When you first watch a Formula 1 race on a Sunday afternoon, there’s so much to understand. With such innovative technology and a lot of politics in the paddock, viewers can very easily feel lost. While there are so many complex elements to discover, these are the 5 most important things to help you get started.
1. There are 2 championships every year – Constructors and Drivers
Each year sees two championships that the teams and drivers compete for. In recent years Mercedes and their drivers have won both of these titles, but with major changes coming in 2022, this may change. The order of the team championship is important as the teams share the F1 prize money on a sliding scale. The team who takes the title is given the biggest share, while the team who comes last gets the smallest share.
2. The weekend is made up of 2 practice sessions on Friday, 1 practice and qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday (usually)
The F1 weekend begins on a Friday and continues until the main event, the race, on a Sunday. While sprint races are being included at some races this year, most will continue with this format. Having 5 separate events on track over a weekend, it is quite a spectacle. One which every fan loves to watch. Friday allows the teams to establish the right car setup for their car at each circuit. This means by qualifying on Saturday, teams should be well prepared to try and get themselves as close to the front as possible.
3. All cars must pit at some point during the race
It is mandatory for cars to pit at least once during a race and always use this time to change tyres, although they may also need to change the nose of the car if involved in a crash. Teams use different strategies based on their tyre allocation and which tyre they qualified on. Every race will have a soft, medium and hard tyre, as well as intermediate and wet tyres for rainy races. Without stopping at the right point, tyres can, and often do burst, and this can easily end a driver’s race.
4. Helmets and fireproof clothing are compulsory
As seen when Romain Grosjean crashed in Bahrain, F1 can be a very dangerous sport. This is why there are such strict regulations surrounding clothing and helmets. Drivers must wear fireproof clothing from their socks to their hair in order to protect them from serious incidents. In addition, drivers wear the strongest helmet available, as well as a HANS (head and neck support) whenever they drive the car.
5. The length of the race must be 305 km (260 km in Monaco GP)
The laps in a Formula 1 race are calculated using the smallest number of complete laps that exceeds 305 kilometres. The word exceeds is included as the race must finish on the start/finish straight. If they simply stopped at 305km, the drivers would stop at odd points around a circuit. In terms of safety, this is clearly not a viable option. This means the number of laps is different at every race, based on the length of a lap at each individual venue. Monaco has so many elevation changes and tight turns that it’s a much slower race. The drivers therefore can only complete 260km. With every race having a maximum length of 2 hours, the race simply wouldn’t finish in time if they ran all 305km.