Qualifying periods decide the formation of the grid, and timing equipment records the performance of competitors to decide the final classification and allocation of championship points. The sport is governed by the Monaco based Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM, International Power Boating Association).
F1 racing uses tunnel hull catamarans that are capable of both high speed and exceptional maneuverability. Overall, the boats weigh 860 pounds (390 kilogrammes), including 260 pounds (118 kilogrammes) of engine. They are 20 feet (6 metres) long and seven feet (2 metres) wide, keeping weight low through extensive use of carbon fiber and kevlar. The tunnel hull design creates an air cushion under the hull, so that at speed only a few inches touch the water, leading to the high speed possible with these hulls.
F1 boats are powered by a Mercury Marine V6 two stroke that burns 100LL Avgas at a rate of 120 liters (32 gallons) per hour, generating 350 horsepower at 10,500 rpm. This engine can propel the boats to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than four seconds and to a maximum speed of over 240 km/h (150 mph).
The first major development was the hard composite cockpit capsule designed to break away from the rest of the boat in a crash. This also inaugurated the practice of securing the drivers to their seats with a harness. First developed by designer and racer Chris Hodges, this system was optional for a time due to the opposition of the drivers but, after it saved several drivers in major crashes, the UIM mandated it for all boats. In the early 1990s F1 boat builder Dave Burgess introduced a canopy that fully enclosed the cockpit to protect the driver from the full force of water in a nose-dive. In the late 1990s boat builder DAC introduced an airbag situated behind the driver that prevents the cockpit from completely submerging if the boat flips.
These specific changes in safety features were also accompanied by a progression of lighter and stronger composite hulls that also reduced the hazards of racing. F1 drivers now also wear a HANS Head and Neck Restraint device similar to that worn by their Formula One automobile racing counterparts to combat head and neck injuries.
As of the 2007 season, all boats are required to have a crash box installed. Potential future safety features include collapsible bows that would deform rather than penetrate another hull.
The ChampBoat Series is a US-based championship that also uses F1 powerboats. The series' 2008 calendar included eight events.