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Formula One 101: Part One

Written by Asmi Mattew, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Credit: Chris Graythen

If you're new to Formula One, I bet you have thousands of queries and no clue where to get them answered. Being a new fan is tough especially if you don't know anyone who watches the sport. This article which is split into two parts will cover almost everything you need to start watching Formula One. It is an international single-seater formula racing series that is governed by the FIA or the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. The origin of Formula One can be traced back to the pre-World War II era in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. The Turin Grand Prix in 1946 was the first ever Formula One Grand Prix event held. However, the first world championship event was held in 1950 at Silverstone in Great Britain.

The sport is all about competition and to prove it, we have two championships in Formula One. First is the World Constructors' Championship and the second is the World Drivers' Championship. The Constructors' Championship (WCC) is the reason why each team runs two cars instead of just one. In each race, the top ten drivers score points that contribute to their individual standings in the Drivers' Championship (WDC). For the WCC standings, the points of both drivers of the team are combined.

In 2023, ten teams (also called constructors) will be participating with two drivers each, making up a grid of 20 drivers. Managing a Formula One team is a tedious job that is given to Team Principals. There is still some speculation regarding the team principals of some constructors for next year, so they won't be included here but the drivers for 2023 are:

  • Reigning World Drivers’ Champion, Max Verstappen racing alongside Sergio “Checo” Perez for the 2022 Constructors’ Champions, Oracle Red Bull Racing.

  • Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz for Scuderia Ferrari.

  • Seven-time world champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for Mercedes AMG-Petronas F1 Team.

  • Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri who is a rookie, for McLaren F1 Team.

  • Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN.

  • Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon for BWT Alpine F1 Team.

  • The second rookie on the grid, Nyck De Vries, and Yuki Tsunoda for Scuderia Alpha Tauri which is a sister team of Red Bull.

  • Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenburg for Haas F1 Team.

  • Two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll racing for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team.

  • And last but not least, Alex Albon paired with the third and final rookie of 2023, Logan Sargeant for Williams F1 Team.

As mentioned earlier, the top ten finishers in each race are awarded points with the race winner taking home a total of 25 points, the second-place finisher with 18 points, and positions three through ten scoring 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and 1 point(s) respectively. If a driver finishing in one of the point-scoring positions sets the fastest lap at the end of the race, they are given an extra point.

A Formula One race (commonly called as Grand Prix) is set over three days, from Friday to Sunday. The usual structure of a race weekend consists of Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 on Friday, during which the teams may test out different set-ups on the car and the drivers get accustomed to the track. Saturday makes up Free Practice 3 and the Qualifying session or Quali. The qualifying session is further split into three knock-out sessions, Q1, Q2, and Q3 with small intervals between them. In Q1, all 20 drivers are out on the track and the drivers in the bottom five, that is, the five drivers with the slowest lap times are eliminated from the session. Q2 sees the remaining 15 drivers compete together. Again, just like in Q1, the five drivers with the slowest lap times will get knocked out of it. Finally, in Q3, only 10 drivers take part to set the fastest time and get the Pole Position (P1) which allows them to start the race on Sunday from the first grid spot. The drivers on pole receive an award in the form of a miniature tyre of a Formula One car. Having a good qualifying session is extremely critical for the drivers since it determines how they will line up on the grid for the race. The race itself is approximately an hour and a half long, with the drivers covering a standard race distance of a minimum 300 kilometers (190 miles), the only exception being the Monaco Grand Prix, which covers 260 kilometers (160 miles).

Recently, Formula One has introduced a new element to race weekends, the Sprint Race. During a Sprint Race weekend, the teams get only two practice sessions, giving them less time to fine-tune the car for the race. On Friday, we have Free Practice 1 (FP1) and then the Qualifying session, which in this case, will decide the grid lineup for the sprint. Saturday will consist of Free Practice 2 and then the Sprint Race. It's also called the Sprint Quali since the positions at the end of the sprint decide how the drivers will start their race the next day. The top eight finishers in the sprint are awarded points. The driver finishing first gets 8 points, the driver in second, 7 points, and so on till eighth place.

Credit: Peter J Fox

To keep up with all the Formula One news, you can follow their Instagram and Twitter accounts. If by chance, someone doesn't use social media then they can download the F1 app which has all the necessary information like session timings, the circuit we’re racing on, etc. To watch any session, you can use the F1 TV app. However, only the F1 TV Pro tier has the live streaming service and is only available in some countries whereas F1 TV Access has live timing and radio commentary. To rewatch old races, F1 Archives (and various archive sites) can be used. The F1 Archives service can be availed by users of both tiers of F1 TV subscription.

To find out the Formula One broadcaster for your country, use this!!

If you found out about Formula One through the Netflix show, Formula 1: Drive To Survive, then you should know that most of the time, the racing world isn't as dramatic as they make it out to be. Yes, there are several conflicts and rivalries amongst teams and drivers but the show over-dramatizes the content that they film and tend to villainize certain people. The show is also famous among fans for its nature to create fake rivalries and use clips out of context to make up situations.

There are some drivers in the Formula One world that have left an indelible mark on the racing community. When someone thinks of Formula One, usually the first driver that appears in their mind is Michael Schumacher. He had an absolutely legendary career and at the moment holds the record for the most World Championships with seven of them, a record only equaled by Lewis Hamilton who also holds the record for the most race wins (103 wins to date), pole positions (103) and podium finishes (191) among others. Some other legends of the sport include Sebastian Vettel (four world championships, 57 poles, 53 race wins, and 122 podium finishes), Fernando Alonso (two world championships, 22 poles, 32 race wins, and 98 podiums), Ayrton Senna (three world championships, 65 poles, 41 race wins, and 80 podiums), Alain Prost (four world championships, 33 poles, 51 race wins, and 106 podiums), Niki Lauda (three world championships, 24 poles, 25 race wins, and 52 podiums), James Hunt (one world championship, 14 poles, 10 race wins, and 23 podiums).

Statistics can never determine the greatest driver of all time because there can never be one. Drivers like the ones mentioned above were obviously better than the rest of their time, but comparing such legends to each other is just going to overshadow their contribution to this sport.

If you'd like to give me any feedback, talk about F1 or have any queries, feel free to reach out to me by following me on Instagram


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