mph) with engines revving up to a formula imposed limit of 18,000 RPM. The cars are capable of pulling in excess of 5 G-forces in some curves. The performance of the cars is highly dependent on electronics (although traction control and driving aids have been banned since 2007), aerodynamics, suspension and on tyres. The formula has seen many evolutions and changes through the history of the sport.
Europe is Formula One's traditional centre, where all of the teams are based, and where around half of the races take place. However, the sport's scope has expanded significantly in recent years and Grands Prix are held all over the world. Events in Europe and the Americas have been dropped in favour of races in Asia and the Middle East - of the eighteen races in 2008, nine were held outside Europe.
Formula One is a massive television event, with a global audience of 600 million people per race. The Formula One Group is the legal holder of the commercial rights. As the world's most expensive sport, its economic effect is significant, and its financial and political battles are widely covered. Its high profile and popularity make it an obvious merchandising environment, which leads to very high investments from sponsors, translating into extremely high budgets for the constructor teams. However, mostly since year 2000, due to the always increasing expenditures, several teams, including works teams from car makers and those teams with minimum support from the automotive industry or other F1 teams, have gone bankrupt or been bought out by companies that want to easily establish a racing team within the sport.
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