Life in the Fast Lane: 8 Basic Facts Newbies Need to Know About Formula One
Jul 18, 2021   •   Jeremiah Santos
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Jul 18, 2021   •   Jeremiah Santos
Formula One has gained a lot of new fans over the past few years. This is partly because of the popularity of the Netflix documentary Formula 1: Drive to Survive which gave a look behind the scenes of the sport. It was a brilliant move by F1, as fans gained a connection with the drivers and got more invested in the actual races.
The current championship race is also the most exciting in years. Nearing midway into the season, Max Verstappen of Red Bull is currently leading the Drivers’ Championship tally over Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who has won the last four championships. Red Bull also has a sizable advantage over Mercedes in the current Constructors’ Championship tally, which the latter has won for the past seven years.
As we continue to watch more exciting race action, boost your F1 knowledge with these Formula 1 basics!
Formula One is the highest class of automobile racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), or the International Automobile Federation in English. The fastest-built racing cars in the world compete at this stage. Although the FIA is mainly known for running F1, they also promote road safety around the world.
A Formula One season usually starts at the end of March and ends around late November. During this period, a series of races — known as the Grand Prix — takes place on race circuits in various cities around the world. Twenty drivers compete in each event. Some circuits are purposely built, while some use public roads which are closed for the event.
A typical Formula One Grand Prix typically lasts from Friday to Sunday. Drivers have two free practice sessions on Friday to test out their cars and be familiar with the track. They aren’t allowed to practice or use their car outside of these free practice sessions.
Come Saturday, they have one final free practice session and then the qualifying begins. The actual race occurs on Sunday, which awards the points towards the championship battle.
One day before the race, a qualifying session occurs. This event determines their places in the grid at the start of the actual race. All drivers are on the track and are allowed to do as many laps in accordance with the time limit. They try to set their fastest lap time when doing it.
Qualifying is divided into three periods. During the first period (Q1), the five slowest cars are eliminated from joining the second qualifying period (Q2), and will occupy the last five places in the grid. During Q2, the same thing happens but with 15 cars remaining. The slowest five cars in Q2 will occupy 11th to 15th places in the grid.
In the final qualifying session (Q3), the ten remaining cars will again try to set their fastest lap. The driver with the fastest lap among the group will claim pole position, the favorable grid position in front which offers an advantage at the beginning of the race. The rest of the grid is positioned according to their fastest laps.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 3, 2021
Formula One comprises ten teams (known as Constructors) with two drivers each. The teams research and develop their own cars every season and produce two of them. They hire two drivers to use them for the races. The two cars produced by the team are essentially the same except for some minor modifications for the driver’s preference.
You might be amazed when you see F1 cars going for a pit stop and having all of their tires changed in less than five seconds. F1 cars can reach speeds of up to 350kph. This means that tires only last for a handful of laps.
There are currently five different tire compounds in Formula One ranging from softest to hardest, and three of them are used in a single race. The softer tires provide more grip but wear out quickly. Meanwhile, the harder tires last longer, but they do not offer the same traction. As a result, pit stop strategies are devised and race results have been decided by it.
An F1 race should not exceed a distance of 305kms. The fewest number of laps to reach 305kms is the number of laps in a particular race. The number varies by the size of the circuit. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which hosts the Belgian Grand Pix requires only 44 laps to finish an F1 race. Meanwhile, the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in Circuit de Monaco requires 78 laps. The race cannot also last for more than two hours.
The FIA awards two World Championships each season — one for the Drivers and one for the team, also known as the Constructors. For the past twelve years, all the Drivers’ champions are also from that season’s Constructors’ champion.
The last time that the Drivers’ champion didn’t come from that season’s Constructors’ champion was in 2008, when Lewis Hamilton, who at the time was wit McLaren, won the Drivers’ Championship while Ferrari took home the Constructors’ Championship.
Nine down. 14 to go.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 5, 2021
Points are awarded to both the Drivers and Constructors in each race based on what position they finished in. The race winner takes 25 points, 2nd place gets 18 points and 3rd place gets 15 points. The rest of the top 10 will go home with 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and 1, respectively. The driver with the fastest lap in the race also gets an extra point along with their constructor if they’re in the top ten of the race. The remaining ten drivers receive no points.
The points received by the drivers also go to their Constructors. Both championships are clinched when it is mathematically impossible for the 2nd place driver and constructor to catch the leader in the standings.
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