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Formula One 101: your beginners guide

Written by Sofia Costantino Edited by Debargha Banerjee

You’ve been hearing about Formula one too right? Maybe you’ve seen some TikTok videos, heard about Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton, or maybe you just really want to learn before this new season starts! That’s great, why wait? Let us get straight into it. F1 is one of the most complicated sports around the world, from the cars to the rules and regulations it can be pretty confusing for new fans.

So in this article we’ll explain everything you need to know to go from being a F1 rookie to a pro. This is Formula One 101 for your very first race this season: Bahrain! 

Red Bull Racing Formula One car on Yas Marina Circuit at night

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

First things first, the goal of Formula 1 is pretty simple: be the fastest driver to cross the finish line after completing a predetermined number of laps. But it’s not as easy as it sounds! F1 is a complex sport with several rules and regulations to ensure fair competition and of course, safety.

Let’s start with the basics. There are 10 teams on the grid with 2 drivers each, meaning there’s 20 drivers on track.  Each race weekend consists of three main parts: practice sessions, qualifying, and the race itself. During practice sessions, drivers hit the track to get a feel for the circuit, prepare their cars, and gather data to improve performance. It’s like a warm-up.

Next comes the qualifying session, also known as quali, where most of us get extremely anxious to see how the race will start the next day and cross fingers for our teams! This is where drivers showcase their skills and push their cars to the limit in a battle against the clock. The qualifying determines the starting grid for the race, with the fastest driver securing pole position, which is the coveted front spot on the grid. 

Now let’s get to the good part and the most awaited: the race. Formula 1 races typically last around two hours unless there is an accident or a potential hazard on track in which case a Red Flag is brought out. Drivers throughout the season compete around a variety of circuits, from classic tracks like the temple of speed: Monza, in Italy, to more modern ones like Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi or, welcoming back this year, the China GP. The number of laps in each race varies depending on the length of the track, but it’s usually around 50–60 laps.

During the race, drivers must follow certain rules to maintain fair play and ensure safety. They can’t make dangerous moves like weaving in front of another car, and they must respect “track limits,” which means they can’t exceed the boundaries of the track too frequently, this one is very important since it’s the most violated rule. They can get penalties such as disqualification or a time penalty. 

Photo credits: Motorsport images

One of the most exciting aspects of F1 is the strategic element. Pit stops play a crucial role in the race. Drivers pull into the pits to change tires, and make quick adjustments to the car. Pit stop crews perform lightning-fast tire changes and fuel to get the drivers back on the track as quickly as possible.

Tyres play a huge part in Formula One races. There are five different types of tyres brought into a race weekend, three of them are for dry running and are called ‘slicks’ while the other two are for wet weather incase of rain. Tyres are made of different compounds ranging from softs to hards, the softs can be identified by a red wall, mediums are yellow while the hards have white walls. The difference in compounds play a huge role in Strategy as the hards last much longer but are slower overall while the softs place sheer performance over longevity. The medium tyre provides the best of both worlds. Pirelli is officially recognised as the tyre supplier by FIA for Formula One. Unlike street car tyres, Formula One car tyres are built to last only between 60 to 120 kilometers (40 to 80 miles). Because one set of tyres will not last the distance of any F1 race, drivers have to make pit stops to replace tyres so that they can complete the races. In Fact it is a rule for a team to run with at least two different compounds of tyres during a race. 

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

Now, let’s talk about points and championships. The winner of each race earns 25 points, with decreasing points for the top ten finishers. Additionally, there are extra points up for grabs for the driver who achieves the fastest lap during the race. 

Throughout the season, drivers compete to accumulate the highest number of points possible, aiming to win the coveted World Drivers’ Championship. As we know, Formula 1 is a team sport, and there’s a parallel championship for constructors, which means the teams themselves compete for points based on their drivers’ performances. This adds an extra layer of competition and team strategy to the mix because it’ll depend on both drivers of the team.  

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

When it comes to Formula 1 cars, they are built to push the limits of what’s possible on four wheels. They are equipped with hybrid power units that combine a turbocharged V6 engine with an electric motor. Aerodynamics plays a pivotal role in shaping these speed demons. Formula 1 cars are meticulously designed to slice through the air with minimal drag and maximum downforce. The sleek bodywork, including the front and rear wings, side pods, and diffuser, are all carefully sculpted to generate massive amounts of downforce, keeping the car glued to the track and enabling mind-bending cornering speeds.

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

Now, let’s talk about one of our favorite things in this sport and that brings much excitement to the race: the Drag Reduction System, or DRS. DRS is a rear wing adjustment mechanism that drivers can deploy in certain situations during the race. When a driver is within one second of the car ahead at specific points on the track, they can activate the DRS, which momentarily reduces the drag on their rear wing, allowing for increased top speed and easier overtaking. It’s like having a secret boost button!! 

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

But let’s not forget one of the most important things: Safety. In the history of formula one we’ve seen many valuable drivers and fans pass away because there weren’t enough regulations to prevent such tragedies, but now these cars are equipped with a whole array of safety features. From the halo device, a protective structure around the driver’s cockpit, to energy-absorbing crash structures and fire suppression systems, every effort is made to ensure the well-being of the drivers in the event of a mishap.

Photo credits: Motorsport images 

Formula 1 represents the pinnacle of automotive engineering, where every detail is honed to perfection to create the ultimate racing experience, and it’s the future of cars.

Now, you’re all set for your very first race of the season. In no time you’ll be a pro in F1. As for us, we’ll be right there with you, with each race and news so you’ll never miss a thing. And keep updates with our articles to flex your F1 knowledge with your other F1 buddies.


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