Formula One Racing for Beginners

In my travels, I’ve visited Monaco many times and have always been fascinated by the Grand Prix held there every year. It wasn’t until I started watching the Netflix show Formula 1: Drive to Survive that I became instantly hooked on the sport.

Like any enthusiast exploring their new found hobby, I quickly realized I know absolutely nothing about Formula 1.

Why are these guys talking about “boxing” and what the heck is a chassis?

Well, if this is what your experience has been as a fan of Formula 1, I’ve come to the rescue. Below are F1 basics every fan should know when watching a race.

Please don’t be like, “yo dude, why didn’t explain Delta Time, DownForce or how DRS works?” This is just the basics and I promise to get into more detail in other posts!

Teams, Circuits, Engines & Grand Prix

Formula One is a direct descendent of the European Championship of Grand Prix Motor Racing. The first World Driver’s Championship, the closest event resembling F1 today, was awarded to Italian Guiseppe Farina driving Alfa Romeo in 1950. It’s Important to note that the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is the governing body for Formula 1. They make all the rules!

Look at it this way, the word “Formula” refers to a set of rules each team has to follow.

There are currently ten Formula One teams, each with two drivers. Here’s where it gets a little complicated. At the moment, there are four engines made for F1: Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Renault and Ferrari. This means that each team uses one of those four engines and builds their car to the FIA regulations. For example, teams like Alfa Romeo (a car company) use a Ferrari engine!

The modern day F1 season consists of 21 Grand Prix around the world. Each race track (or Circuit) is completely different and specifically built for high speed racing, making each competition a true test of motor sport. Each race has to be at least 305 km long (190 miles) and less than two hours.

Team Strategy & Racing

Team strategy plays a big role in any sport and it’s no different in Formula One. Each weekend begins with two free practice sessions on Friday (only in Monaco it’s Thursday) and a practice on Saturday.

After the final practice, there’s a qualifying round with three sessions to determine grid position and pole position (1st spot ahead of all other drivers) for Sunday’s race. First session and second session will see 5 of the slowest drivers eliminated. The last session will determine the top 10 spots for Sunday. It’s super important because starting in 20th position and winning a race or even getting a top ten is extremely difficult.

A chassis is the main part of a racing car to which the engine and suspension are attached. Design and aerodynamics essentially determine whether a team is successful or not.

Another hugely important aspect to racing are the tires (tyres as spelled in British English).

That’s right! Tires are super fascinating to me now that I’m an F1 fan. Simply put, Pirelli makes the tires for Formula One with seven different types: Five Dry Compounds & Two Wet Weather. (click link for video) Each team MUST follow the rules and strategize during races to win!

Pit stops or pit “boxing” is another key part of team work in Formula One. Drivers have literally lost races all because one guy didn’t bolt on the tire correctly! You can see how this could be possible as the typical pit stop is 2-3 seconds.

How do you win? – Points

Americans love winners. So how do you win in Formula one? The answer, it’s a points system. Kind of like you see in European soccer but for race car driving. Top 10 places are awarded points with: 1st 25 pts, 2nd 18 pts, 3rd 15 pts, 4th 12 pts, 5th 10 pts, 6th 8 pts, 7th 6 pts, 8th 4 pts, 9th 2 pts and 10th 1 pts

The Top three drivers at each race get a trophy and a huge bottle of Champagne! La vita e bella! No money is awarded, however drivers can earn huge salaries from each team based on performance. The driver and team with most points over the course of a season win the Formula One World Constructors Championship.

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